Tuesday, June 27, 2017

My Brown Eyes

I can't complain about my eyes because I came by them honestly. My mama gave them to me, passing down the single brown eye gene she got from her father to all three of her children in the equivalent of winning a coin toss three times in a row. And everyone knows you have to flaunt what your mama gave you.

It didn't take me long to realize that the heroes in books didn't tend to have brown eyes. Blue, green, grey--those are all cool. (I'm looking at you, Jonas.) (I'm looking at you, Harry.) They're the clues that our heroes and heroines with the mousy brown hair or messy black hair are secretly special and beautiful. (I'm looking at you, Meg Murray.)

The only time you see brown eyes being described as beautiful is when the main characters are black and brown people. Even then you'll get the black or Asian person who inexplicably has light-colored eyes in defiance of the odds. (I know it can happen in real life, but in literature it only happens to main characters.)

But chances are the narrator will call the brown person's eyes "black." Which when I think about it would be incredibly creepy in real life because you wouldn't be able to distinguish at all between pupil and cornea. The real reason to say "black eyes," is because black is still a slightly more romantic color than brown.

Don't get me started on "violet." I understand when it's used to refer to a particular shade of blue. But sometimes the author literally means the character is walking around with bright purple eyes. For no reason besides identifying them as the main character. (Looking at you, Alanna.) I don't care how good the rest of the writing is. That image is fucking ridiculous.

Madeleine L'Engle even wrote a book where all the good guys have blue eyes and all the characters who don't are either evil or shouldn't be allowed to breed with the blue-eyed people.

Really? Really?

Also, some of the good characters are Native Americans who are good because they are descended from Welsh people.

I just don't know how a normally chill person can write an entire book on this premise and not pause a moment to think, "Huh....Does that sound a tiny bit racist?"

Brown eyes are often associated with dogs or cows. Loyal, sweet, a bit dim-witted. Once someone told me my brown eyes were pretty because they looked "honest." I didn't say, "Wow, way to say my eyes aren't actually pretty." So I guess not so honest.

On top of having brown eyes, I'm also a ginger, which makes it very rare to find characters who look like me. Most people assume that red hair = blue or green eyes, pale skin, and Irish. (My great grandparents came from Germanic countries.) Because of the brown eyes I tan easily and burn rarely.

The stare of blue or green eyes is a mysterious gaze that pierces your soul with its ethereal power, as of a fairy-like being who somehow possesses infinite wisdom.

A brown-eyed stare probably makes someone look like a serial killer.

 I have to admit that blue and green eyes are just objectively better. On the whole people prefer cool colors to neutral ones. My favorite color is blue.

 As an adult I'm not as bothered by having brown eyes. After about 25 you stop thinking that you need to change things about yourself to look fabulous. I make my brown eyes fabulous. I use gold eyeliner, and it looks awesome. My skin, hair, and eyes all have the same undertones. I can't imagine my face with different color eyes.

And maybe it makes sense for me to have brown eyes. I'm not a fairy. I'm fierce and I don't tolerate idiots. I stare them down with my dark brown eyes.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A Writer's Greatest Fear

As writers our greatest fear is not that we can't write. It's that we don't have anything to write about because we're not deep.

Anyone can learn mechanics. You can get a couple of grammar/construction books from the library, or hell, use Google to learn how to figure out how to write a correct sentence. But since you're a writer you're also a reader so you'll be inhaling any good writing you can get your hands on anyway. You'll learn by osmosis.

Anyone can put the effort in.

But then there's that moment. When you enter a contest, or write for a class or a club, or anything really, when you've put so much effort into your story, and worked on it night after night, and rewritten it five times, and finally you sort of like it.

Then someone else gets up and says, "I didn't really know what to write about, so I just decided to write about something that had happened to me. I was 13 the first time I was raped. Within a year, I was living on the streets..."

And suddenly it doesn't matter what you wrote because you will never in your life write anything as important as what that other person wrote. Because you're boring as fuck.

You're boring because your parents never hit you. Because they're still together. Because they gave you an education. Because you're healthy. Because your partners never abused you.

Wherever you go, people smell the stench of old money. And they judge you.

Moreover, you're white, so that's that.

And here you start feeling haunted by the specter of the "P" word. Not pretentious, although that's another good one. "Privilege."

Mostly we talk about checking your privilege. But I've checked it. I guarantee you. I've taken it out, turned it over, and acknowledged, "Yep, I'm Mommy and Daddy's little princess who gets what she wants." I didn't ask for it. It just kind of showed up.

Being privileged means you're simultaneously enviable and boring. Maybe the second takes the sting out of the first for other people. I don't know. It's like being back in church when it's "share your testimony time" and everyone's on the edge of their seat waiting to hear from the gay hooker drug addict who found Jesus and is now a youth pastor. Because that's where the juicy stuff is.

But I don't know if that's the way anyone really approaches life, or writing for that matter. Your ordinary boring life might seem exciting for someone else. I'll mention in passing that I lived in Japan for three years and people who I consider much more interesting will say, "That's amazing! I haven't done anything as cool as that?" And I'm like, "Are you kidding? You're way more interesting than I am!"

The people who are really worth talking to and paying heed to don't see the world as a stage where everyone is competing for the spotlight and let the best dramz win. Authentic people will accept you the way you are and won't typecast you.

Also, it's an incredibly modern way to think of writing to say that all writing is a reflection of your actual life and you have to experience everything in life to be able to write about it. Why are people still making movies about how Shakespeare wasn't really Shakespeare? Like he had so be some tragic noble figure who had some great love story behind the scenes. When all the data we have points to Shakespeare being a pretty normal, middle-of-the-road dude.

So no matter who you are, if you want to write, just write. Whatever you're interested in, even if it seems weird.