“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’ve been working frantically over the past couple of weeks to check and double-check my manuscript before my deadline, which is this Saturday.
OK, don’t panic – breath. That is self talk for me, not the readers.
I have gone over every call that my beta readers have made, addressed each item of concern, made a few changes, deleted redundancies, added a few lines – basically polishing it the best I can. In that process, more than one of my readers has asked me the same question, so I am going to address that here.
Is Julia you? I see a lot of similarities in her personality and yours.
NO! She is not me and I am not her. As to similarities, I have been wracking my brain to figure out what similarities that these readers see. We both have dark brown hair, brown eyes, but so do many men and women. When you think of a fashion model, what is the first image that comes to mind? Short, stocky, dark-haired beauty or tall thin blonde?
Yea, me too. So, in essence Julia is the antithesis of a fashion model. Before Tyra there was Christie. The symbol of beauty in the 80’s, every man wanted Christie, every woman wanted to look like Christie.
I can only speak from my experience, but I know thousands of women can relate so here goes. From a very young age, I was expected to act a certain way, be a certain way, look a certain way. My mother was very strict. Even though I was a tomboy at home, barefoot more often than not, outside until after the cows came home ( we lived in the country), unhindered by the dirt smeared across my face, arms or legs, when it was time to go anywhere I had to clean up.
I remember so many times being assaulted roughly with a washcloth, as she frantically worked to clean me up to a presentable child that could be seen in public. Maybe that’s part of my obsession with being presentable before leaving the house now Freud would be happy with the mental connection! You might laugh at my choice of wordage there – being assaulted – but to a ten-year old child that was more interested in playing ball or bike riding with the neighborhood kids, when I was called home to change clothes and clean up, it was akin to me asking my own kids to do their chores or bloodletting which are apparently the same in their eyes. (I had chores, they were done first thing in the morning before I was allowed to go play. I would need much more coffee and time to share about mental scars from gathering eggs. You know back in my day . . .)
This seems so insignificant, yet it made a mark. It contributed to the greater idea that I was expected to be something I was not. I was not the shy little girl who would sit quietly on the church pew. I was not the pretty girl in the party dress. I was not the cool kid with the stylish new designer clothes. I was not the popular girl in high school. (Really, I knew practically everyone in my high school because it was a small school in a small town but knowing everyone isn’t what constituted popular.) I was not the cheerleader, the pompom girl, or the beauty queen. There were so many things I was not. It always seemed to be about what I wasn’t, that we were expected to fit into the societal molds put on us and assimilate to the plastic army.
We were suppose to look like Christie Brinkley. We were supposed to be nurses, secretaries, or school teachers. We were supposed to . . . .. ugh. The list goes on and on and on until one day you either give in to depression and booze and think that you don’t measure up or you wise up and realize that you aren’t part of the plasticine dream mold, and decide to live as who you really are. Are you following me?
I’m still working on accepting my own value. I am very well acquainted with the things I am not. What I am working on is finding value in who I AM.
In that regard, my life experience lends itself to my character Julia. She learns to value herself for who she is and overcomes her feelings of inferiority. I’d like to say that I was inspired my overcoming my own sense of inferiority but I haven’t. Perhaps I’m writing it prophetically. Yeah, instead of Chuck the prophet I am Ellie the Prophetess. Doesn’t quite have that ring, does it? Maybe Sam and Dean will show up to correct me. Shhh, don’t break the fantasy.
My inspiration for Julia is the average woman: Every woman who has ever felt inferior. Every woman who has felt less beautiful than the fashion industry standards. Every woman who has sold themselves short for the attention of a man who disrespected them. Every woman who struggles with their sense of self-worth. Which I believe includes every single woman on the fac e of the earth over the age of twelve. Did you know that even Christie Brinkley sees faults in herself? I don’t know what they are, but I know human nature. Trust me – she sees them.
I am still learning how to be me. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true. There has always been these expectations put on us by our parents, society, our peers and by ourselves. As life plays out, we discover who we truly are and who we aren’t. I was never cut out to be a nurse, I accepted that early on. Trust me it’s best for all of us. I was never cut out to be an Olympic gymnast, my rendition would look more like a Carol Burnett rerun.
One thing I have always been gifted with is a vivid imagination. It got me into trouble – often. That same imagination fuels my mind with story ideas. Well, with the addition of coffee. Coffee is my catalyst. I think maybe today I’ll have a little Irish coffee.
Do you struggle with aspects of your self-image? Do dudes struggle with self-image or inferiority? How dull would it be if everyone conformed to the Stepford plan? Variety is the spice of life and some of us are a little spicier than others.
Till next time – Ellie