In today's excerpt - in the now classic epistolary novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a high school freshman named Charlie gets advice from two upper classmen, Patrick and Sam, regarding girls in general and his new girlfriend Mary Elizabeth in particular. This book had the distinction of being third on the American Library Association's list of the top ten most frequently challenged books of 2009, for reasons including the book's treatment of drugs, homosexuality, sex, and suicide:
Patrick then explained some things to me, so I would know how to be around girls ...
"Charlie, has anyone told you how it works?"
"I don't think so."
"Well, there are rules you follow here not because you want to, but because you have to. You get it?"
"I guess so."
"Okay. You take girls, for example. They're copying their moms and magazines and everything to know how to act around guys. ... I mean it's not like in the movies where girls like assholes or anything like that. It's not that easy. They just like somebody that can give them a purpose."
"Right. You know? Girls like guys to be a challenge. It gives them some mold to fit in how they act. Like a mom. What would a mom do if she couldn't fuss over you and make you clean your room? And what would you do without her fussing and making you do it? Everyone needs a mom. And a mom knows this. And it gives her a sense of purpose. You get it?"
"Yeah," I said even though I didn't. But I got it enough to say "Yeah" and not be lying, though.
"The thing is some girls think they can actually change guys. And what's funny is that if they actually did change them, they'd get bored. They'd have no challenge left."
[Later a female friend of Charlie's, Sam, gives him advice on his first date - which happens to be with a girl named Mary Elizabeth.]
Sam told me how to treat a girl on a date, which was very interesting. She said that with a girl like Mary Elizabeth, you shouldn't tell her she looks pretty. You should tell her how nice her outfit is because her outfit is her choice whereas her face isn't. She also said that with some girls, you should do things like open car doors and buy flowers, but with Mary Elizabeth (especially since it's the Sadie Hawkins' dance), I shouldn't do that. So, I asked her what I should do, and she said that I should ask a lot of questions and not mind when Mary Elizabeth doesn't stop talking. I said that it didn't sound very democratic, but Sam said she does it all the time with boys.
Sam did say that sex things were tricky with Mary Elizabeth since she's had boyfriends before and is a lot more experienced than I am. She said that the best thing to do when you don't know what to do during anything sexual is pay attention to how that person is kissing you and kiss them back the same way. She says that is very sensitive, which I certainly want to be.
[But after a few dates, things are not going very smoothly with Mary Elizabeth.]
Mary Elizabeth has been acting completely different. She's nice all the time, but it doesn't feel right. I don't know how to describe it. It's like we'll be having a cigarette outside with Sam and Patrick at the end of the day, and we'll all be talking about something until it's time to go home. Then, when I get home, Mary Elizabeth will call me right away and ask me, "What's up?" And I don't know what to say because the only thing new in my life is my walk home, which isn't a lot. But I describe the walk anyway. And then she starts talking, and she doesn't stop for a long time. She's been doing this all week. That and picking lint off my clothes.
At one point two days ago, she was talking about books, and she included a lot of books I had read, And when I told her that I had read them, she asked me very long questions that were really just her ideas with a question mark put at the end. The only thing I could say was either "yes" or "no." There was honestly no room to say anything else. After that, she started talking about her plans for college, which I had heard before, so I put down the phone, went to
the bathroom, and when I came back, she was still talking. I know that was the wrong thing to do, but I thought if I didn't take a break, I would do something even worse. Like yell or hang up the phone.
Author: Stephen Chbosky
Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Publisher: MTV Books/Pocket Books
Date: Copyright 1999 by Stephen Chbosky
Pages: 22-23, 112-113, 128-129