During a recent visit to my dermatologist for skin cancer biopsies, the doctor fretted over my appearing at a Thanksgiving gathering with bandages on my face. She counted the days. "You might be able to wear make-up by then," she said with a grimace. I don't wear make-up and I assured her I was much more concerned with healing the skin cancer than I was with my appearance. Even so, she shoved fast-healing ointment at me and tinted sun screen "to hide all the blemishes." Dermatologists seem to focus on one thing: superficial beauty. And their target is women.
On the final DVD in the Harry Potter movie series, The Deathly Hallows, Part Two, J.K Rowling talked about her disappointment when the characters chosen to play Harry, Ron and Hermione were attractive. She didn't write them that way. Hermione was meant to be a buck-toothed, bushy-haired waif. The producers conceded to the bushy hair on Emma Watson in the first film but that disappeared by the second. I shook my head when soft-cheeked, pouty-lipped Jennifer Lawrence was announced as the actress playing Katniss Everdeen in the upcoming Hunger Games movie. In the book, author, Suzanne Collins presented Katniss as a hard-edged teen, focused on survival in a merciless society. How does Lawrence, who looks like a privileged California girl fit into Katniss's world? Are we so obsessed with pretty that we can't tolerate seeing the Katniss of Collins' imagination?
Last year a group of girls at a Texas high school started a campaign called "Redefining Beautiful." One day a week they come to school without make-up which is a brave thing to do if your peers have grown used to seeing you in lip gloss, mascara and blush. I know lovely, older women who have never shown their bare skin to the public. It seems criminal to me that we raise girls to believe their bodies, especially their unadorned faces, are offensive to the world. Boys aren't burdened with that message. Try as they might, marketers have yet to sell men on make-up and body-shaping undergarments. Men's legs are perfectly acceptable sans panty hose. Their nails remain colorless and their hair grows gray with no shame, while women spend enormous sums on self-improvement, eventually succumbing to plastic surgeons and dermatologists' procedures . . . beauty at any cost. I applaud the Texas teens and writers who create realistic female protaganists and I urge women everywhere to embrace the bodies they were born with, from cowlick to toenail.
I've met some wonderful friends in the writing community the last three years. This week I've had holiday greetings from Maureen in Connecticutt and Leslie in New York, each planning in their own way for the big feast. Leslie's meal comes prepared straight from the grocer to her Big Apple apartment. That leaves her and her guests ample time to view the Macy's balloons. Maureen's getting up early to cook a giant bird for children and grandchildren while the wild turkeys sigh outside her lovely, rural home.
I'm trying a new recipe . . . Cheddar Squash Bake, from old faithful, Better Homes and Gardens' Cookbook, though I should know better. I'm no cook and new recipes can result in disaster. But we're dining with my best friend and her family, where good food abounds. They're well aware of my lack of culinary talents and trust me, no one counts on my dish. Later, we may attempt a seriously demented Black Friday sale. Our ancient TV grows sicker by the day. The deeply discounted models department stores are offering are the only thing that would prompt us to drag our turkey-stuffed bodies through a horde of mad shoppers.
Meantime, I wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving with friends and family. I have much to be thankful for this year and I hope you do too.
1. Psychotic Jack Russell Terrier's (henceforth known as Demented Dog or DD) current fascination with toilet paper. We tried setting the roll on the back of the toilets but he's discovered he can reach the unrolled layer and tug it over the edge. Down two rolls this week.
2. Imminent visit with out-of-town guests prompting acute awareness of clutter in house.
3. Removing clutter stirred Guinness-worthy layers of dust, clogging sinuses and birthing furious headache.
4. Mother Nature calls like a siren with brilliant blue skies, perfect temps and the alluring sights and smells of autumn. Indoors cannot compete . . . and I don't have a laptop.
5. Half-finished office move. The new space is in what was formally deemed the art room. I've almost cleared an area for my computer desk. Now, I have to vacuum (see #3 above). And figure out how to keep DD out of my art supplies (see #1).
My friend, Leslie Zampetti is over three thousand words into NaNoWriMo, the internet event that challenges writers to pen a 50, 000 word novel in the month of November. Leslie urged me to join her. Thank goodness, I was knee deep in clutter and price stickers for a garage sale we planned last weekend. Otherwise, I might have been tempted to do NaNo and that, for me, would have ended in disaster.
This time of year is hectic enough. One holiday barrels into another. There are gatherings to attend, gifts to buy, goodies to bake, lights to string and out-of-town visitors seeking sunny cheer in Florida. I can't imagine adding a novel committment to that mix. Sure, no one need know that you committed and there's no public exposure of your failure if you don't reach the 50,000 word goal. But I'd know. When I accept a challenge, I give it my best and if I fail, shame finds me.
Shame is an enemy of productivity. I've been struggling with word count the last few weeks and I don't need any more roadblocks so I'm glad I didn't jump into NaNo. But I can't deny I'm a bit jealous of Leslie's great start . . . over three thousand words, twelve pages. Sigh. What I wouldn't give to have twelve fresh pages to admire. Hopefully, my novel's word count will rise before the turkey is eaten. For now, I'll admire Leslie's effort and cheer her on. You can read about Leslie's NaNoWriMo experience on her blog, Rear in Gear.
I write middle grade and young adult books with a magical twist. And creatures, always creatures. I'm represented by the fabulous Leslie Zampetti of Dunham Lit.
Lorin Oberweger - Freelance Editor