By Alana Lorens
If we’re to believe the marketing ploys of some retailers (yes I’m talking about you, Abercrombie and Fitch), the only people who are worth socializing with are those who are beautiful/handsome, thin and can afford to pay $30 for a T-shirt, $50 for a pair of cut off jean shorts or $100 for a pair of jeans.
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” says A&F CEO Mike Jeffries.
What does that elitist attitude bring to the table? What message does it pass on to these privileged few?
For a lot of kids, it demonstrates that they are special, that they belong to a exceptional class of people who don’t have to play by the same rules as everyone else—those who can’t compete either with their popularity or their wallet. They’re the football quarterback who gets away with sexual assault because no one wants to prosecute him, or the doctor’s daughter who shoplifts at the local mall, but instead of calling the police, the store managers call her parents.
But does it make them better people? Not necessarily.
What makes a good person? The Greek philosopher Aristotle defined a good person as someone who thinks and acts in accordance to virtue. So someone who acts in alignment with a ethical and moral compass is therefore “good.”
How do you get a good moral grounding? Many would suggest that religious teachings such as those in the Bible provide guidance. Parents who teach their children a firm grip on right and wrong also make a big difference in how those children perceive their path in the world. Teachers, athletes, and even celebrities can be teachers, demonstrating the benefits and lessons of acting in a moral way. How proud parents are when their children, even those who end up buying ten pairs of jeans at the Salvation Army instead of one pair at Abercrombie and Fitch, make those good choices!
In my March release, BY ANY OTHER NAME, we get the chance to compare two teenaged boys–Mark, the son of heroine Marisol Herrera Slade, and Jon, the son of hero Russell Asher. Mark has been raised on a shoestring lifestyle by Marisol, a single mother who now earns a living as a mommyblogger. Jon is a spoiled darling of his mother’s rich family, who has everything he could ask for in life, and a grandfather who funds it all without requiring him to be responsible. Jon’s mother has cut Russell out of their lives, to their detriment.
When a boating accident occurs through Jon’s negligence, putting Mark and his grandfather in the hospital emergency room, we see what sort of character each has. Even Russell has to approve of Mark’s moral fiber over his own son’s. What a sad situation. Here’s an excerpt:
“Tiffy, you can’t keep me from the boys. They need a father.”
“They have all the family they need.” She crossed to the bottom of the slightly curving stairway that led to the open hallway of the second floor, and picked up the cordless phone. “Now, either you leave voluntarily or I will call the police to report an intruder in our happy home.”
Russell caught movement out of the corner of his eye on the second floor landing. Jon and Barret stood there, looking down on him, in every sense of the words.
Tiffany started to dial the phone, and Russell held up a hand.
“Look, Tiffy. Fine. You win. They don’t want to see me, and frankly, I’m very disappointed in them. Give me five minutes, I’ll say goodbye, and I won’t be back. All right?”
He only half bluffed.
She studied him a moment, her expression showing doubt in his sincerity, but she hesitated and put down the phone. She glanced up at the boys, but didn’t call them down.
“You boys want to do this eye to eye like men?” Russell asked them.
They didn’t move. Barret looked at his mother, but his feet stayed firmly planted on the Persian rug runner.
“I didn’t think you had the guts.” Russell sighed. “You think your mother’s going to always be able to get you out of trouble, no matter what you do. I hope for your sake, then, you decide to make good choices.”
He eyed them intently. Jon didn’t flinch, but Barret looked away again, to his mother, seeking support.
”I just want you to know that I’m here for you, too. I’m not going to impose myself on you any more, unless you want it. I may not be able to buy you what your mother can, or pay off people you hurt, but I can help you be better men. You need to be good men in this life.”
Russell felt his throat close up and he pinched his leg through the lining of his pocket to keep himself from showing the pain and regret flooding over him. He was going to get through this. He was.
He coughed to loosen his voice. “You boys know where I live, and you know my email and my phone number. I’ll wait to hear from you.”
A deep breath escaping him as he finished, he caught Tiffy’s gloating face and resisted the urge to walk over and slap it off her. A final glance upward showed Jon still giving out the company line, but Barret looked a little shaken. Maybe he could be saved.
Keeping his shoulders straight and his head high, he turned and walked out of the house.
Up-and-coming mommyblogger and single mom Marisol Herrera Slade returns to her old hometown in western Pennsylvania for her 20th high school reunion, reluctant and yet compelled to see her high school sweetheart, Russell Asher, who dumped her for the homecoming queen.
Russell’s marriage to the golden girl, however, ended in a nasty divorce, and he has been systematically excluded from his sons’ lives. In his Internet wanderings, he’s found feminist blogger Jerrika Jones, who glorifies single motherhood, essentially putting a stamp of approval on what’s happened to him. He’s vowed to take this woman down if they ever should meet.
What he doesn’t know, when he thinks to rekindle what he had with Marisol, is that Marisol and Jerrika are one and the same. When he discovers the truth, will his drive for revenge derail any chance they have to reunite? Or will they find they have more in common than they ever expected?