I am not Charlotte Simmons

Published 9:50 pm Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I should have just gone with my gut.

Two Christmases ago, my brother – an English teacher in Virginia Beach – gave me a book, “I Am Charlotte Simmons.”

He told me he thought I would like it because I could relate.

Email newsletter signup

Not really trusting my brother’s judgment, I put the book on my bookshelf and called it a day.

Fast forward a couple of years, and some friends are at my house and they stumble upon this book and ask if I enjoyed it. I tell them I haven’t read it, to which they gasp and say I need to read it and I will love it.

With their endorsement, I decide it’s worth a read.

For all of you who haven’t read this book but want to, I’ll avoid giving away major plot points. But the story revolves around this incredibly intelligent, yet incredibly sheltered young woman named – you guessed it – Charlotte Simmons. The girl is from Nowhere, N.C., and is accepted to an Ivy league school somewhere up north.

She is thrilled to be going, dreaming of the debate and intellectual discourse she’ll find up there, but she is shocked when confronted with the crude realities of today’s collegiate environment: sex, drugs and alcohol (just to name a few).

As I kept reading this book, my brothers’ words of “you can relate” were spewing through my head.

No, I could not.

And I kept getting more and more offended that he thought I could.

First of all, this girl was so socially awkward, her roommate gave up talking to her after their second day living together (Thanks, Bert). Then, she was so shocked that people used filthy language that she kept dropping things or stiffening when people said bad words. (Not only do I not drop things when people say such words, I have to make sure I don’t say such words when I accidentally drop things).

And for the grand finale, by the book’s end – not to give anything away – our main character had severely compromised her stances on some of these big issues in ways I’m not even comfortable sharing in this column.

Needless to say, as I finished the book last night, my brother had some explaining to do.

I called him up with a simple question: What in the world was I supposed to relate to?

It’s a well-written book, he said. A book that is authentic, but fun to read. Plus, he asked defensively, didn’t I like JoJo, the basketball player? He’s a good guy.

JoJo – the 6’10 basketball dude – was the one I was supposed to relate to.

Yeah, I think I’ll stick with being compared to the socially awkward hypocrite, and just not take anymore book suggestions from Bert.