Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Don't Judge a Book --Eve

Yesterday I went to a picnic and entered a pie-eating contest. It was your typical “Stand By Me” movie scene, complete with the hands behind our backs, eating with our faces, winner blowing chunks across the table kind of stuff. I had berries up my nose, in my eyeballs and probably aspirated a few into my lungs. Needless to say, it was awesome! But the funny part was that afterward people kept coming up to me saying, “I can't believe you did that!” “I'm shocked.” “But you're so girly!” Then I realized that I was, in fact, the only girl participating among big, burly dudes.

Recently I attended a writer's conference where an acquaintance said to me, “I bet you write chick-lit. You MUST write chick-lit. I mean, look at you!” Now, I have nothing against chick-lit. It has its place and is wildly entertaining. It's just that I don't write it…I couldn't if I tried.

At a BBQ last week, a friend's wife couldn't stop talking about how surprised she was at the content of my middle grade book. She felt it “impossible” that I could write about violence among inner city kids and gang culture. She refused to believe that “someone like me” could write that stuff.

When I realized that these seemingly insignificant incidents actually bothered me, I had to psychoanalyze why. For some reason, people have always looked at me and thought “dumb”, “superficial”, “soft” and “girly”. Okay, so I'm a little girly. I love strappy sandals and lacy stuff and the color pink. (Okay, a lot girly.) Believe it or not, as a teen I always hated when people judged others by their looks or where they come from. And, though they seem to conform to dress code and behavior “rules” of their cliques, I think teens sincerely want to be valued as individuals. So, maybe I haven't grown up much since age fourteen. But I've also found a way to use these feelings left over from my teen years when writing, which is probably why my stories generally incorporate themes of prejudice.

I'm always sucked into books where the main characters shun stereotypes and reveal unexpected depth that we never saw coming. And I think kids appreciate that too. I mean, if the girl in the pink lacy dress and strappy sandals just sat there reading her chick-lit book and refused to enter the pie-eating contest…that'd be a really boring story, right??



Kelly Fineman said...

I hope you weren't the one who blew chunks at the contest.

And AMEN! as to the content of/idea behind your post. The girly girl reading chick lit would indeed be a boring story. The male truckdriver reading chick lit? Interesting.

Linda D. said...

Blueberries up your nose? Sounds fun.

People are always surprised when I have opinions or say something clever because they assume that since I dont' say much, there must not be anything going on between the ears. I checked this morning. Yup. Lots going on. I'm just quiet about it.

Rilla said...

Hey Eve,
That's a great point you've raised. I'm so tired of the term girly being an insult. When I was in art school we were told that if our art even hinted of the 'feminine', it wouldn't be taken seriously as art. Well it's about time we were taken seriously. I may not be very girly, but I'm sure proud as hell to be a girl, and I'm proud as hell of you for taking up the challenge and working to make girly equate with intelligent, witty, deep, insightful and just plain brilliant. I love the way you dress, you go girly girl.

Disco Mermaids said...

Sadly, I did not win the contest. But I didn't blow chunks either. HA! Take that, Burly-Man!

Though my examples are harmless and silly, and in no way compare to the hideous real prejudices out there, I just thought it was an interesting topic.

My sister is a great example of this...she's blond, petite, gorgeous and girly. And people are always surprised to see that she's an amazing athlete, and the toughest Public Defender on the planet (for death penalty dudes, no less!)

One reason I quit medicine was that to be taken seriously as a small blond female (or any female for that matter) one had to become a tough bi#@h. Once I became that mean, heartless person to compensate for the girliness, I grew incredibly unhappy.

Of course, when we are tough, blunt and intelligent we're seen as bitchy. But when men are tough, blunt and intelligent, they're respected and promoted. Don't get me started!!

Saw a bumper sticker yesterday that said, "Don't be a Girly-Man...vote Republican." Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Proud to be girly AND a flaming Democrat!


cynjay said...

Books and covers are a big theme around here. My youngest son is blonde, green-eyed and gets burned if you just whisper the word "sun". My husband (and his father) is Nigerian. We get lots of weird looks.

This actually came up when I decided to use my married name in my writing. When you picture Cynthia Omololu, a 6 foot tall white girl from California doesn't immediately spring to mind. But then, nobody is surprised that I DON'T write chick-lit - why do I feel there is something wrong with that?

Colorado Writer said...

Did you eat a whole pie or more than 1? Wow--that is so cool.

Now I don't feel so guilty about the fruit tart in the fridge. No one in the house will eat it. It's all up to me. Of course, I will use a fork and I don't plan on getting any blueberries up the nose.

Disco Mermaids said...

Oh, CW...you go eat that fruit tart right now! It was one whole pie. Unfortunately, it was a speed contest, not volume. Cuz if it was about how many pies one could eat, I guarantee I'd win. Volume is my thing.

CynJay, I cannot wait to meet you tomorrow. It's the highlight of my week. Good to know I should look out for the 6 ft tall blond white girl. Then again, that describes Robin too, so I may get you mixed up.

Thanks for the comments, folks!

(If Jay were in town, he'd tell you that people are shocked at how well he writes in the depressed teen girl voice...seeing as how he is a very manly, buff, happy, well-adjusted dude. Just sayin'.)

LindaBudz said...

I do this all the time ... judge people by the way they look or talk.

I've had to learn the lesson over and over and over that looks have nothing to do with anything. I don't know why I can't internalize that fact the way I want to! But I do use it in my work ... my MC misjudging people tends to be a major theme.

(Note, I'm not a shallow person ... I tend to LIKE people no matter what they look or talk like, it's just that I tend to make certain false assumptions.)

Colorado Writer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colorado Writer said...

Let's try again.

I write from the dorky tweenage boy point of view. Good thing I look like a girl because without my wonderbra people might wonder.

PS. I can't wait to hear all about BEA from Jay!!!

heidi said...

Great post, Eve. Good for you for entering the pie eating contest and for writing what you want to write about. Remember the recent Jane Austin hotness debate? "She couldn't have been pretty or she never would have been able to write like that!"

Yeah, right.

Disco Mermaids said...

Ahhh, yes. Jay's out of town, so it's time to have some good ol' fashioned girl talk!!

This is a great topic, Eve. (And the first time I drank beers with you...I knew...you're no girly-girl!)

Seriously, I strangely find that I'm now more "girly" than I ever was. I used to be one of those feminists who rejected all my femininity (which has way too many syllables) by not wearing make-up or skirts or pantyhose. I felt I was less of a woman if I HAD to wear that stuff to impress someone else.

So now, at the age of (ahem) I'm being a feminist by being...you know... a girl! So I wash and pluck and exfoliate and apply and put on lots of lipliner, because it's fun! I personally feel that lipgloss and deep thinkers go together just fine! (Luckily Jay isn't here because he'd have his head in the palm of his hand for sure.)

So I say keep on being my pink lovin' girl, Eve! You're my hero(ette)!


Disco Mermaids said...

I may be in New York, but I can still check in on you two.

I think I'll scrap talking about the City when I get back, and instead do some good ol' guy talking on this blog.

- Jay

Colorado Writer said...

Ya Jay, teach us how to change a tire. Or how to spit.