Monday, August 27, 2012

On topless bike riding and other things that shape an author's perspective

Whether you read my blog, buy my books, follow me on Twitter, pal around with me on Facebook, or rifle through my trash seeking love-notes I've exchanged with my gentleman friend, one thing is probably pretty apparent – I adore risque comedy and frank, humorous commentary on sex.

Every now and then in an interview or a Facebook comment, someone will ask me, "What do your parents think of what you write?" or "Are you embarrassed to have your parents read naughty scenes in your books?"

I answer quite honestly that my parents are two of my best beta readers, and that my mom cheerfully catches typos in my sex scenes without batting an eyelash. Since she's reluctant to get a Facebook account of her own, I've given Mom the password to mine. She jokingly refers to it as "our Facebook" and reads every word I write (probably cringing each time I post something on the far end of the risque spectrum, and cringing again when she sees her friends "like" the post).

A couple weeks ago, I got an adorable email from my mom that got me thinking about the funny little ways parents shape their children. In some ways, it answers the "what do  your parents think?" question better than I ever could. Here's the note:
Your father and I are just sitting here on the beach.  The fog finally lifted and it's very warm.  I'm reading one of your books and relaxing.  We just happened to hear a father tell a little girl,"you can't take your shirt off, you're a girl." Made me think of another time, when it was my own little girl, wanting to ride her bike without her shirt on.  Sometimes you have to push back the old ways you are raised with/biases, and just let youngsters be themselves.  Your father has always helped me to overcome some of the strong mores that I was raised with.  Maybe that has something to do with your free-wheeling topics on your blog and in your books.
Now this is a pain to type on my cell.

Sent from my iPhone

Yep, that's me. With no shirt. Riding a bike.
She's referring to the fact that my six-year-old self noticed all the neighborhood boys playing outside without shirts and saw no reason I shouldn't be allowed to do the same. My parents agreed, not making a big deal of it, except to suggest I might consider donning a top when I headed off to first grade.

The way they handled that says a lot about what awesome parents I have, and also partly explains why I grew up without a lot of the body-image issues that seemed to plague many of my peers. I was never made to feel there was anything shameful about the human body or the things it's capable of (with the possible exception of peeing standing up – that was frowned upon after several misguided attempts).

So to answer the questions about whether my parents are embarrassed by my sexual humor, or whether I'm embarrassed to have them read it – hell no.

I mean heck no.

Sorry, Mom. That's the first time I ever cursed, I swear.

As for the rest of you, what kinds of things did your parents do that shaped who you became as a person or a writer? For better or worse, are there things you can point to that molded your views of the world or yourself? Please share!


Raley Blue said...

Awww. Tooo cute. My parents always let us have and opinion or a say about whatever we did, or dealt with as a family. We didn't always get what we wanted, but we knew our voices counted.

Candyland said...

Good to see you're the same sassy girl you've always been! Sounds like you have great parents. Honestly, I learned most lessons myself with little guidance. It's very possible I went without a shirt many times without anyone even noticing.

Summer Frey said...

I ran around without a shirt as a kid too. Since I lived in a rural mountain community during my most naked times, I probably pushed the boundaries of decency a little longer than I should have, but I'm also pretty body-image-issue free!

Yay boobies!

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

Love your parents. Mine are similar. In high school, I asked my mom if she lost her virginity before she got married. She told me she wouldn't tell me, but that there was a reason for it. She said, if she told me, "Yes," then I might be in a position to "lose it" with the "wrong" guy, but I might think, "Well, heck, my mom did, so I guess I might as well." And, if she told me she'd waited, I might be with the right guy at the right time, and think I'd better wait b/c my mom did. I've always respected her for giving me license to make my own important decisions.

Unknown said...

The best thing I can say about my parents thoughts on my writing is that they never have and never will care about it. Which means they'll never argue against me writing. They've never said they thought it's a waste of time and they've patted me on the head with a "how nice" when I've been (too) persistent.

They both have made sure I got a love for books - there were always books at home, books for presents, books being read and handed around. They read to me every evening until I learned how to on my own. They never ever said a book was too difficult for me (I read Dean Koontz and Jean Auel at the age of 12). They never argued against me reading in a second language at the age of 13.

I love them and in a lot of aspects they're fantastic, but when it comes to shaping my view on myself, I think their greatest problem is that they don't have the simplest idea how to make someone feel good about themselves.

Unknown said...

Well, my mother was quite vocal about her disproval of anything gay whenever it showed up on the news, so for a long time I was very afraid to even admit it to myself. It drove me into isolation in high school and staying away from fellow students.

She was great when I finally did tell her, but I kept getting lectures on how I would end up raped if too many people know and heaven forbid if the church should find out ...

I know she's still not comfortable with it. Actions always speak louder than words.

We never discussed anything sexual while growing up either ... it was pretty much a taboo subject in my house. I guess that's why I refuse to write any such scenes in my books. Same goes for swearing. Although they've relaxed that slightly, I still see no need for it.

Patrick Alan said...

Nice boobs!

My parents shaped my by putting my feet into small wooden shoes. That's why I have such sexy small feet. They hurt a little bit, but they are dainty.

Sarah W said...

I was raised by a woman who let me garden topless with a neighborhood boy when I was five -- and who has never let me forget that I did.

To explain (and celebrate) her further: I recently told her I thought I had a good idea for my next novel, but I'd have to interview an embalmer and a pole dancer to make sure.

And my 74-year old mother said, "Oh! You need to talk to X." She took out her phone, hit a contact button, and the next thing I knew, I was talking to a former Brazilian exotic dancer turned college professor who works out at one of Mom's Curves franchises (and apparently keeps nagging Mom to set up a pole--Mom says she'd love to, but the corporate office won't allow it), and who was delighted to answer any questions I might have whenever I had them.

Afterward, I handed the phone back and said, "You have a pole dancer on your contact list, Mom."

She grinned and said, "Beats having an embalmer, at my age."

Linda G. said...

It never made any sense to me that little girls had to wear shirts and little boys didn't, when their chests looked pretty much identical. Good for your parents for their lack of hangups!

Neurotic Workaholic said...

Your parents sound cool. Your post also made me think of a topless protest that some women are having because they want to be able to take their tops off at the beach like men do. I didn't join them, though, because I'm totally clumsy and I'm afraid that I would end up with bruises if I walked around without a shirt on.

Judy, Judy, Judy said...

My shaping by my parents results more from rebellion against my mom's prudishness. We had the topless issue too and I was never allowed outside topless. Even at 2 or 3 years old.
I love her but...

chihuahuazero said...

My cross-country team comes to mind. That is all.

Amy said...

I have a great pic of me at age six or seven in a pink skirt and no top... just like Dad. Well, almost.

I was recently petrified by my grandparents showing interest in my novel, which is right raunchy in places - though I don't think they realised this... blogged on the topic (
I'm still a little nervous, but I'll get past it :)

Shalet Jimmy said...

That's really cool...Parents who are ready to break the rules both for themselves and their children are real assets. And you have that....Happy for u....

Jordan D said...

I just ran across your blog. I am just starting out trying to be a writer and I love your comments. Thanks for being a unknowing source of help

broken biro said...

Topless! Yay! I hate the sexualisation of tiny little girls in bikinis... and I still get confused as to when it's ok to sunbathe topless and when it isn't ( ha! We Europeans!)

I envy you your mum. Mine is still an innocent at 78 so I'm guessing that isn't going to change. She always encouraged reading, and likes to read things I've written but I worry about springing anything too raunchy on her!