It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s dlevy! I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower this week.

Originally published on It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s dlevy!

I’ve wanted to read it for a while because a) when I was a teacher, my students were always reading it; b) the trailer for the film had me intrigued; c) I remembered something about “gay themes;” d) Sarah* recently mentioned reading it and I am highly susceptible to suggestion; but mostly e) my iPhone battery ran out the other night when I was in Cambridge, and I needed something to occupy myself during the hour-long public transit ride home.

The first thing I noticed was that it took place in 1991, meaning that Charlie is one year older than me. It turns out the book was published in 1999, when I was a senior in college, which explains why I never heard about it until I was in regular contact with high school students again a few years later. But just as when I finally watched My So-Called Life earlier this year, I was so swept up in the setting’s ability to recapture the specifics of my high school experience that I forgave a lot of things that might have otherwise annoyed me about the book.

And that’s the thing. This book so distinctly recalls my high school experience that I wonder if Stephen Chbosky and I weren’t friends. There’s no one character that maps to me or any specific friends (except maybe Patrick), but the group of kids portrayed in the book is exactly the crowd I spent freshman year with. I know, I’m not the first, last, or only kid to have formative experiences around The Rocky Horror Picture Show and making a zine and reading Naked Lunch and feeling bad for not liking or understanding it and driving around just for the sense of freedom. But that’s the point of the book, right? That we’re not alone.

When I mentioned the book today at work to a colleague who’s just a little bit younger, she mentioned that she and her friends all read the book in high school. I said that I was aware of it because of my former students, adding that I think it’s on the syllabus in most high schools now. She was surprised, saying that in her day it was definitely the kind of book that was passed around behind teachers’ backs because it was dirty.

I hadn’t gotten to the “dirty” parts yet when we had that conversation, and even now I’m more… shocked? I don’t know. surprised, I guess, by the drug content than the sex. But that tells you a bit about who I was in high school too.

(I had originally, accidentally written “who I was in high school tool.” Paging Dr. Freud.)

Anyway, I’m glad I read it, but learning that Mr. Chbosky wrote the screenplay to the misguided film version of Rent has left me with more complicated feelings than anything in the book itself.

(* Was it Sarah? Now I can’t find the post. Regardless, whether it was Sarah or someone else, I agree with her assessment of the ending, in that it wasn’t handled well, but I think the lack of visibility of that kind of situation with that kind of gender dynamic in other popular books makes it important even if ham-handed, so the educator in me gives it a pass.)

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It’s Not Where You Start: Angry Inch

Originally published on It’s Not Where You Start.

Did I ever tell you about the zine my friend Jennifer and I published in high school?

Don’t get too excited. We only produced two issues. We were freshmen and saw ourselves as outsiders, so it felt like producing a zine was the right thing to do. Plus, my parents owned a xerox machine (to facilitate my dad’s small tax-accounting practice) so it was super easy.

The only issue was that neither of us had ever actually seen a zine. We had read about them in Newsweek and had a general idea of what they were (edgy, xeroxed… um… creative?). So we recruited a bunch of our friends to write, pseudonymously, fired up Print Shop, and had a go.

We named our zine “Monty’s Monthly Cycle.” We came up with a really contrived framing story about a transsexual person whose sex change operation got botched, resulting in a monthly bleeding… to cope with which, he produced a zine. Or something like that. I don’t have a copy handy.

Imagine my surprise when, a half-dozen years later, I saw Hedwig and the Angry Inch!

Anyway, our plan to create the zine had a few flaws. One, we didn’t know how to distribute it, especially if we wanted to stay anonymous. We left a few copies around school and stuck inside our favorite books in the public library. Of course, this was before any of us had internet email accounts, so we didn’t really have a way to get feedback from readers, assuming anyone read it. And besides our friends who were already contributing… was there anyone who wanted to read our stuff?

So it wasn’t really a surprise to any of us that we lost interest after the second issue. Instead, I went on to take over the real school newspaper, and eventually find my way onto the internet.

But the zine established a pattern in my life that still persists. I get interested in something that’s kind of cool or edgy. But I’m not really cool or edgy enough to do it right. But I can kind of act the part. But when I get inside of whatever it is, I realize that it’s not necessarily all that cool in and of itself anyway. So then I figure out how to do the thing I actually want to be doing instead of the cool, edgy version.

And this, my friends, is how I came to be the editor of JewishBoston.com. :)

It’s Not Where You Start: Cornet Man

Originally published on It’s Not Where You Start.

Outside of the relationship that I am currently trying to get over repair sort out understand, I haven’t really had serious relationships. That is, I’ve never dated anyone long enough for the relationships to coalesce into anything resembling depth. But looking back, I have several people with whom I had long-term, ongoing… arrangements… and I have grouped them in my mind as my retroactive exes.

My retroactive exes are a group of five or so guys from various parts of my life that I didn’t “date” for a variety of reasons — we were too young and in the closet, or I was too hung up on one thing or another, or… well, you get the idea. But each was someone I cared about and who helped create the person I’ve become. So I consider them retroactive exes, which means I get all the benefits of having exes — great memories, a history to reflect on — with none of the downside — namely, we never really had to break up.

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