Most book titles mean something only if you are familiar with the contents of the book. There is nothing particularly descriptive about the words, Little Women or Tom Sawyer. The titles evoke a reaction only because the books are well known. More intriguing names like The Red Badge of Courage or The Scarlet Letter are also only meaningful after reading the book. Even a short plot synopsis doesn’t automatically let you know that this book will be one of those that becomes a classic and which you might find yourself reading over and over. Four sisters during the Civil War years go about their daily lives, maturing from girlhood to womanhood. Not terribly gripping, is it?
The above doesn’t apply to one of my favorite reads, I Didn’t Mean to be a Witch. This mother’s lament at not always measuring up to her image of what she should be, grabbed me at the title. The author, Linda Eyre, had previously written a best-selling book with her husband, Teach Your Children Values, which evolved into a series of books like Teach Your Children Joy, etc. That information was enough for me to know that this book wasn’t going to be sordid tale of drugs or promiscuity. Indeed, I Didn’t Mean to be a Witch echoed my internal cry when I didn’t live up to my own standards. I enjoyed the book, but the title stayed my favorite part through the years. Just looking at it on the shelf could make me laugh and buoy my spirits. The book still fills that purpose for one of my daughters who has “borrowed” it, finding it reassuring after a disappointing day.
This is all to say that I truly appreciate a clever title. Especially after laboring over the chore of selecting titles for my husband and my books and audio CDs, I value the time, creativity and frequently the angst that accompanies naming a creation. So, rather than skipping over the name of a professor’s book, which was mentioned only as a means of establishing his credentials in a recent Good Housekeeping magazine, I took the extra second to read his book’s name. Unlike Linda Eyre’s book, where I paid for a copy just to have the title peeking out of my shelf with the contents being an added bonus, this book’s title convinced me not to even order it from the library. Having not read it, perhaps I am misjudging it, but if that is the case then the author and publisher made a really big marketing mistake.
What would you think is the message of a book called, You and Your Adolescent: The Essential Guide for Ages 10 to 25? To me it says that a fair number of my children, who are functioning perfectly well as adults, should still be treated as—and think of themselves— as adolescents. Why I would want to confer immaturity on them and added responsibility on me is beyond my comprehension. In a tepid approximation of research (I have a rather limited time each week to devote to this blog), I did look the book up on the Amazon website . Guess what I found? This is a new and revised edition. The 1997 edition was titled, You and Your Adolescent: The Essential Guide for Ages 10 to 20. I don’t know how to write sounds of me shrieking in the background, but if I could, I would. Perhaps the comic book rendition, “AAARGH!” says it best.
In a world where I feel increasingly out of step with what are considered mainstream ideas I want to take this opportunity to thank you for making me feel less alone. To those of you who, like me, think that adolescence as a concept should be severely limited; who believe that “old-fashioned” values never go out of fashion and who struggle to be not only better parents but also better spouses and citizens in a society which increasingly makes all of those undertakings difficult, here’s to making our voices heard in 2012.
P.S. I am alternately excited and hesitant about the debut of a new DVD in which I co-host four episodes of the Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show with my husband. You can read about it here. I’d love to hear your feedback.