Bad Kid by David Crabb

Library eBook

I've never heard of David Crabb. Apparently he's a person I should know, but I'm afraid I don't. All I knew was that this is a memoir about a now-grown man who was a gay, Gothic teenager in Texas and that sounded so unlikely that I knew it was something I needed to read. Well, maybe not "unlikely," but certainly there would have to be some good stories here, right?
It would be easy to draw comparisons to David Crabb's memoir to, say David Sedaris's. I think the important difference between them is in the tone. Yeah, Sedaris is hilarious and this might feel like an imitation to his fans, but I found Sedaris' tone really harsh, mean, and bitchy - when I read Me Talk Pretty One Day in high school or early college, I hated it. I might give it another go at some point, as I have grown into a bitter and dry adult myself. My opinion of that book is completely at odds with nearly everyone I know, which leads me to believe that in forming my early impression of him I missed something important (Sedaris has made me cry when listening to his stories on NPR, so there is that).
But in David Crabb's memoir I didn't get a whiff of bitterness at all. It was so much sweeter and really refreshing. How can you grow up gay and goth in Texas and not be bitter?! I feel like it should be expected of him, he's even entitled to it! But nope, Crabb may have one of the most mature and forgiving voices I've heard from many a gay man. The important part, I believe, is that as miserable as he probably was growing up, he was still surrounded by people who loved him, even if they didn't understand him.
It's cringe-worthy, but not at a Meet the Parents level where everything just goes wrong. You can see trouble coming, especially in early chapters, but the resolution is never as humiliating as you might have foreseen. I am a straight woman, and he made me understand what it was like to feel repulsed by other women. His high school friends made me wish that I could really have met them and hung out with them (without all the pedestrian drug use, maybe). Greg seemed like a lot of fun, Sylvia is a doppelganger of one of my own high school best friends, and Max, precious, sweet cinnamon-roll too good for this world... Oh, Max. After finishing this book, I lay in bed at night thinking about that perfect bro-mance they shared.
As a "Bad Kid," it's pretty apparent that Crabb wasn't actually a bad kid. He made a lot bad choices, but once his family caught up with him, they intervened. His father coming to terms with his gay son was painful to watch, but it was obvious it was never going to end badly.
This book was funny without ever once disgusting me. In fact, beyond my expectations, it renewed my faith in humanity. I never actually expected it to be a feel-good memoir, but that's kind of what it was. I really recommend it, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

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