A month ago, a local book club contacted me to say that they'd chosen my just-released memoir, The Secret Sex Life of a Single Mom, as their April pick. So great was their enthusiasm that they also asked if I might attend their meeting in person. I agreed wholeheartedly -- discussing my book's core messages around sexual and personal awakenings would be a huge honor for ME.
But out of the blue came yesterday's phone call:
"I really don't want to hurt your feelings, Delaine," the organizer said slowly yet kindly. "But a few women have already finished reading your book. And I guess it's causing some strong reactions and serious discomfort...
"You have to remember that every woman in this book club is married and most are in their 30s," she continued. "We don't openly talk about our sex lives like you have in your book. We certainly don't talk about whether or not we, or our husbands, have had affairs. And none of us have personally gone through a divorce or experienced what it's like to date after divorce...
"Honestly Delaine, in all the years we've met as a group, a book has never catalysed so much conversation and controversy as yours has, and we haven't even held the meeting yet! But I think having you there will just be too much for some of the women to handle.
"I'm so very sorry, please don't take this personally...but I have to 'un-invite' you from attending the meeting."
I hung up the phone feeling calm yet rather shaken. It's not that I was offended; none of these women even knew me, so why would I take their "rejection" personally? What ate at me was wondering which parts of the book were THAT "uncomfortable" for them. Was it when I received a phone call in the middle of the night from my husband's mistress? Was it my sexual curiosity -- perhaps the fact that I learned to G-spot orgasm with a man I casually dated, or that I once attended a sex club? Was it that I dated younger men or that I flew off to a different country to meet a handsome sexual Dominant?
Even if readers disagreed with ALL the sexual choices I'd made, I still couldn't help but feel perplexed. For all these "events" were not my STORY. My story -- its core message -- lies in the immense personal and sexual empowerment I experienced as I moved forward in the aftermath of divorce and infidelity. In my eyes, wouldn't ALL women -- married or not -- applaud another woman's empowerment during crises, even if stemmed from her sexuality?
But I know that people judge others through the looking glass of their own personal experiences. And if they've never been divorced or betrayed, if they've never had to start over from scratch and rebuild not only their lives but their identities, then the risqué subjects I cover might be way beyond the scope of their empathy or comprehension. Worse still, if any reader is unhappily married, she could very well feel ruffled or threatened by my book's themes -- and pointing fingers and pontificating morality would be the easiest way of justifying her unhappiness and feeling safe.
(Sigh) I didn't write my book to advocate my path or my choices as right or iconic for all women. All I did was share my story... with transparency, honesty and courage. How men and women react to it is plain and simply beyond my control. That it has ruffled some feathers and stormed conversation means it has made women think, question, and feel; I can only see that as a positive.
But I can't help but wonder if I'd still be invited to this book club if I'd lied and said my book was fiction.