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There’s been a shitstorm all week surrounding the Clean Reader app and what it does or doesn’t do to books readers try to read with it.  There are better places to find out what actual authors with real books out in the known world think of all that. The whole thing reminded me that I needed to call my mother because A) it’s been awhile and B) she’s totally the kind of person who will read books in which people behead each other for no other reason that “serial killer = bad man” yet get her panties in a twitch because the detective character, after finding the fourth headless body in the book, mutters, “Shit!” while sipping his cheap coffee as a blizzard threatens to blanket the crime scene. 

Which means, I told her all about the app and the controversy and received her expected reply, “Well, some people just don’t like all that foul language.” 

My reply was something along the lines of, “Fuck that. If it’s a poorly written book with profanity for no reason, don’t finish reading it because it’s a bad book. If it’s a well-written book, the fucking “fucks” are there for a reason. Dammit.” (Yes, I use words she doesn’t like for the same reason I discuss topics she doesn’t like because she does the same thing and because maybe I was too busy being the “good girl” I was supposed to be as a teenager and I’m rebelling twenty-plus years later so I can check it off a bucket list.) 

To which she sighed. One of those long, mom sighs. The one that generally suspects I am having a late-blooming rebellious phase and that she’d rather I skipped it all together. “Well, it’s not just bad words. Books and movies and TV shows all have so many other things we just didn’t have as kids.”

“You do realize that families were never as perfect as they looked on Donna Reed and Leave it to Beaver, right? I mean, domestic violence was considered normal, women found themselves essentially prisoners in marriages because it was so hard to leave –” 

“I was never a prisoner. I just didn’t have a job so I didn’t have any money.” 

“You do realize that not having any money, not having social support because the problem isn’t recognized or because of social stigma, not being able to find a job because of social norms… all that kept people in situations whether they were happy or not. You don’t have to have cages to create a prison.” And just because I’d managed to get a few words in edgewise (rare thing, that), I added something about the costs of WWII on the mental health of the returning men and the toll that took on families. I may have also mentioned that we haven’t really gotten much better with all that, we just call it a different name, tell everyone to “man up” or take some pills. Then we act shocked when people have trouble with that. 

“Whatever. At least there weren’t gays all over the TV back then. Stuff was wholesome. No one even knew what that was back then.” 

My turn to sigh. “Do I need to Google and email you ever painting, vase, or other piece of art from antiquity forward depicting gay sex?”

“You have time to do that and you can’t call me more often?”

“Middle of the night procrastination is a powerful drug. My point is that just because people didn’t talk about it openly for fear of being ostracized or arrested or murdered doesn’t mean no one was attracted to the same sex or both sexes or felt like they’d been born the wrong sex or anything else. If eating ham were so vilified in society that you thought you might go to jail or get killed or have to live in some subculture you had no access to… you’d probably stop eating ham.” 

“I don’t eat it that often anyway. Ham’s gotten expensive. Do you eat ham now?”

“I’ve been vegetarian for years, mom. No. And it’s probably all the hipsters with the goddamn bacon lotion. My point is, if something you liked were legislated against, you’d probably stop doing it because you like rules.” 

“What’s wrong with rules?”

*sings old punk songs full of profanity terribly because I can’t carry a tune.*

“Why can’t you listen to Enya. She has such a pretty voice.” (This part may have been from another conversation.) 

“Can I convince you none of the gods want you to eat Wilbur because he’s cute?”

“There’s only one god.”

“Don’t make me break out the Google. You have yours. Other people have theirs.” 

More sighing. <insert ten minute monologue about cat fur on the carpet or something>