Pump Up Your Book is pleased to bring you Lana Cooper’s BAD TASTE IN MEN virtual book tour October 6-31!
Title: Bad Taste in Men
Author: Lana Cooper
Publisher: Delightfully Dysfunctional Books
Genre: Humorous Nonfiction
Have you ever felt like even Mother Theresa has got more game than you?
If you have, you’d be in the same boat as geeky, awkward metalhead Nova Porter.
Bad Taste In Men follows Nova from her prepubescent years through young adulthood and her attempts at getting dudes to dig her.
Juggling self-esteem issues, small town outsider status, and questionable taste in guys, Nova is looking for love in all the wrong places – like the food court at the mall. Nova’s circle of friends and her strange(ly) endearing family more than make up for what her love life lacks.
Along the way, Nova alternately plays the roles of hero and villain, mastermind and stooge; picking up far more valuable life lessons than numbers for her little black book.
One part chick lit for tomboys and one part Freaks and Geeks for kids who came of age in the mid-’90s, Bad Taste In Men is loaded (like a freight train) with pop cultural references and crude humor.
From getting laughed at by your crush to being stood up (twice!) by a guy with one eye, Bad Taste In Men showcases the humor and humiliation that accompanies the search for love (or at least “like”) as a small-town teenage outcast, managing to wring heart-warming sweetness from angsty adolescent memories – and jokes about barf and poop.
For More Information
Lana Cooper was born and raised in Scranton, PA and currently resides in Philadelphia. A graduate of Temple University, she doesn’t usually talk about herself in the first person, but makes an exception when writing an author bio. Cooper has written extensively on a variety of pop culture topics and has been a critic for such sites as PopMatters and Ghouls On Film. She’s also written news stories for EDGE Media, a leading nationwide network devoted to LGBT news and issues. Cooper enjoys spending time with her family, reading comic books, books with lots of words and no pictures, and avoiding eye-contact with strangers on public transportation. “Bad Taste In Men” is her first full-length novel.
Her latest book is the humorous nonfiction, Bad Taste in Men.
For More Information
- Visit Lana Cooper’s website.
- Connect with Lana on Facebook and Twitter.
- Visit Lana’s blog.
- More books by Lana Cooper.
- Contact Lana
When I was eight years old, I thought I was a lesbian. In an era where prepubescent girls simultaneously played with Barbies and lusted after Garanimals-wearing boys whose testicles had yet to descend, I wondered why I didn't get hot for the jocks of my male playmates, failing to take our mutual affinity for G.I. Joe and wrestling at more than face value. Most girls my age talked constantly about boys they thought were cute. I didn't get it. Boys were my friends, not objects of lust.
The only guy whose name I ever scribbled on my notebook preceded by an "I heart" was Freddy Krueger. I didn't want to marry Freddy; I just admired his sense of humor and style.
I assumed since I wasn't boy-crazy like most of my female contemporaries, I must be gay.
AIDS had recently become a hot topic with the deaths of Liberace and Rock Hudson. On one of the rare occasions where my family and I went out to eat, I recalled overhearing another patron's conversation: "I never knew Rock Hudson was a faggot!"
Growing up in Fletcher, Pennsylvania – a backwards small town with about three black people, a handful of Latinos, and where being different in any way made you a target for abuse – I wondered if being gay was a bad thing.
During our formative years, my younger brother Orion and I could already attest to what it was like to be different. Amidst the bulk of Bobs and abundance of Amandas in Fletcher, being named "Orion" and "Nova" was the equivalent of walking around with a "kick me" sign.
Our parents were much more open-minded than your average Fletcherites. Mom spent her college years in Philadelphia. As a young woman, she sang at Atlantic City's Steel Pier and performed in Summer Stock theatre. After college, she moved back to Fletcher to teach high school English. She quit teaching after my brother was born and it wasn't until we were both in high school that Mom went back.
Dad grew up in Baltimore and spent much of his own youth as a touring musician before settling down in a factory job in Fletcher. The faint trace of Southern accent he harbored earned him the nickname "Grits" from his co-workers. Even after putting down stakes in Fletcher, Dad never totally lost his accent, or his love of music. He and Mom met playing in a local Top 40 / standards band that gigged at supper clubs in the area. Whether he was on the road or living in Fletcher, Dad marched beat of his own drum. Culturally, he identified as half-Jewish, one-quarter Cherokee, and 100% loud n' proud of his heritage. In terms of faith, Dad took the "super sampler" approach to religion, embracing Judaism, Wicca, Methodist Christianity and Catholicism all at once. "They're all the same thing," he opined. "Just different trimmings."
On the flipside, Mom was as die-hard Catholic as they come. Yet, despite her Catholic upbringing, nothing fazed her. An accomplished pianist herself, Mom's Holy Trinity consisted of Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Liberace. While "The Killer"'s hetero-status was confirmed in spades, the jury was still out on Little Richard. The question of Liberace's sexuality wasn't answered until his untimely death. But did it matter who was gay or who was straight when you listened to any of these men play?
Our family lived in a two-bedroom rental home on the far edge of Fletcher. Growing up, there were very few kids in our neighborhood. Sharing a room and a mutual disdain for one another for the first ten years of our lives, my brother and I were still each other's only game in town. Like it or not, if I had a secret I absolutely needed to tell someone, that someone was Orion.
"Orion?" I whispered one night across the several foot divide between our twin beds. "Can I tell you a secret?" I paused for dramatic effect as my brother glanced over at me. "I think I'm gay."
My brother broke into a fit of convulsive laughter after promising he wouldn't tell Mom and Dad.
Orion usually blabbed anything I confided in him to Mom. I can chalk up my misplaced trust in him to an altruistic need to hope for the best in others, but I was probably only slightly less gullible as a kid than I am now as an adult.
While I wasn't present for the actual act of my brother diming my midnight confession to Mom, I can only imagine how it all went down: Orion, grinning like a bowl cut-wearing imp, tugging at the hem of Mom's skirt and lisping through a sparsely populated mouth of baby teeth: "Mom! Guessth what? Nova told me she thinksth she'sth gay! Because she doesthn't like boysth! Justht as friendsth! Haaahaaaahaaa!" As my brother cackled maniacally, I imagined Mom picking him up in a big hug, laughing along with her youngest child and applauding this resourcefulness that would provide her with solid entertainment at my expense and a reliable means of keeping tabs on her firstborn's antics.
One morning, as Mom was doing my hair, she broached the subject to me in a calm, pleasant, motherly manner. "So, you really think that you're gay?" I was too stunned to hear Mom ask that loaded question to realize that my brother had ratted me out.
I blurted it all out from there, telling Mom that I thought I might be gay because I didn't like boys. All the other girls at school talked about the boys they thought were cute and I didn't think any of them were cute. "Cute" was a term reserved for my stuffed animals, not my male classmates. Was there something wrong with me because I didn't like boys except as friends?
Mom asked me if I was attracted to girls, to which I replied, "No." I wasn't attracted to anyone. She laughed and asked me if I knew what being gay meant. I told her that I guessed that it meant when a girl likes girls instead of boys and boys like boys instead of liking girls. I also asked if this was a bad thing, judging by the tone in most Fletcherite's voices whenever they uttered the words "lezzie" or "faggot" – like when the news reported Liberace's death.
Mom explained that being gay was far from being a bad thing. Prompted by the slander hurled at her personal hero, the likeable Liberace who merged classical piano with boogie-woogie, Mom proceeded to give me the most beautiful lesson in tolerance and steering clear of bigotry.
She took off one of her rings and showed it to me. "See these little cuts across the surface of the jewel? Those are called 'facets.' Each gem is made up of hundreds of tiny facets that make it sparkle. Each is an important part of the whole gem, but one facet isn't the whole jewel. Liberace being gay was just one facet of who he was. He was also a great pianist, a decent enough actor, and a nice person who gave to many different charities. And that's what made him sparkle. Everyone is like a gem and has different facets that make us sparkle. You're a funny little girl with a bright imagination. That's part of what makes you sparkle. So, remember, it's all about 'facets'… not 'faggots.'"
Mom would later make fun of me mercilessly whenever she found out about any crushes I had later on in life, but I could forgive every minute she mocked me because she imparted such a wonderful, moving, life lesson that stuck with me ever since.
Even though I came away with a greater understanding of myself and people in general from our little heart-to-heart, I think Mom was relieved that I wasn't interested in dating just yet. She was happy that I was more interested in watching horror movies and playing with toys like a prepubescent kid should.
Mom's relief was short-lived. The following year, at the age of nine, it happened.
I came home from school, not looking any different than I did the day before. "Guess what I got today?"
"An 'A'?" Her tone lacked the excited surprise of a parent whose little underachiever was finally catapulted into the rarified stratosphere of third grade academia. This was more the nonchalance of a parent who expects nothing less from her child.
"Nope," I replied. "I got my period."
Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! Mom certainly wasn't expecting to hear that. At worst, she may have anticipated that I had received a dreaded B-minus on a book report or test – not that her eldest child would be receiving a lifetime's worth of tickets to monthly gigs by Alexander's Rag Time Band at Snatch Stadium before she turned ten.
"Are you scared?" she asked me.
"Not really. I guess this just means I'm not a little girl anymore?" The words came out with mixed feelings, more sadness than any grain of fear, probably mirroring Mom's own feelings. If there was one thing I was grateful for, it was that my parents – for all their foul language, loud arguments, and crude humor – never talked down to me or my brother as kids.
Mom, in particular, spoke to my brother and me like we were "little adults." The fact that our parents ensured we were both capable of comprehending intellectual conversation as well as discussing the finer points of Sesame Street made us much more well-rounded and resilient individuals.
I had already been preconditioned to hearing the term "period." Mom explained that it was a girls-only thing that involved painless bleeding from the area where you pee and mild stomach cramps. Periods also involved these hilarious wads of cotton known as "Kotex" that strapped into your underpants so you didn't get gross blood stains all over your clothes.
Apparently, having one's period also involved a superhuman ability to excuse bitchy behavior, judging by the way that Dad would snarl, "What are you, on your period or something?" whenever Mom would issue one of her biting, sarcastic remarks in his direction.
Mom had already made me well-aware of the concept of "the period," although she had left out the more adult points regarding reproduction. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending upon how you look at it), I had already been given some insight into the whole sordid process by a classmate.
At school, there was a slut that I was friends with who would describe her tawdry exploits in great detail. (Don't lie. You probably had at least one "slut friend" growing up, too.) I would get an earful from Slut Friend about her uber-romantic evenings with older boys, most of which involved getting felt up on hayrides. Although Slut Friend had already failed third grade twice before, she was still well beyond her years in terms of carnal knowledge.
Mom was relieved that she didn't have to explain the logistics of intercourse to me, since Slut Friend already did. Still, I sensed sadness in Mom's voice as she recounted the workings of the female reproduction system, that having a period meant that you could get pregnant. While I knew that babies didn't come from the stork, Mom dropped the bomb that they don't come out of the mother's stomach, either – unless they had a Cesarean section. When I found out the exact area that they squirmed out of, I confided in Mom, "That's alright; I didn't want to have babies anyway." Mom offered that the birthing process really wasn't as bad as many women make it out to be.
"It's like taking a really big, really hard shit… only from where you pee." And thus, that was how the miracle of childbirth was explained to me by my mother. Her frank, take-no-prisoners explanation was made even funnier when I considered Mom's typically ladylike demeanor and thin, blonde frame. Her take on childbirth didn't have quite the philosophical allure of her speech on facets, but achieved its aim as an adequate descriptor of labor without actually having to go through it.
The rest of puberty's accoutrements soon followed and I developed quite a set of hooters for a 10 year old. I was still "one of the guys," although a few scumbags would occasionally ask, "Can I see them?" to which I would immediately answer with a closed fist to the jaw.
It wasn't until two years later that my elementary school decided to bring in a so-called expert to lecture at an all-girls assembly about the "Wonders of Womanhood." My male friends encouraged me to go to the seminar to procure pamphlets and other "products" to be mined for comedic value and humiliation at the expense of some of the other girls in our class.
I didn't go. There was no need to. I already knew the score. Besides, no motivational menstruational speaker could ever explain it as well or as memorable as Mom did.