BenBella Books

Book Excerpt: 'Moving Foreword: Real Introductions to Totally Made Up Books'

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Everybody loves a good foreword - you know, those bite-sized introductory essays, in which an expert or admirer or maybe even just some random celebrity tells you all about their very personal connection with the book you're about to read. Entertainment writer Jon Chattman loves forewords so much, he put together an entire book of them, and since the foreword is the best part of the book anyway, he figured that's enough.

Moving Foreword: Real Introductions to Totally Made Up Books (out now from BenBella Books) features celebrities, comedians, musicians, and other writers sharing their thoughts on topics ranging from how to have fun at funerals to Chewbacca's prowess as a lover. In this excerpt, singer-songwriter and musician Inara George - one half of the Bird and the Bee (a collaboration with Grammy-winning producer, singer, and instrumentalist Greg Kurstin) and a member of the Living Sisters - pens an intro to a fascinating exploration of fairy tale princesses and... well, you'll see.

FROM "MOVING FOREWORD: REAL INTRODUCTIONS TO TOTALLY MADE UP BOOKS":

When I was a girl I used to practice kissing by draping a wet washcloth over the side of the bathtub, and then kiss the rim of the tub where I had laid the cloth. I have no idea why I thought that this technique would help give me a leg up in the kissing department. It was just something wet and I guess I figured that would have to do. I mean, how do any of us figure out this stuff? I suppose it’s a lot of trial and error. But who are our role models and teachers? Our parents? Are we all doomed to unconsciously recreate the relationships we grew up around? My father died when I was five, and my mother never remarried. Maybe that’s why I didn’t kiss a boy until I was sixteen. I just didn’t know how it was done. It scared the shit out of me, and he didn’t understand why I kept saying I needed a damp cloth.

Our friends certainly affect our romantic styles. We schemed and strategized to get the coolest, most unavailable guys, even if someone wonderful but dorky was into us. Oh, Kevin Scott. He was the sweetest guy in the world and not even bad looking. He drove a winding road all the way up to my house just to take me on a date, but I dropped him the second a friend asked if I liked “that nerd.” I said no, and never spoke to Kevin again. You can go ahead and judge me, but I’m already remorseful, so what will that help? My whole point is I didn’t know what I was doing back then. If anything, I’m the one that missed out. Is it weird that I’m still sad about this?

Anyway, I don’t want to get off track. I didn’t know how to do romance, and I didn’t know anything about sex, either. Who is really telling us what we need to know before we get tangled up in that? Sex is great. I love sex! Two thumbs up! But why didn’t anyone give me a real nuts-and-bolts rundown? (Sex education in school is hardly sufficient, but that’s a whole other subject.) My friends didn’t know what they were talking about, and I really wasn’t prepared to hear about it from my mother.

Now that I’m a mother myself, I realize I had a teacher after all, one I didn’t notice was affecting me as I made my way through the minefield of sex and love: princesses! Oh dear God, princesses, fairy tales, and their insidious little messages. And these stories have lodged in our collective minds for centuries. They are beautiful tales, yes, but they got problems! There’s Ariel, who gives up her voice just to get on a boat with Eric. Sleeping Beauty finds her greatest love while she’s unconscious. Belle’s like, “I love reading—oh, and being seduced by a literal monster!” Snow White spends her days doing chores for seven grumbling little dudes. I mean, no wonder I dumped Kevin, amirite?

But there’s an even subtler thing that unites those dreamy princesses. They meet a man, fall in love with him almost instantaneously, and then get married about a week or so later. We never learn how they dealt with the guys’ issues, or learned to talk about feelings, or figured out how to put what part where (can you imagine learning about it from a talking teapot?).

At long last, Aurora Charming has provided an antidote for what ails these stories. The Birds and the Bees: When Prince Charming Found Cinderella’s Clitoris, Not Her Slipper is funny, fascinating, and should be required reading for all young women and men on the cusp of

their romantic journeys. Charming tells the other half of those age-old stories, and in the process, she’s rewritten these tales into ones that we can relate to. The Prince’s discovery of Cinderella’s clitoris was so poignant it brought tears to my eyes. Ariel’s intrepid search for her larynx filled me with pride and confidence. And that’s just the first two chapters! As a princess herself, Aurora has a unique perspective and deep connections with these ladies, and she takes readers through just what happened after the wedding ended and the credits rolled.

While our culture swings back and forth on its pendulum from conservative to progressive and back again, Charming slices through all the nonsense with simple, useful information, arming her readers with enough knowledge to respect themselves and the ones they love. I was touched and flattered when she reached out to me to ask if I’d be the first to read The Birds and the Bees, having been inspired by my song “Would You Be My Fucking Boyfriend.” I so wish I had this book during my teenage years! I feel lucky knowing my daughter will have it during hers.

"Foreword to Aurora Charming’s 'The Birds and the Bees: When Prince Charming Discovered Cinderella’s Clitoris, Not Her Slipper'" by Inara George. From "Moving Foreword: Real Introductions to Totally Made Up Books," edited by Jon Chattman, out now from BenBella Books. Used by permission.