Issue #202 – “Lexapros and Cons” – April 9th, 2012

-When I was in ninth grade, I kept a list of how often I jerked off for an entire year. I have no idea why I did it (nor do I remember what the final tally was, but let’s just say it was impressive). It was not until later in life, though, when I became cognizant of some of my other bizarre rituals and habits, that I surmised my masturbatory bookkeeping might have been an early symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder. That realization was the inspiration for my new novel, which comes out tomorrow and focuses on the plight of OCD-addled teenager Chuck Taylor who, as is revealed in the book’s soon-to-be infamous first sentence, also keeps detailed records of his self-gratification. Luckily for me, things have changed a lot since high school: I’ve gone from counting how often I masturbate to counting how many girls I’ve slept with to today barely tracking my sexual exploits at all. Or as any psychology textbook would call it: a full recovery.

-Because he happens to share the name of the icon behind Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars, Chuck becomes fixated on the sneakers, buys high-tops in every single color available, and uses them to create an intricate method for expressing himself. When he’s excited he’ll wear his blue “Cons,” when he’s frustrated he’ll wear his white “Cons,” and so forth. This system is something that Chuck and I do not share. If my mood matched my sneakers, I’d have one pair that signified “annoyed” and wear them every single day.

-In 2008, my doctor prescribed me the antidepressant Lexapro in order to combat OCD and anxiety. I took it for six months and felt no effect. Sadly, as with cold medicine and sleeping pills, I am for some reason immune to medication unless it comes in a glass bottle with “Amstel” written on the side. In my book, Chuck’s shrink also prescribes him Lexapro, though he experiences markedly different results. This gave rise to the title of the novel, Lexapros and Cons, which I’m proud to say pulls off a rare triple entendre.

-The novel, which I would describe as a comedic coming-of-age tale, follows Chuck through the second half of his senior year of high school. But while my idiosyncrasies informed Chuck’s character and the setting is a not-so-thinly veiled version of my hometown, the story itself is very much fiction; Chuck’s love interest and best friend are both wholly constructs of my imagination. It was an enlightening exercise for someone whose stand-up act and three previous books are all nonfiction. I never realized what writing a novel was like. It turns out that there’s a trick novelists use when they don’t know what should happen next: they fucking make that shit up. What a capital idea!

-Perhaps the biggest departure for me is that Lexapros and Cons is classified as young adult (or, as it’s known in the publishing industry “YA,” which stands for “fuck ton of money”). Theoretically, the book is meant for teenagers, but quite frankly I don’t really think there’s much difference between it and an “adult” book. In fact, there are exactly 74 instances of the word “fuck” in the novel, 29 more than in my Comedy Central special, which got bleeped so many times you can barely understand me and now replays at two o’clock in the morning. Side note: wow, I really need to stop counting everything.

-Ultimately, I would be thrilled if you picked up Lexapros and Cons tomorrow, read it, and then passed it on to a younger friend or relative. I am confident that the plight of Chuck – like my own plight – will make you smile. My friend Cat was one of the first people to read an early version of the manuscript. She finished the whole thing in a day while crushing Bloody Marys by the pool. She laughed, she cried, and then blacked out. I highly recommend that technique, if only because it means you’ll have to read it twice.

-As always, here are some random things I’ve been ruminating about lately…

-Exotic, multi-ethnic women are always hotter if the foods from the countries that she’s from taste good together. I know a girl who is half-Swiss, half-French. Put that together and you get cheese fries. Delicious and gorgeous.

-If the only domain, email address, or Twitter handle available is one with your middle initial in it, either change your name or get off the fucking Internet.

-One thing that amazes me about women is their ability to completely shut me down with a single text message. We’ll be texting and flirting, and I think it’s going well, and finally I write: “u wanna meet up?” And she’ll demur: “in bed.” There’s just no way for me to respond to that. It could be 11pm on a Saturday night, but if she wants to end the conversation, all she has to do is write “in bed.” I call it the Fortune Cookie defense.

-My buddy will disappear for weeks and then call me out of the blue and ask for a favor. Like he ran out of gas and he asked me to pick him up because he didn’t want his girlfriend to know how poor he is. I was like, bro, you can’t just call me at two in the afternoon and expect me to come over. That’s a male booty call.

-When you’ve been dating as long as I have, you’d think you’d seen it all. But the biggest red flag I ever encountered happened a few weeks ago. I was using a girl’s bathroom and noticed that, discarded in the little garbage can next to the toilet was…half-eaten sushi. No joke. I mean, even if you were eating sushi in the bathroom, do not throw it out in the bathroom! What the fuck is in your kitchen garbage can? Tampons?

-I have seen three psychologists in my life, and none of them were able to figure me out. The problem is, there’s a very hazy line between being a neurotic, hyper-organized, impatient New Yorker, and being clinically OCD. I’m pretty sure I have one foot on one side of the line and one foot on the other. Though I’m using both hands to flip the bird.

-And, finally, because Lexapros and Cons contains explicit language, addresses the hot button issues of mental illness and bullying, and, well, revolves around a character who counts how often he wanks it, there was some concern that the book might be banned by conservative organizations. And so, I would like to conclude this edition of Ruminations by addressing those organizations directly. Dear Crazy People: I have one simple request. Please, pretty please with sugar on top, please ban my book. Seriously, I am asking you to do it. Ban the shit out of Lexapros and Cons. I couldn’t pay for that kind of press. Besides the fact that it’s 2012 and you’re still banning books, which is just adorable, perhaps you don’t realize that kids have Kindles and iPads now. They’ll see you’ve banned my book and download it right out of the sky like a fucking boss. That’s Oprah-level exposure right there. So stop shooting dirty looks and start banning dirty books. I appreciate your consideration. Warm Regards, Aaron Karo. (PS: Fuck me.)