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Authors: James Howe

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BOOK: Totally Joe
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See why the whole popularity thing is confusing? And why it totally sucks?

LIFE LESSON #1
: Popularity is a win-win for the popular kids and a lose-lose for everybody else.

LIFE LESSON #2
: In real life (when you're grown-up and out of school) popularity doesn't matter.

Q is for
QUESTIONS

What did Colin mean when he said he liked that I'd toned down my act?

Why can't I hate him?

Why do I wish he was still my boyfriend?

Why are the following such a BIG DEAL?

1. 2 boys dating

2. 2 girls dating

3. Somebody who's popular dating somebody who's not popular

4. Being popular

On Monday, when Addie went to Mr. Kiley with a petition to start a gay-straight alliance, why did he tell her no?

When she said, “Why not?” why did he say it was because there were too many clubs in school already?

If that's the truth, how come yesterday he told Royal Wilkins she could start a knitting club?

Why did Kevin Hennessey try to rip up Addie's petition?

Why did he tell her that God hates fags?

Does he really believe that?

Do most people?

Does God?

LIFE LESSON
:

R is for
RELIGION

GET THIS! THE REASON MR. KILEY SAID NO TO THE GSA
is that Kevin Hennessey's
mother
is making a big stink about it! Tonight, my mom and dad came back from a school board meeting all steamed up. I could hear their voices all the way from my bedroom before they even got in the house, so of course I ran downstairs right away to find out what was going on. Jeff didn't because a) he had his headphones on and probably didn't hear them; b) he was undoubtedly IM-ing porn with his girlfriend, Clark; and c) he pretty much thinks my parents inhabit another planet and he's not all that interested in what goes on there.

Anyway, my mom walked into the house, going, “If that's what she calls religion, thank God we don't go to her church!”

Normally, my dad might have laughed at this, but he was as worked up as my mom was. “We're not taking this
one sitting down, that's for sure,” he said, and then I heard other voices and realized Addie's parents were storming into the house, too.

When they saw me, they got kind of hush-hush and “shouldn't you be getting ready for bed soon?” But then my mother said, “This is Joe's business as much as anybody's—maybe even more—and I think it's just fine that he knows what's going on.”

“He may already know,” said Graham,
“since it's all in response to Addie's petition.”

“Not quite all,” Lydia
said. “It's also about those ridiculous rumors.”

“Even if they're not rumors, even if they're true, they're not ridiculous. And are they so terrible that we have to bring religion into it?” My mother shook her head angrily and offered to put water on for tea.

“What are you all talking about?” I asked.

That's when they started jabbering on at the same time (except my mom, who had gone into the kitchen to make tea), until Lydia, who's a lot like Addie, took charge and told everyone to shush.

“I'll tell you what happened, Joe,” she said, indicating that I should sit down. I have to admit this made me feel
very grown-up, even more grown-up than Jeff who, remember, was upstairs porning with Clark.

“This Mrs. Hennessey person,” she started out, “who, by the way, I have never set eyes on before in my life, suddenly shows up at the board meeting tonight, full of God and religion—”

“And self-righteousness,” my dad put in.

“For a lot of people, those go hand in hand,” Lydia said. “Anyway, she claims that she heard that two boys were seen kissing at school
and that several students were trying to start what she called a ‘gay club.'”

“That would be Addie's gay-straight alliance,” said Addie's father.

“He
knows
that, Graham.” (Lydia and Addie are
so
much alike.) “The point is, she's all up in arms, and she's gotten others to join her in some sort of religious crusade. I'm a good Christian,' she says, ‘and my beliefs, and the beliefs of most of the people in this community'—how
dare
she speak for most of the people in this community?—'do not include homosexuality or any other perversion.'

“Oh, it just
galls
me,” Lydia went on, her face getting all red, with the muscles in her neck starting to stand out like ropes, “that people can say things like that! And in the name
of religion! Who is
she
to say she doesn't believe in homosexuality, or to call it a perversion, or say she loves the sinner but hates the sin? The last time I checked, love was not a sin, and those who love were not sinners. Excuse me, Mrs. Hennessey, but what if I told you I didn't believe in
you!
I'm sorry, Joe, I hope I'm not offending you with any of this.”

Addie's parents know I'm gay.

I went, “Well, uh.” I had no idea what to say. I wasn't offended, but I was kind of embarrassed. I was just hoping they weren't going to ask about the kissing rumor.

“Anyway,” Lydia said, “she and this little group of sheep she brought with her went on and on about ‘family values' and the ‘sanctity of marriage'—”

“Bottom line,” my dad put in, knowing we might be there all night if nobody cut in on Lydia once she got going, “is that she told the school board there would be ‘serious ramifications' for Mr. Kiley if he agreed to the GSA.”

“Meaning,” said Graham, “that she's threatening him!”

“I thought he already said no to the GSA,” I said.

“He did,” Graham said, “but he didn't shut the door entirely. Lyd and I called him after we found out he'd turned Addie down and then told another girl she could start a club. He advised us to bring it up at the school board meeting and said he would rethink it if the board was open to the idea.”

“Interesting, isn't it,” Addie's mom said, “how Mrs. Hennessey somehow found out about it and showed up tonight with her little cabal?”

I found myself wondering about Kevin's dad and asked if he was at the meeting, too.

“I don't get the feeling Mr. Hennessey goes to meetings,” said Graham. “But his wife sure mentioned him often enough.”

My father nodded. “I think he's supposed to be the hidden weapon. You know, the big gun that Mrs. Hennessey says will come in and ‘take care of business' if the school board doesn't go along.”

Lydia snorted. “Which sounds to me like he's nothing but a big bully.”

Like Kevin
, I thought.

I asked if I could go upstairs. I didn't say so, but I wanted to write all this down before I forgot. Besides, I didn't think I could handle much more worrying about the kissing rumor and whether or not I was going to have to throw up.

So here I am, sitting at the computer in my room, thinking about the stuff Mrs. Hennessey said, and starting
to feel pretty steamed myself. I mean, what gives her the right to believe in me or not? As far as I can tell, I was pretty much born the way I am. It's not like I woke up one day and decided to like boys. And even if I did (which I didn't), what business is it of hers?

I know a lot of good things have been done in the name of religion, but a lot of bad things have, too. (Just pay attention in history class if you don't believe me!) And it seems to me that hating people for what they are—and can't help being—is definitely a bad thing.

LATER

I went back downstairs to get a snack, and Jeff was in the kitchen, rolling his eyes at the sound of his name being called from the living room.

“Tell them I already went upstairs,” he hissed at me, but it was too late. Dad came in and said, “Jeff, can you join us for a minute? Oh, Joe, you're here, too. Good, both of you come in.”

BOOK: Totally Joe
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