A few weeks ago, my friend Claire had a party at her house for Open That Bottle Night. It was mostly close friends, but one girl brought a friend along and that friend brought her boyfriend. The boyfriend was a complete d-bag and kept making all of these snobby comments about the wine, which made me roll my eyes so much it hurt. Finally Tameka said to him, "Dude. You're being really intense about the wine." He looked all shocked that we would say such a thing, looked at us like we were knuckle-dragging, Franzia-drinking heathens, and went on to explain, "Well, it's my livelihood." I tuned out pretty quickly after that dumb statement, so I don't remember what he said his job was, but based on his d-baggy attitude, I'm sure it was less like vineyard owner and more like bar back.
The story of this guy came up this past weekend when I went with a big group of friends out to Arizona for Spring Training. "It's my livelihood" became quite the saying between the group of us who drove together, and with a high school teacher, a YA writer, a DUI attorney, and a prosecutor of sex offenders, well, you can imagine the vast array of topics we were replying to with "Well, it's my livelihood!"
Friday night we were out with a big group at a dive bar in Scottsdale. A bunch of the guys in this group are super pumped about The Hunger Games, and we were making plans for the movie. Then one of the guys, someone I have met many times but don't know super well because he doesn't live near us, starts talking smack on HG. Well, maybe not talking smack, because he did say he enjoyed the books. But he said the series was a direct ripoff of Brave New World and that it read like it was written by a 5th grader.
I think it goes without saying that I took offense to this.
I launched into my spirited defense of YA, but this guy was relentless. He kept saying he looked and looked for a sentence in the first book that was longer than seven words and couldn't find one. He said the prose read like "I shot an arrow. Arrow hit him. He died. I'm sad." And any time I tried to say anything, anything, he looked at me with this confused expression and said, "Jess, I don't know why you are so upset about this."
Um. Uh. Well.
It's kinda my livelihood.
Oh man. I realized pretty quickly that I was being that guy. I was being the d-baggy wine guy from Claire's party over this book, and over YA in general. Ugh.
I realized as I sat there all red in the face and worked up that I wasn't going to change this guy's mind. I haven't read HG recently, and I didn't have my copy of the book with me in my back pocket at the bar. (I know, what was I thinking?) And I've never even read Brave New World. So I wasn't going to be able to prove anything to this guy. And even if I pulled out my book right then and there, he didn't want to listen to me. He just wanted to go on his little rant. I know the last thing he expected me to say was, "Actually, I'm getting so upset about this because I write YA novels myself," but even that didn't make him stop to hear what I was saying at all.
I ended up apologizing for being so defensive, and I said I didn't want to be d-baggy wine guy. (I didn't apologize for my difference of opinion, only for being so defensive and a bit of a tool about it.) We laughed about it. He didn't really ask about my writing, but that was fine. I didn't want to be talking to him anymore, so I walked away and hit up the jukebox with the people I came with. And I let it go.
Later, though, my good friend (this guy's bff) came up to me and told me I shouldn't have apologized. That the guy was being a total ass about it and he's like that all the time and I should have ignored him and stuck to my guns. I felt like sticking to my guns would have turned me into the "It's my livelihood" guy of the YA world, and I wanted to punch that guy in the face, not emulate him in conversation. But at the same time, I hate that my apology for being defensive sort of comes off like a concession, like I'm saying that Katniss really does say things like, "I shot him. Now he's dead. I am sad," and that that's the sort of brilliant prose to which I aspire.
I can't let people talk smack on YA, right? I mean, it's my livelihood.
But I also can't be a d-bag, right? Because...ew.
I guess we all have to pick our battles, and arguing with this guy I don't know all that well who I knew would be unwilling to listen and when I didn't have a book or anything to back me up while out at a bar drinking beers, well, that wasn't really a hill I was willing to die on. Just like showing up to a party where you know no one and getting all snobby with them about their perfectly acceptable wine isn't exactly a way to make friends. I wasn't going to let this guy at the bar turn me into the intense wine guy who no one likes, even though intense wine guy probably thought he was educating us and not being a complete douche.
I don't know...am I the only one who gets into fights about YA at bars on Friday nights? I can't be the only one.