Monday, April 4, 2011


For the last week, I've been reading Steve Almond's Not That You Asked, a collection of his personal stories some written about writing, some not. Steve is an instructor at Grub and I might be a bit of a groupie.

So, the other night I was tucked in, comfy, wearing my PJ's - the ones with the elephants playing golf while drinking martinis (The elephants were drinking, not me. They make me smile, though I also suspect they might be Republicans, so maybe the joke is on me.) - cruising through Steve's book when something I read almost knocked me off the bed.

It was a chapter about how all great writers are ugly. Not just ugly in the physical sense, though he meant that too, but ugly emotionally. Freaks.

When I was in the fifth grade, my lunch table was in close proximity to a group of girls called the barrettes. They didn't call themselves that of course, but they all wore barrettes with ribbon woven in alternating colors, a different color pairing for each outfit. My barrettes were the metal undersides of theirs, unadorned. The "before" version of the ones they wore.

One day one of the barrettes called out to me. I stood up, surprised that she was talking to me, and approached the table. She handed me something in a small packet. My heart raced.

"Beauty cream," she said, "you need it." The girls all laughed. I walked back to my table and slipped the packet into my pocket.

So there it was. Not pretty. Ugly.In many ways, I have always been that girl.

So what struck me about Steve's story was that this part of me - the tendency to over emotionalize, over internalize, over analyze everything - in other words, the ugly freak thing, is actually okay. It is, as far as writing goes, an asset. Something to be cultivated.

Finally, the fact that I look at myself in the mirror and always see the "before", the me without the ribbons, is a good thing, and also not something I have to worry about growing out of. Which is such a relief, because I am almost forty and starting to feel pretty sure it isn't going to happen.


Robert Oakes said...

this posting helps me feel a bit better after a tough day at school. thanks.

Anonymous said...

Ok. This brings back memories. ::breathe:: ::breathe:: I just have to remember I'm bigger than them now.