See that cat? That's my beloved J.K. Meowling. I'll give you three guesses as to who she's named after and the first two don't count.
As a book nerd, it's probably no surprise that I named my cat after one of my favorite authors. And considering that Harry Potter is pretty ubiquitous, you wouldn't think I'd have to explain her name to anyone. But there's a venn diagram of people who a) don't know me and b) don't read at all, and they just don't understand wtf kind of name is J.K. Meowling.
Albeit this venn diagram of people is pretty small, but it exists. And it hurts my soul. Harry Potter is, in large part, why I'm a bibliophile today. I was 11 when I first read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the same age Harry is in the book. And I was 17 when I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the same age Harry is in that book.
I love Harry Potter so much that I even put J.K. Meowling in a Weasley-esque Christmas sweater.
Okay, so I liked the Weasley sweater more than she did, but that's beside the point. You're probably wondering who on earth I managed to find that didn't get the reference to her name. To what dark depths of the earth did I have to travel to find someone who hadn't heard of J.K. Rowling?
Well, see that little yellow tag shaped like a house that's hanging off her collar? It's from a company called Home Again. They microchip pets so if your beloved fur baby gets loose and someone finds her, they can have her scanned, the microchip will reveal your contact info, and you'll get your fur child back. I had called Home Again to get J.K. a custom name tag--one that's metal and has her name engraved.
The conversation went something like this:
Me: "Hi, I'd like to get a custom tag for my cat."
Customer Service Person: "Great! ..."
[I proceed to give her my account info, confirm J.K.'s microchip number, and pick the color of the tag.]
Customer Service Person: "What name would you like on the tag?"
Me: "My cat's name is J.K. Meowling. That's J, period, K---"
Customer Service Person: "I'm sorry, what's the cat's name again?"
Me: "J.K. Meowling."
Customer Service Person: "J.K. Mouse Sing?"
Me: "No, J.K. Meowling. Like J.K. Rowling."
Customer Service Person: "So it's Rowling?"
Me: "No. My cat's name is J.K. Meowling. She's named after J.K. Rowling."
Customer Service Person (Alien?): [silence]
Me: "You know... the author of Harry Potter. I named my cat after J.K. Rowling."
Customer Service Alien: "Oh. [uncertain silence] Okay. Can you spell that for me?"
Me: "Sure. It's J, like the letter J. Period. K, as in kite. Period. Space. Capital M. Lowercase E-O-W-L-I-N-G."
Customer Service Alien: "Okay, let me read that back to you just to make sure I got it right. That's J-period-K-period-capital M-O-W-L-I-N-G?"
Me: "No... It's the initials JK, so J, period, K, period. Then MEOW. Like the sound a cat makes. M-E-O-W. Then L-I-N-G. Meowling, one word."
She eventually got it right after a few more tries. But then when I got the tag two weeks later J.K. Meowling was spelled wrong again, so I had to send it back. Believe it or not, the second tag was also spelled wrong, so I had to send that one back, too. This would've been so much easier if she'd just read Harry Potter.
I know what you're thinking. Okay, so that's one person, just an isolated incident. Nope. It happened again when I tried to get her pet insurance. That customer service dude picked up on it once I explained who she's named after, but was definitely confused at first. I had always thought there was a pretty big overlap in the people who liked cats and liked to read. Maybe these were dog people?
Objectively, I know that it's impossible for every single person on the planet to know any one thing. Even with the internet, there are people in developed countries who either by choice or circumstance are unable or unwilling to get news of any current events. It just takes you aback when it's something as widespread as Harry Potter.
As a millennial, I grew up assuming EVERYONE was a fan. Like, so many kids were fans that the few who weren't probably just kept their mouths shut to avoid being social pariahs. Maybe even now I'm looking back on the series with the rose colored glasses of my youth, but even so, it's undeniable how big the series was and is. I'll never stop thinking how lucky I am that I got to grow up with the Boy Who Lived.
Some people weren't so lucky. I want to go around passing out Harry Potter books like some kind of book fairy. I don't think the problem here is access, though. I mean, there are an abundance of the books at libraries and thrift stores, so anyone can find one easily enough if they really want one. It's plain and simple--some people just don't want to read the series. Although that's just unfathomable to me, it's true for some people.
It's really easy to judge people when they don't like the same things you do, but finding out someone doesn't like (or hasn't tried) something you love gives you the perfect opportunity to share it with them. Looking back on it, I wish I'd been able to look past my shock at the Customer Service Alien and said something brief about how Harry Potter changed my life.
Maybe she was an adult when the series came out and felt weird about reading a kids book. Maybe she was raised in a ultra conservative household where any mention of witchcraft, even in fiction, got you a "you're going to hell" speech. Or maybe she's a staunch feminist who's damn tired of reading about male protagonists. Or maybe she was made fun of for being a book worm as a kid and has a negative association with reading now. It could be anything.
Although these instances are few and far between, I hope I respond better next time. And maybe, just maybe, the wizarding world will gain one more devotee.