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The Kindle version is $4.99 for 380 pages of pure amazing Joe Peacock article-writing goodness. That's a huge value, considering most books that size are like $11.99 or more. Bastards. Capitalists. A bunch of cash-hungry greedy brats, is what those guys are. Me? I'm just an independent guy turning a corner in his life, making a living on his writing. And I want you to get the best value for your hard-earned buck.
That's also why if you buy the paperback version from Amazon ($14.99), you get the Kindle edition for the low, low price of FREE. That's right -- thanks to Kindle Matchbook, if you buy the dead tree version of my book, you get the Kindle version for free.
And as always, my digital versions are all DRM-Free.
If you'd like a sneak preview, I've included a few of the chapters that are included in the book, in full, below this article. It also includes:
Gay Marriage: I Don't Get It. -- This article was one of the most popular articles in Huffington Post history.
Joe's Rules Of Air Travel -- This one was too. It's the piece that made Gayle King (Oprah's best friend) a fan of mine and got me on her show the first time.
How To Actually Win A Fist Fight -- Arguably the most popular thing I've ever written, with over 7 million reads. Yes. Seven. Million.
The (Updated) Rules of the Gym -- Basically, guys need to quit making girls feel uncomfortable, girls need to stop egging it on, and everyone needs to quit farting on the treadmills.
Of course, the entire book is comprised of my articles on CNN and Huffington Post, and this blog. So really, this whole blog is a sample of the book. But I digress.
And now, a few selections for your reading enjoyment:
Yesterday, I was at the gym.
...Don't worry. This isn't a gym story. This is a story about a boy who needed to hear something important. But it happened at the gym. So that's why I started with the bit about being in the gym. If you were hoping for a gym story... Well, you could call this one if you really wanted to. And if you hate gym stories, you don't have to worry, the ones calling it a gym story are just really desperate for a gym story.
Anyway, I was at the PLACE THE STORY HAPPENED WHICH WAS THE GYM. And I was working out, as I am usually doing while I'm at the gym. And as happens over the years spent going to the same gym, relationships form and people get to know each other, and groups form and jokes are shared and camaraderie takes place. And it was the same this day.
I was talking with a group of folks who are regularly in during the afternoons on Saturday. Among them was a 14 year old boy named Bradley (not his real name). He's a great kid. He's been coming to the gym with his parents for the past two or so years. While his parents walk around the track upstairs, he spends his time learning how to lift weights with us big guys. When he first started, he was wiry and awkward. He's still pretty awkward; being a teenager and all. But us big guys, we set him on a good path to maintain a healthy level of fitness.
We were cutting up and laughing. The guys made fun of me for liking hockey. "That's a Canadian sport, isn't it?" one asked. "What are you, part Canadian?"
"Only the part that likes real sports," I replied. "And maple syrup."
"I still don't get why you don't like college football," another asked. "You're in Georgia. SEC is bigger than NFL here."
"What can I say?" I asked. "Southerners like their little league sports. I prefer watching pros."
And so it goes, about the same way every Saturday. The topics change -- what cars are best, what sports are better than other sports, what teams are better than other teams, what shows are better than other shows (but never politics or religion -- something you learn really fast in a gym is to never bring up the two topics most likely to incite violence in a building filled with metal bars and heavy plates). Someone has a divergent interest, everyone else jumps on it, and laughs are had. And invariably, the topic turns to girls.
Husbands laugh about the young singles and their stories about weekend endeavors. Singles laugh at the guys stuck at home with their ball and chain. Whispers are shared about which girls in the gym are hot; warnings are issued by the more experienced about the dangers of dating people from your gym or your job (short version: it doesn't matter how hot the guy or girl is, it's stupid. Unless marriage is assured, don't do it.)
One of the guys asked Bradley if he had a girlfriend. If there were dirt on the gym floor, he'd have been kicking it.
"Nah, no girlfriend," he replied.
"Young strapping lad like you? Nonsense," I said, knowing fully well that not only did he not have a girlfriend, he'd have absolutely no clue what to do with one if he did. Because I was him once. But as a grown up looking out for a younger kid, you have to act like it's completely ridiculous that girls don't flock to him. It's the right thing to do.
"I asked a girl out to the spring dance," he said. He then said something that hit me hard. "She called me lame and said, 'That's why you don't have any friends. Because you're weird.'"
The words rang in my head. Those exact words -- I remember hearing them. A lot. He didn't explain why she thought he was weird. He didn't have to. I knew the feeling very, very well.
"Come on now," one of the guys said. "Don't let her get to you."
"No, she's right," he said. "I don't have any friends. Not at school, anyway." His face got really sad. "I really am weird."
I was weird, back before I realized I wasn't. And it resulted in some extremely lonely times in my young life. My entire elementary and junior high school tenure was spent with no friends. In tenth grade, I found my tiny group of four friends (you can read about some of our little adventures in this story, which is to date the only thing I've written that came out exactly how I wanted it to, and that I am proud of).
I dated the wrong girl (they're all the wrong girl, until you find the right one). The four of us fractured into two groups of two -- Mike and I split off from Walter and Rod (not his real name, by the way -- Rod was the name I gave Jay Naylor, who is actually a very famous furry cartoonist. Yup: not only did I go to high school with a furry, he was one of my best friends. That in and of itself is a long and crazy story I'll tell one day, but not today. Today I'm telling a not-gym story).
Then one day, Mike got tired of my bullshit and said those words to me. "That's why you don't have any friends," he said at very high volume. He deserved to say it -- I'd just told him to go fuck himself when he tried to explain why my girlfriend at the time was screwing someone behind my back. I called him every name in the book. So he bailed and joined up with Walter and Jay, while I spent the last few weeks of my high school career alone. Even the furry had more friends than I did.
And now, 17 years later, life is fantastic. I belong to a studio full of amazing people who were all weird, just like me. I get to meet freaks from across the nation who all love anime and comics, just like me. I get to talk to people who read my weird stories about my weird life and relate to it, because just like me, they're weird.
There's thousands -- no, hundreds of thousands -- of us. All weird. All strange. All over, everywhere.
We all went to school and hated everyone because they didn't understand us. We dealt with the bullying and the isolation and the feeling that we were the weird ones. You want to know what's weird? Spending hundreds of dollars on clothes and shoes and purses that everyone else thinks is cool. Spending hours of your life doing things that everyone else is doing because it's cool. Liking the bands that everyone else likes because you're a loser if you don't.
You want to know what's weird? Hiding who you are just to have the company of people you don't even like. That's weird.
I looked him straight in the eye. My normally grinning mouth turned stern. With as serious a tone as I could muster, I said "Listen to me, okay? What I'm about to say is something I want you to take in and think about and really hold on to."
He nodded. "Okay, he said."
"This isn't just conversation, this is important," I said. "You listening?"
He nodded again. "I'm listening," he replied with a look that convinced me that he was.
I took a deep breath. "Right now, you're in high school in a small suburban town," I started.
"Everyone you know looks the same and acts the same," I explained. "They may dress differently from each other or belong to different crowds, but they're all the same. Hipsters, brainiacs, jocks, so-called 'geeks' -- they're all so caught up with not being left out that they're changing who they are to fit in with whoever it is that will accept them.
"When you show up and you're not like that, it scares them," I continued. "They don't know what to do with you, because they have no idea what it's like to think for themselves. So they try to make YOU feel like the loser, because there's more of them doing what they're doing than there are of you. In such a small group of small minds, the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.
"To them, you are weird," I said. "But weird is good. No, screw that -- weird is great! Being weird to someone just proves that you are being you, which is the most important thing you can ever be. There's nothing wrong with you. There's something wrong with them. They can't understand what it's like to be themselves, much less what it's like to be you."
He smiled a little. "You really think that?" he asked.
I laughed. "Dude, look at me!" I said. "I'm 300 pounds of ex-football player covered in cartoon and comic book tattoos, who builds websites and tours the world talking to people about his anime cel collection. Trust me, I know all about being weird."
He shrugged and said "It just sucks, you know?"
"Oh, I know," I said with a smile. "And here's the little bit of bad news -- It's gonna suck for a little while longer. But one day, you'll get out of school and go somewhere besides the small town you're in and you're going to discover that there are groups of people just like you -- not that they do what you do or act how you act, but that they refused to change who they are to fit in, and that makes them just like you. And when you find them, you're finally going to feel at home.
"It might be college, or it might be visiting another city. Hell, it might even be on the internet. But at some point you're going to find them. And it's going to be great."
He smiled. "That would be awesome," he said.
"It WILL be awesome!" I replied. "But until then, it's going to be lonely and frustrating. You're going to do stupid things thinking it's going to impress them or change their opinion of you, and it won't, and you're going to get sad. Just know that it does end. It ends the day you realize that you never wanted to be them in the first place, because they are losers. They lost the battle to be themselves. You're the winner."
I paused for a second, because it had just occurred to me that, at some point during my little motivational speech, his parents had walked up and were waiting a short distance behind him. I presumed it was to give him enough space to let the conversation be his own, but I knew they had heard me, because when I looked at them, they both nodded and smiled.
So I put the cap on the whole thing. "And I know your parents are right there, but I'm going to say it anyway: Fuck. Them."
I kept my eyes on him, but could see just behind him that his mom reacted a little to my vulgarity. His dad placed his hand on her shoulder and just let it be.
The guys in the group all nodded and agreed with me, and began talking to him about their perspectives on the situation (which, in previous conversations over the years, I knew to be similar to mine). His parents came up to me and thanked me for talking to him.
"He just thinks the world of you guys," his mom said. "He talks about coming here all the time to work out with you."
"He really needed to hear that," his dad said. "We try to tell him that high school is just that way, but you know how it is..."
"No teenager wants to listen to his parents," I said. "Hell, I'm an adult and I still don't."
They both laughed.
"He's a great kid," I said. "He's going to be just fine in a few years."
"Well, thank you," the dad said. "It means a lot."
"Hey," I said with a shrug, "That's what we're here for. We're his friends."
I'll give away the ending of this letter:
You don't want to die. You just want the pain to stop.
Trust me on this. I've been exactly where you are. It hurts. My God, it hurts so bad. The entire world -- your entire world -- has come crashing down around you. You realized the constructs you put in place that serve as relationships were false. You realize that you never truly connected to anyone. You've had your heart smashed. You've felt pain your entire life, with brief reprieves that came when you felt you found someone (or someones) who understood you; who accepted you.
And that's gone. And now you're alone. You're isolated. You've been trapped in a vast expanse of nothing, because you were cut loose. You've made damn sure that everyone you know knows you don't need help. You're no pussy. You're strong. You're in control. And to do that, you've put everyone in their place. You've kept them at bay. You've never told them what's going on with you. You've never asked for help. And when they finally stopped trying to help you, you took that as a sign that they don't love you and never did.
And you want out. You want it all to go away. You want it to be over. And you think death is the way to achieve that, because nothing you've tried and no one you've met has ever cauterized the wound in your heart that's bled since birth.
So you're going to do something drastic... Something final. And that's your right (at least, I feel it's your right. It's your life, and you own it, and if you feel that you deserve the ability to go out of it on your own terms, in your own way, that's your choice and I can't stop you). But here's something you need to hear, because it's something you need to know: As you lay there bleeding; as your eyes begin getting too heavy to hold open from the pills; as consciousness begins to fade... You're going to have a moment that you don't realize is coming, and when it hits, it's going to be the most horrific moment you've ever experienced:
You're going to realize you've slipped over the edge of a cliff you never actually wanted to jump from, and now you can't stop. You don't want to die. You just wanted the pain to stop. You just wanted them all to realize what life would be like without you. You wanted to matter, if only for a moment. And all of that is about to happen, but in the worst way possible, and you feel for the first time that there are alternatives. Sure, you knew all along that there were, but now you actually feel it. It's in you. It's clear as a bell. And it's too late, because you're about to die with years left on your tab. Regret is going to set in. You're going to scream and you're going to cry and you're going to beg for someone to save you or for the pills to wear off or for your wounds to clot... And they won't. And your last moment alive will be spent in anguish and regret.
And then it's over. You're gone, forever. And we get to pick up the pieces. We get to clean up your blood and handle your remains and pack up your apartment and move your furniture and tell the world of your demise. We get to call everyone in your phone book and tell them what happened, and try to hold back the pain and the tears and the crying as we have to be the strong one in that conversation, over and over.
We get to hold your mother as she cries for days. We get to explain what your last weeks and months are like. We get to figure out, without any real answers, what happened; what we could have done differently. We get to live the rest of our lives knowing we couldn't save you. And now, we get to live the rest of our lives without you.
Thanks for that, you fucking asshole. That's right, I called you an asshole, because right now, you're being an asshole. And what a waste, as you never wanted to die in the first place, you just wanted the pain to stop.
It can stop. Right now. Right here. All you have to do is talk to us. All you have to do is pick up the phone, no matter how many times you have in the past, and say "I need my friends right now." All you have to do is ask. We realize you're hurting. We realize you're weak right now. We realize you need help, and that you're not crazy, you just can't do this yourself. That's what we are here for.
But you see us as the enemy. You've spent the past few weeks or months or even years pushing us away, because you can't trust anyone. And that's because you can't trust yourself. You can't admit to yourself or anyone else that you are the reason you're alone right now, because you turned your back on those who love you and every time they chased you, you slapped them away.
Because you feel like you have to. Because you know no better. And it's just sad that you can't, because it's all so easy. All you have to do is put down the blade. Throw away the bottle. Toss the pills. Take the first step. Admit to yourself that you don't want to die, you just want to stop hurting. Ask for help.
My fear? That this might stop you temporarily, because it filled enough of the hole in you to make you realize you're not alone; that you're not unloved... Until it's not enough. And you convince yourself that I am just saying this to be nice, or because I feel like I have to.
Of course I have to. I love you. You're human, and you're here. You're alive. You have so much potential and so much access to so many wonderful things. You have a thinking mind that conceives of powerful concepts. It's just turned the wrong way right now. And I feel like I have to at least try to turn it the right way.
Please turn it the right way. Because when you are really honest with yourself in those moments where your fear can't hide behind bravado, you know you don't want to die. You just want to stop the pain.
So stop the pain. Call your friends. Get therapy. Stop being tough. Start being strong.
Or don't. I can't make you, and I can't stop you from doing what you are about to do. But I hope you won't. I really, really do. Because I want you around. It's entirely selfish. I don't want a life without you in it. I don't want a world that doesn't get to have what you bring to the table. But more than that, I don't want to live the rest of my life knowing that you lived the rest of your life in fear and panic and regret from making a decision you can't ever come back from, make right, or change your mind about.
But I'm not you. You're you. You're the only one who can stop you.
I eagerly await your reply. I can't wait to hear how you feel that suicide is your right. I want badly to hear your side of the discussion; to know why you've chosen this path. I want to discuss it with you over coffees had across multiple weeks. I hope we argue about this for years to come, because you'll be here to argue with me about it.
And I think deep down, you do too. Because the truth is -- and this is harsh, but there's no getting around it -- you don't want to die, because if you did... You'd be dead right now.
You're not. Let's keep it that way.
When I care about something, I engulf myself in it. I pay full attention. I soak it all in. I want to study every single corner, seam, side and stitch. I want to know it, fully and wholly.
When I love, I love with my whole heart. I don't have room for embarrassment or regret, because my heart is 100% dedicated to love.
When I trust, I trust fully. I subscribe to the theory that the best way to figure out if you can trust someone is to trust them.
I get hurt. A lot. Sometimes, very badly.
And yes, I get sad. I have to face memories and pain and periods of time being alone and broken. And I'm not sorry. I don't regret it one bit. I don't have time for it. Regret is distraction. Wishing something never happened is basically saying I wish I hadn't lived. And having actually been clinically dead before, I'm not about to wish that. I'm going to live as hard as I fucking can.
When I die, I don't want a perfect shiny heart, protected in plastic and encased in a safe box. I want my heart to have scars and stretch marks and all the signs that show it was well used.
I hope these selections are enough to entice you to support me and my writing habit. After all, I'd like to be able to eat, so I can stay alive and write more for you:
Buy the paperback edition
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No, seriously, I do hope you dig it. And if you do, please consider buying a copy of my new book. Also please consider reviewing it on Amazon, and telling your friends. It means the world. Thank you.