The Perfect Daughter (Chapter 3)—Clark Humphrey
Roxy re-openned her laptop and silently asked herself: Where had she gone wrong?
Not the kind of “wrong” her teachers and school administrators had once accused her of being, but “wrong” by her own definition.
She’d stumbled into what could be her life’s career.
A childhood of always doing something in seemingly every waking hour (usually biking, playing sports, studying, reading, writing, arguing with some authority figure, or arguing with some other kid) had led to a young adulthood of very similar routines (research, writing, editing, promoting, recording podcasts, giving speeches).
In the past year and a half, her name and face had appeared on a series of e-books based on the “re-education” she’d researched in the topics of sex education, U.S. history, and environmental science. She and her father had planned to add a whole line of e-books in other censored-in-red-states topics (evolution, ethnic studies).
Only now it could be over.
Just because she was, and had continued to be, herself. Independent, free thinking, ready to speak her mind no matter the consequences.
Because of one little public remark, Roxy faced the end of her little cottage business.
For the first time in her highly structured life, she might be left with nothing to do.
The comment threads revealed the extent of the reaction, from people whom she’d thought were loyal customers and who’d thought she was “one of them”:
“YOU TRAITOR! Why don’t you just put on a brownshirts uniform and join in with the rest of the right wing Nazis???”
“You, madame, were oh so eager to take our money and our support when it suited you. Then you turned right around and stabbed our movement in the back!”
“This woman calls herself an alternative schooler. She’s REALLY just a CROCK OF SHIT Con Artist!”
“No worthy parent will ever, EVER trust their beloved daughters and sons with your WORTHLESS so-called courses, EVER AGAIN.”
And those were just the comments addressed personally to her. The ones that referred to her in the third person described her at best as a “Teabagger In Sheep’s Clothing,” and at worst as “a Patriarchal Tool of the Oppressor Class” who, come “the Revolution,” would face “a glorious future stamping out license plates in the prison of the 1 Percent and Their Lackeys.”
Some of these commenters had pseudonyms such as “RespectAll” and “PeaceBeginsAtHome.”
None of the commenters had ever met her in person.
After she’d skimmed through about 30 of these comments, she opened an online chat with her father. He’d said she’d “broken their hearts. These people had this complete image of you. Then you broke it, by just being the real you.”
“But what did they think I was?”
“They thought you were the goddess of unschooling. The left wing version of homeschooling. For one brief moment, you were the heroine to every Occupy Wall Street parent and Ralph Naderite grandparent in the country. You were the role model for schooling without The State.”
“But I wasn’t. I just got that early-graduation exam in my junior year.”
“Instead of getting expelled. I was there, remember?”
“And I’ve always told my life the way it was.”
“But your fans and customers. They take from you what they want to see. They see this defiant girl who knew the teachers were lying to her. Who set out to learn the truth, then set out to retell the truth to all the other kids.”
“But I never said parents should pull their kids out of public schools.”
“Doesn’t matter. They thought you said it. Because they wanted you to.”
“So I make this little aside in this little blog post.”
“You say you’d like public schools to use your e-books.”
“But it was just a wish. Not even a plan.”
“What do I do?”
“After all this time proving you were independent, you ask your dad what to do?”
“Uh, a lot of that time I was being independent the way you wanted me to be independent.”
“As I recall, you were usually rebelling against that.”
“The way I see it, kid, you’ve got two options. You can turn to the old cliche that the customer’s always right. You can become the kind of radical they want you to be.”
“Conform to somebody’s idea of non-conformity.”
“Exactly! Or stand your ground. Keep believing in yourself. Even if the whole business goes down the shitter and takes both our incomes with it.”
“If you put it that way, I guess I have to.”
“THAT’s my girl!”