I took the title of this blog from a Paloma Faith song. It’s about a woman in a relationship who hides her true self out of fear of being rejected. When I first heard the song, the title so resonated in me that I found it applies to pretty much every aspect of life. When it comes to writing, I find this question determines whether a work is considered literary or fluff. The grittier and more depressing a story is, the more it is hailed as brilliant and important. But when I finish a relentlessly sad book, not only do I have to convince myself that life is worth living, I also never read the book again.
Now this isn’t because I have some Pollyanna world view. Despite being raised by my biological, emotionally available, married-before-I-was-conceived parents, I know firsthand that most people are looking out for themselves and don’t mind wrecking your life in the process. They will use whatever blunt instrument is handy to demean, degrade and undermine you out of existence. That is the truth and if you don’t get hip, you will be chewed up and spit out before anyone even knows you’re here. But I’ve also seen kindness, heroism, generosity and love shown without a demand for anything in return. Those people may be few and far between, but to act as if they don’t exist is to deny the truth.
The same goes with storytelling. When you read a book or watch a movie, your subconscious turns on what I call the Tripe-O-Meter. If the character’s emotional response mirrors real life, our Tripe-O-Meter stays at zero. But when the character accepts an intolerable situation without explanation or acknowledgment, the Meter gets to rumbling. If the good guy treats his friends like dirt and never gets called out, there goes the Meter. When we’re told by every character that the basic girl is ‘amazing and unusual’, we call Tripe. You may not detect the Meter going off—it might be the feeling that something didn’t sit right. You wonder what bothered you Continue reading
People have come up with brilliant ways to belittle others. It seems the more we try to protect ourselves, the more insidious our attackers become. There are two in particular that have traveled with me in life—The Miss and the Mock Bow. They used to keep me up at night, questioning and condemning my behavior. What are these subtle yet effective attacks? And are they really attacks or am I being too sensitive? I didn’t see much on the subject in my tireless Google search, so I’m going to break them down here and now.
Sometimes a co-worker will ask me to do something they have no business asking me to do. I don’t mean empty a trash can or cover the front desk for five minutes. Those are team player tasks and I have no problem with those. I’m talking about the document I shouldn’t sign because it’s waaay out of my pay grade. Or the person who’s ready to reprimand me when I have to tell them they were given incorrect facts. A day or two goes by, and next time I see them they give me The Miss—I’m referred to as ‘Miss Joye’ in a sarcastically efficient tone of voice.
Didn’t you read the ‘no self-respect’ policy?
It’s something I notice women do, while men favor the Mock Bow. I’m walking down the hallway when a male co-worker whose request I tactfully and logically turned down gives me a bow, accompanied by an ‘oh no after you’ gesture. These may seem like harmless teasing, but they’re not and here’s why: Continue reading
All right, ladies, shall we heave the sigh on three? One…two…
Why do those words irk us so? We’re walking down the street or sitting at our desk when someone sweetly demands that we smile. There are lots of articles on the subject, with people settling into two camps: pro-smile and anti-smile.
But are women really anti-smile? I’ve been told on several occasions to smile more, that I look ‘too serious’. But if no one is with me, should I just smile into the air? Doesn’t that make me look unbalanced? Since women are often judged on their rationale AND their emotional state, the order to put on a happy face can create a dilemma. The Mood Police is out on patrol, employing stop-and-frisk when we least expect it. Given their reputation for hostile engagement, I have little choice when they demand I cheer up. Smile or be called a string of curse words tailored to women! Smile or be judged unlovable and infertile! With such weapons pointed at my vital organs, I give in and smile.
When men see this, they often say ‘That’s better’ as if the Medusa of my unsmiling face had to be neutralized. But to demand a change in my mood implies mistrust of my judgment. It insinuates that whatever I’m thinking about is unworthy of consideration.
Believe it or not, all of this runs through a woman’s mind when you demand she smile. My particular beef is with men, because they claim to want to be my hero. But do they really? Let’s say my arm is broken. The heroic thing would be to make me as comfortable as possible while driving me to the hospital. Instead, I’m told to put on a jacket because the sight of my mangled arm makes THEM uncomfortable. There’s no desire to help me—only to put the unpleasantness out of sight. I would love for a man to be my hero, but why do they demand results when they’ve put in no effort? Who walks up to an apple tree and demands a pie?
On the other hand, I admit to a degree of success by smiling. More people do approach me. They tell me what a great smile I have, and I thank them for the compliment. But encounters that lead to friendships or good conversation rarely come from me pasting on a smile. No man who demanded I smile has ever gotten my phone number, let alone my respect. Thankfully I know people with enough self-confidence to not project animosity onto the corners of my mouth. In turn, I’ve learned to do the same when approaching others. I am not so thin-skinned that a person not smiling is somehow a diss to me. Nor does it mean they are in a bad mood. And even if they are, they have every right to be. When you respect a person’s right to be in whatever mood they’re in, they will appreciate it. And when someone appreciates you, they can’t help but smile.
Here… is this better?
When I was in ninth grade, we played baseball for P.E. They put the boys and girls together, flabby-armed beginners with junior varsity. I wasn’t especially good, but I could hit a double.
On my team was a boy named John. He also played on the school team. When he threw the ball, you heard it go by. He was tall and lean, with the most incredible dark brown hair thanks to at least one Latino parent. No question he was a cool kid. I was thirteen, skinny and awkward long before they were virtues. John and I didn’t breathe the same air. It was nothing hostile—just two people on separate planes of reality. John shaved, while I could pass for eleven. He had 20/20 vision, while my glasses were so thick I could have killed insects with them. Continue reading
Let’s just get to it.
I don’t want your husband. I’ve met a number of wives, and we get along great until I meet your husband. Maybe he shook my hand too long, paid me too many compliments, or declared he would’ve have gone for me if he met me first. Let me assure you he wouldn’t, because he DID meet me first.
Okay, it wasn’t me Joye. But he knew a focused, independent-minded woman who didn’t flirt but still had something about her. He liked her looks and her humor. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, said he should go for it. Continue reading
To: The General Public
From: Human Resources Dept of Joye Johnson, Inc.
Subject: How to make Joye mad
We apologize for the confusion that seems to surround the matter of how to incite the fury of our company’s founder and chairman. After lengthy discussions with our CEO, we have decided that Continue reading
Up until 2 years ago, I was repulsed by the idea of dating a younger man. The one-two punch of social convention and emotional need ruled out anyone more than a year or two below me. My dream guy was older, smarter, and wealthier than me. I was not picky about looks or height (despite being 5’9″). I am the proud owner of a celebrity crush on Paul Giamatti. Give me brains over brawn any day. I certainly had nothing to prove, no biological clock demanding I reproduce. Continue reading
Bibliocrunch.com asked me to blog about selling books at the farmers’ market. Here is the link to the post. So thankful to Bibliocrunch for helping diverse writers to thrive!