I was mortified as I sat in the principal’s office with my parents. The principal was pleasant and professional. My parents, well, mostly my mother, was livid over a book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, that we were asked to read for high school English class. It was a bestseller and contained some language but it wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard - or even used. This should have been a teachable moment.
You know the book or the movie. The story examines one man’s journey into the world of psychiatric prison hospitals. I was enjoying it until my mother discovered it. She exploded. She thought it was trash and it wasn’t appropriate. She yelled at me for reading it. She yelled at my father for me reading it. She called the school and yelled at the principal. The result was that I didn’t have to read the book. Other accommodations would be made. I read it anyway because, you know, once something is forbidden, it becomes desirable. And that is, interestingly enough, the theme for lots of famous books.
I have gone back to examine that uncomfortable meeting over the years. There was much I didn’t know. My mother didn’t say much to me directly, but from the conversations she had with my father and the principal I gathered this. My mother was trying to protect me from the temptations of the adult world which was ironic since she read those torrid nurse romance novels that she regularly bought from the drugstore. She also thought that I couldn’t handle such a book. Still not sure what that means. We had a world full of misfits and slightly deranged people running through our life all of the time so I was confused by that. She was aghast that we would read a book with “that language” in it. If I were to repeat some of my mother’s cursing, you would blush. Once again, I don’t get it.
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