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One Old Guy’s Approach To Reading Judy Blume

When you’re a 35-year-old guy, you don’t just walk into a Starbucks carrying a Judy Blume book, do you?

Well, I don’t. That’s just weird. And awkward. And downright creepy.

As I mentioned in my post about finding time to read, I do a lot of my reading at lunch. So whatever book I am reading becomes my tag-along for a week or two, or whatever length of time I take to read it.

Now, that’s usually not much of a problem at all, unless I’m carrying around a book with a 12-year-old girl’s painted toenails on the front cover.

So I had to come up with a reading strategy for this book. Here were my options:

Here's a guy that just might read Judy Blume books in public. (Meddy Garnet/Flickr)

Bad Options

The Creepy Guy in Public: An old guy walks into a Panera Bread towing a copy of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. He sits down at a table, next to a soccer mom and her young daughter. The daughter, after noticing said book, comments to her mom: “Look, mommy, I have the same book that strange man is reading.” The mother quickly grabs her daughter’s arm and moves to the other side of the restaurant, far away from this weird man who reads books for young girls.

The Creepy Guy in Private: What’s creepier than an old guy reading a Judy Blume book in public? How about an old guy reading a Judy Blume book in his “man cave,” by himself, at night, in his pajamas, under a faint lamplight? Need I say more?

Better Options

The Audio Book: Every Saturday, the old guy (that’s me) takes a long morning run through the neighborhood. This Saturday, he’s got an 11-miler. While jogging, he could listen to the incriminating book while all the neighbors think he’s jamming to the tunes of Pearl Jam and Kings of Leon. Genius.

The Digital Reader: Yes, the old guy has admitted his disdain toward digital readers. But, in this instance, maybe they would serve a wonderful purpose. He could download the incriminating book and read it at lunch, at home–wherever. And no one would ever know! He’d have to keep them at an arm’s length, though. Who wants strangers seeing an old guy reading about menstruation cycles? That’s a lose-lose situation for everyone.

The moral of the story: Old guys shouldn’t read Judy Blume books unless they have 12-year-old daughters or are reading through some ridiculous 101 book project.

That said, I went with the “Creepy Guy in Private” strategy. Yeah, it was obviously the worst one, but I had already ordered the book via Amazon, and I didn’t want to cough up more dollars for an audio or Kindle version. I made sure to leave all the lights in the house on and made sure my wife was nearby in case I passed out from reading certain detailed and uncomfortable passages.

At least this 35-year-old guy now feels enlightened, although a little creepy.

Have you ever read a book that made you feel a little, let’s say, uncomfortable? Do share.

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39 Comments Post a comment
  1. Cath #

    A dust cover from another, less creepy book could also do the trick.

    Like

    March 30, 2011
    • Oh, great idea!

      Like

      March 30, 2011
    • I find that hillariously simple and effective. Would not have thought of it.

      PS. I thought reading it with pride and a brash, boastful look would also work. Can’t be creepy if you look so confident.

      Like

      March 30, 2011
      • thebaffledo0queen0ocomposing #

        I would like to comment on the brash, boastful approach from my recent adventures in reading The Ethical Slut on the NYC subway:
        People judge anyway, and often think sharing their judgments is appropriate, since you’re such a brash, boastful-appearing person.
        🙂

        Like

        March 30, 2011
  2. Frankenstein comes to mind, especially when the doctor talks about how he went to a bigger size human so he would not have to make the wiring work that much harder for himself.

    Like

    March 30, 2011
  3. SandySays1 #

    Old guy! Old guy! Surely you jest. Anyway, try putting a brown paper “wrapper” over the cover. It works for winos covering bottles, and true creepy old men leaving XXX rated video shops. You lie. I don’t think you’re creepy at all.
    Sandy
    http://www.sandysays1.wordpress.com

    Like

    March 30, 2011
  4. Laura #

    As a girl who likes to read science fiction, I had to get over this one. Science fiction novels seem to automatically get covers with buxom, scantily-clad women front and center, generally either being rescued by some guy with big muscles and an even bigger gun, or else holding the even bigger gun herself.

    This tends to be true whether or not such a scene is even remotely related to anything happening in the plot!

    Like

    March 30, 2011
  5. What you’re reading says a lot about you. For most of us it’s not a list, it’s relaxing etc and kind of a snapshot identity. That’s why lots of the books I’ve read made me slightly uncomfortable in public (eg, war and peace looks show off, lolita as if I endorse things I don’t, mills and boon as if I’m unrealistically romantic, etc). But usually the plot or characters or themes are strong enough to make me forget these fears. In fact that’s what I like about reading – the way you lose you. Will try the Judy Blume test though as I’ve just bought it for my daughter who found it v funny. The bit about never being able to do up your bra and having to get your mum to help you is quite funny – another definite recognisable fear (just pretend it’s shoe laces)!

    Like

    March 30, 2011
    • It’s true–what you read does say a lot about you. Hopefully, my current book is an exception.

      Like

      March 30, 2011
  6. 2blu2btru #

    Yes, I’ve read an uncomfortable book. The big thing when I was in high school was reading Zane books. Zane is an erotica author. I blushed, hid, and gawked through the entirety of The Sex Chronicles (unfortunately, there were no Kindles then, and hearing it would probably have been worse!). As soon as the dirty deed was done, I gave the book to a friend and never bought or read another Zane book again, despite all attempts to engage me in discussion of them or loan me a copy. *shudder*

    Like

    March 30, 2011
  7. Ouch. Thankfully, I’ve missed out on those.

    Like

    March 30, 2011
  8. Jen #

    Ahem. As a romance author, may I point out that eReaders are becoming more and more popular because the covers of romance novels are often…shall we say embarrassing? I mean, who wants to ride the bus or subway to work while everyone stares at the half-naked man clinging to a scantily clad woman on the cover? It’s becoming less common for that to be the case, but still. You get what I’m saying. So eReaders have their place, and as a result, more and more romance novels are being sold digitally. I’m sure that’s true for other genres as well.

    So the point of all this is to say join the digital club for those embarrassing books you’re dying to read but don’t want to be seen in public with. 😀

    Like

    March 30, 2011
    • Very true. Since I’ve still got Lolita to read on the list, maybe I should join the digital club!

      Like

      March 30, 2011
  9. I think your post just made my week! I use to work in a Book Shop when I was a teen and started reading “The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty.” It was awkward when the customers caught you reading it and asked you what you thought of the book…I’m still blushing.

    Like

    March 30, 2011
  10. Nice! Though would you feel the same about the more boy-centric “Superfudge” books? My favorite Blumes as a kid, though were “Blubber” and “Sheila the Great.”

    Also, as my partner is heavily involved with the Theatre For Young Audiences field, and as a writer myself interested in the YA/Young Reader genres, we have more kids books in the house than any two 30-something guys should have. So we don’t worry about it anymore. 🙂

    Btw, Diane DiPrima’s “Memoirs of a Beatnik” got to be a bit much for me….

    Cheers.

    Like

    March 30, 2011
    • I vaguely recall reading the Super Fudge books as a kid. Yeah, I wouldn’t be as self-conscious about them, no doubt.

      Like

      March 30, 2011
  11. Blair #

    The guy in the photo legitimately creeps me out. I can’t look at him without laughing.

    Like

    March 30, 2011
  12. thebaffledo0queen0ocomposing #

    You can also put the book inside a larger, more impressive book. However, if someone happens to catch you in this strategy, you’re even more creepy than before.

    Like

    March 30, 2011
  13. Book covers = Always a safe & economical bet.
    Otherwise… there’s the fake-incoming-phone-call route:
    Notice girl at next table has noticed what you are reading. As she starts to mention it to her mom, you pretend to get a call on your cell: “Hi hon. Good, yeah. I’m at Panera for lunch. Yeah. Yes, actually I’m reading it now. So far I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t let Missy read this, but we can discuss it after she goes to bed if you like. Sure. Sure. Yes, I’ll pick up milk. Love you too.” Pretend to hang up fake phone call. Go back to nonchalant reading.

    Like

    March 30, 2011
  14. Patti #

    Good idea to read it with the wife nearby – I’m sure that makes it at least a little better.
    I find that uncomfortable text is tougher in audio version – I tried to “read” Lolita as an audiobook and early into it decided I just couldn’t listen to a grown man’s obsession with a young girl – no matter how much I like Jeremy Irons’ voice (that might have made it worse). At least when you read, you can skim over uncomfortable parts. I also listened to a Japanese novel – The Windup Bird Chronicles – that was mostly just really odd, but it contained some graphic phone-sex talk and it was tough to hear coming into my ear like it was me on the phone.

    Like

    March 30, 2011
  15. I was going to suggest some clever ways to cover the book but I see I’ve been mostly beat to the punch with the suggestion of another book’s dust jacket or book covers or tucking it into a larger very impressive book. You can also buy patterned contact paper and cover it that way. Definitely things to consider if there are other books on your list you’re fretting reading.

    Like

    March 30, 2011
  16. writernubbin #

    Just consider that you’re getting in touch with your feminine side 😉
    And I have to add my vote to use a book cover too LOL
    You’ll survive and live to tell the tale, I’m sure. ha ha

    Like

    March 30, 2011
  17. 1975 is a good year. Enjoy “Are you there …” I loved it when I was 13! BTW…I’m very proud of you for reading this book. I think it’s a book all men should read. 🙂

    Like

    March 31, 2011
  18. Alison #

    I applaud you for reading Judy Blume, in public or otherwise! I write books for young adults, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading multitudes of books for children and teens, it’s that stories for younger readers don’t become inappropriate or unimportant (or even less resonant) as we get older. One of the most wonderful things about fiction is the way it lets us understand other humans better and helps us feel connected to things we might never encounter in real life. This is a perfect example—you probably have more empathy for twelve-year-old girls now than you did before reading that book. Perhaps you understand some things your wife went through a little better. And that’s fantastic, despite the horrific cover. There’s no reason to feel apologetic or ashamed for learning about the world. 🙂

    Like

    April 8, 2011
  19. Kim #

    Late to the party on this one, but yeah, I’ve read awkward books in public. I did a study abroad in Normandy during college, studing WWII. One of the books was “Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century.” The cover is a crowd of people giving the “heil Hitler” salute. That was not fun to read on public transportation…I got several odd looks.

    Like

    May 5, 2011
  20. sf #

    I get uncomfortable by female friends who carry around paperback racy (whoa there) books and especially if they’ve even got their teenage or pre-teen kids in tow. Just hope they don’t share those paperbacks with their young daughters.

    Like

    January 29, 2014
  21. kirksroom #

    Do you think you’d be self-conscious if you were at least in the age group for this book, only without the vagina? When I was 13, I read Ella Enchanted at Bob Evans and in the laundromat and nobody batted an eye.

    Also, have you ever considered not caring what random strangers who don’t even know your name think of you?

    Like

    February 13, 2014
    • You care way too much about what I think on this topic. You shouldn’t do that.

      Like

      February 13, 2014
      • kirksroom #

        Hey, didn’t mean to make you angry. Sorry.

        Like

        February 13, 2014

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Book #15: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret | 101 Books
  2. Observation #82: I think Young Adult fiction has warped my idea of a boyfriend. | The Observationalist NYC
  3. Your Search Questions Answered, Volume 1 | 101 Books
  4. Your Search Questions Answered, Volume 2 | 101 Books
  5. 101 Books Guide To Carrying An Embarrassing Book In Public | 101 Books
  6. 101 Books FAQ | 101 Books
  7. Creepy Literary Dolls? No, Thank You. | 101 Books

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