My grandma and Korean boss told me the same thing: "You're a great writer."
While teaching as an English professor in Korea, the head of my university's foreign department - let's call her Big Boss - wanted me to write textbooks during my vacations. My first textbook was "Office Talk," which taught about job interviews and writing résumés. After that, "Total TOEIC" covered how to take a vicious monster of a standardized test.
My next textbook instructed my students on the value on public speaking. To keep things fun (for me), I made a joke out of the title: "Master Debate."
My Korean boss didn't understand the joke and immediately sent "Master Debate" to the printers.
Would I get in trouble? Get fired? Or an even bigger problem: What the hell was I going to tell Grandma? "Koreans don't know that 'Master Debate' sounds a lot like 'masturbate.' Oh well. I'm still the bestest best writer in the world, right, Grandma?"
I didn't have time to worry too much. Grandma was in the U.S., and I was in Korea. On top of that, the Big Boss wanted another damn textbook for next semester. That meant I would write four in two years. Other profs would enjoy exotic vacations while I'd be glued to my computer. I was getting fed up with this, but I was also getting treated like a king in Korea's university system - they gave me about four months of vacation.
My students needed something useful. Korean college kids didn't take a general health class to learn about eating disorders, alcoholism and dating stresses. And I've always wanted to write an advice column. So, I combined some things. I wrote questions like: "Should I tattoo my girlfriend's name?" and "If I'm only drinking beer, why am I gaining weight?" During class, my students would give advice to each other while using English. My book would turn classrooms into Dear Abby.
As a snippy joke, I titled my new text "Just the Tip." It smashed expectations.
Neither Big Boss nor Grandma understood the joke, but some people thought it was hilarious. Now, my smart-ass friends started thinking of more dirty textbook names like "Cunning Linguists" and "Use Your Mouth," but I knew my fifth masterpiece would be called "Let's Do Oral."
The problem was that I was spent and couldn't think about what else to write. And I wanted to go on a damn vacation! Seoul is hot and nasty in the summer, while winter is cold and gray and depressing. I wanted be drinking umbrella drinks with hula girls at a resort, not cooped up in a café.
So, I declined the book offer and took a vacation. But after that break, a different university hired me based on my hard work and popularity - but not my crude sense of humor.
Right now on the interwebs, there's a reddit post about how Casey Freeman is immature, stupid, idiotic, crass, rude and smart-assed (in a bad way). I'm the precise reason Koreans hate Americans. Some redditors think I'm a giant moronic jerk to write a sex joke into a collegiate textbook. Well, yeah. So?
I admit my immaturity is - um - immature. I probably screwed myself out of a few jobs in higher education. And I caused Big Boss some problems, because her name is also on the books.
However, I stand by the quality of my textbooks. "Office Talk," "Master Debate" and "Just the Tip" not only taught my students about English, they also learned about job interviews, public speaking and who to talk to if you're feeling depressed. "Total TOEIC" was 100 percent boring.
I'm proud of those four books. My life goal is that we can all learn and laugh more. And make dick jokes.