I've been sitting on this blogpost for a few days, wanting to calm down a bit before sitting down to skewer a particular parent I interacted with at the store earlier this week. Our store is in a pretty smartsy-artsy-fartsy (you like that term? I just made it up) area, where the population density of people who hold PhDs is higher than average. Probably much higher than average but I'm not about to spend time researching figures or anything like that. But anyway, because of where our store is located we're pretty used to parents who come in to buy books for their little darlings who learned to read in utero and are basically culturally sophisticated geniuses who excel in sports, languages, sciences and arts, all in equal measure, and do we have any books that might be good enough for them?
I'm sure you know the kind of parents I mean. Sure, these parents are tiresome and apparently blind to the fact that their children are frequently nasty little shits in desperate need of a
Mommy Dearest: (to me) I'm buying the last book in the Eragon series for my high school daughter because she just loves it, but I need suggestions for my other brilliant daughter. She's nine but she reads on a high school level, so I need a book that will challenge her but also be age appropriate. (to daughter): Why don't you start looking at the books?
Lowly Bookseller: I understand completely. Let's take a look over h...
MD (interrupting me): We don't have a television, you understand. My children have all been readers from a very early age, which is why I've got one daughter at [insert Seven Sisters college here] and another applying to [insert Ivy League college here]. My youngest, though. She just gets it in her head sometimes that she wants to read something but I won't have her filling her head with crap. Not like what my students read. She's better than that.
LB: Uh-huh. Why don't we look at these books right he...
MD (interrupting again): And don't even get me started on graphic novels. They're such trash--I can't believe she keeps trying to read those Wimpy Kid books at school. I'd like to give a piece of my mind to the creators of these so-called graphic novels...
The Odyssey. Since your daughter enjoyed the Percy Jackson books, she might enjoy learning more about the classics.
MD (looking down her nose): I don't think so.
LB (to the daughter directly): Sweetie, what others books have you liked besides the Percy Jackson ones?
Downtrodden daughter: Harry Potter, Emily Windsnap, books about animals, books with f...
MD (interrupting AGAIN): She definitely didn't like those Series of Unfortunate Events books
DD: I thought they were pretty good
MD (to DD): No you definitely didn't like them. And they're too young for you anyway. (To me): What else do you recommend?
DD: The one with the dolphins sounds pretty good...
MD (to daughter): No, you won't like that one, I don't think. Too old-fashioned.
DD (to mom): But I like dolphins.
MD (to daughter): No, I said you wouldn't like it. Keep looking for something else. (To me): What about that Atlas book? What's it about?
LB: It's a wonderful fantasy adventure about three siblings who are orphaned but come to discover some amazing things in their new ho...
MD (she's the interruptingest!): Orphans? No, that sounds too much like those other books, those Unfortunate ones.
LB (losing patience): Actually, they're nothing at all alike. Yes, they are both about siblings who are orphaned, but beyond that they're much more fantastical, with homages to C. S. Lewis, Tolkien, Susan Cooper, and even Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
MD: You mean they're derivative? I don't want her to read anything derivative.
LB (frustration showing through the cracks): No, actually, I don't mean derivative. I mean that it uses similar tropes from classical fantasy series in a way that pays homage, but still creates a wonderful story for a young reader to get lost in. If you don't want books that are derivative and poorly written, you should reconsider that Paolini book for your older daughter.
MD (slightly taken aback): Well. I didn't mean to offend you. I just have high expectations for my daughter. (to daughter): Did you find anything?
This one looks good. I read the part on the inside cover and then I started reading the first chapter and I really like it.
MD (to daughter): Were there at least six words you didn't know in the chapter?
LB (to mother): Well, if she's reading on a high school level, there's a good chance that she'll know all of the words in this book. But it's from a very reputable and literary publisher of children's bo...
MD (interrupting again): No, I don't think she'll like this. She only thinks she will because she's read a little of it so far, but I know her better.
LB (to myself): WTF, lady? How can you possibly stand there with a straight face, full of righteous indignation, and talk over your child and tell her that you know better, just by looking at the cover of a book, about what she likes to read? You're a monster and a nightmare and I can say these things in a blogpost later, which will make me feel better, secure in the fact that, like Miss Elizabeth Lefoldt in The Help, you'll never recognize yourself.
LB (dejectedly): How about The Mysterious Benedict Society? Do you think
The lady kept apologizing for her daughter's "talking back" and bad behavior. I wanted to hold a mirror up to her instead. She was clearly insane. And what's more, because it wasn't a school day, there were a handful of children in our kids' area, sprawled out on bean bags and reading graphic novels (mostly Wimpy Kid books, but some of the Origami Yoda/Darth Paper ones, too) while she was talking about how trashy and beneath her daughter they were.
So, gentle readers, have you ever encountered such an overbearing parent, in either a personal or professional capacity? I've read about them, of course, but dealing with one in person AND still providing good customer service was a difficult row for me to hoe.