I’ve been reading (and listening) to discussions lately regarding heroines in novels. Apparently many women like to read books about heroines who are unlike themselves….or are perhaps like themselves, women who take charge, seize control, kick butt and generally feel fabulous….and if not fabulous, they certainly don’t feel bad, and they never whine. At least not inwardly. Instead they take action. They talk with friends. They exact revenge. They look splendid in spaghetti-strap t-shirts. They know expensive shoes. And did I mention, they never suffer from self-esteem issues?
My God. If only I’d been a woman like that. I’d be well….cool. Yes, cool. I’d be wildly popular, have a closet jam packed with Jimmy Choos and Mahnlo (what’s his name?), could forgo my Victoria Secret padded push up bra and frolic in the surf with confidence not worrying about the jiggles and dimples in my 40 year old backside. It’d be such a different life than the one I’ve lived. It’d certainly be more frothy and fun, and my heroines would be female 007’s, the Bombshell kick ass women that don’t fall for the wrong guy, or the sob story, or worry about doing the right thing because they don’t worry–they just act. They’re action heroines. Bam, bam, bam. Don’t need to think too much, certainly won’t feel too much, and life will be a dazzling series of fast-paced, action-laden adventures.
But that’s not my life and those aren’t my heroines. I grew up in a place where going away to college was a big deal. The population in Visalia back then was 35,000 and the nearest ‘big’ city was Fresno and I grew up shopping at Penny’s and a local kids clothing store called Merry-Go-Round. It was at Merry-Go-Round that I got my first bra (I still blush when I remember getting measured around my barely nippled chest) and the grown up girl outfits I couldn’t wait to wear to church. My clothes weren’t expensive, and we didn’t get new clothes often–usually back-to-school outfits, Christmas presents and birthday. But waiting for new outfits made those skirts and blouses special and if that’s dopey, well, I love being dopey. I love that I wasn’t spoiled and jaded, and that my brothers and sister were my favorite people growing up. As a kid, all I wanted was to grow up and be happy and dance with the Bolshoi Ballet (okay, that one wasn’t so normal) and write books like Louisa May Alcott.
You know, there are lots of kinds of women, and lots of kinds of heroines. Not all heroines have to be kick-ass women. A woman isn’t weak just because she doesn’t jump out of a speeding train, or spit in her mean boss’s coffee cup. A woman doesn’t have to know everything immediately, or get all the right answers by age 30. A woman can figure out life any time and any way she needs to. A woman can think, and feel, as much or as little as she wants to. And a woman has a right to whine or battle with self-esteem or have fantastic self-esteem.
The answer isn’t being a super secret agent spy or never struggling to understand the meaning of life, the answer is doing your best. And if your best means you fall down a lot and cry but you still get up again and brush off those skinned knees, then you’re my kind of girl, and my kind of heroine.
Some women get it together sooner than others, and some women just want to read about women who are more perfect than they are. I don’t want to read about women who are better than me if they’re fake. I don’t want false standards, or impossible ideals. Women already have too much nonsense thrown at them from the media, corporate America, and other women. Yes, other women. Women are far harder on women they they are on men. There’s nothing more wonderful than a true friend. And there’s nothing worse than an unhappy woman who wants to punish other women.
So women, this is what I think. I think all of us girls should be real. We should like ourselves but I know it�s not always easy when bad things happen or we’re not sure how to get from point A to point B. I understand that some of us just need more time, and some of us need a lot more patience. But everyone needs love and that�s what I’m going to do. It’s what I’m going to write. Even if it’s sappy. Because in my world, and in my book, love is more important than anything…including a closet full of stylish clothes and amazing Jimmy Choos
So for the average-Janes out there like me, keep on keeping on. You might not know it, but you’re in the middle of a fantastic story. It’s an awesome plot, with wonderful characterization, and a happy ending. As one of my favorite people in Hawaii likes to tell me, ‘Girl, just enjoy the ride.’ And you know, he’s right. Why shouldn’t we?