I read “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” when I was twelve. Admittedly odd.
My best friend’s mom had a record set of the play and we found it one day and I was amazed. It was dark and dangerous and emotionally unhinged. It made me realize in an instant that the whole world wasn’t like my house, where people talked and laughed and hugged and cared. It made me curious. It got me to thinking.
So, I found the book, the printed version of the play by Edward Albee, and I brought it home from the library and told my mom I was going to read it and that I’d heard a recording of the play and I thought it was really interesting. And she was like, ‘Well, all right then.’
And I did and I loved it and not just the literary aspect and the verbal jousting and the actual music of the rhythm of the words, but also the structure of reading a play versus a novel, which opened up a whole new way of looking at ideas and considering the possibilities. When my mom asked me what I thought of the play and asked if it was unsettling or upsetting, I said in so many words (many, many words – I talked as much then as I do now) that it made me want to understand people better.
That experience opened a window in my life that I’ve never closed. It let me see a different reality without blinders and pre-conceived notions. It offered me the opportunity to always consider the why. It showed me that negative reactions, judgmental responses, inappropriate displays of anger and rudeness usually, if not always, come from fear and insecurity and the desire to be seen...or heard...or loved.
All important art deals with emotions laid bare, opinions to be considered, ideas to challenge...or embrace. Welcome the light and the inherent conversations that follow. Find out a little bit more about yourself in the process. And if you honestly think that a book, or song, or movie can turn you into something “other” all by itself, well, you would be wrong. It’s the conversations and the reactions and newly altered interactions that create change, and hopefully more understanding.
And isn’t that a beautiful thing?
Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.