Monday, September 1
After the party
Ours was a small class from a small school in a small community in the Midwest. Those of us who married town kids still groan because the town school fan sections used to sing "Farmer in the Dell" to us at ballgames. (They did sing a different tune when we won the games. We were probably less than forgiving in vengeance.)
What we are, in way too many books, is a stereotype.
We are the ones who use poor grammar, wear consistent and dirty blue collars, and vote a straight ticket without studying the issues. We don't further our educations, have our teeth cleaned at regular intervals, or dress well. The women are waitresses, housewives, or Success Stories who became well-paid, well-educated professionals in spite of their humble beginnings. The men drink too much, smoke cigarettes, and resent that life has kept them in the quagmire of...er...smallness.
Do I sound bitter? Probably. But as I watched the microcosm of our class last night, I wondered why so many stereotypes are rampant in books. In the 30 people at our house, there were teachers, a museum curator, several professionals, several farmers, a musician. There were some housewives, too, and factory workers and a man who retired from the railroad and is a personal trainer. There was a quilt artist extraordinaire, a pastor, and a romance writer--oh, that's me. I have no idea how much our incomes vary, but we live all over the country and although many of us are now retired, we're all self-sufficient. A few love living in large cities, some of us remain comfortable where we grew up, still others follow their wanderlust in every direction. We've all had happiness, pain, and illness. Some have borne losses that tear down the walls of stereotypes because no one can stand them. No one.
These people, in all their glorious differences, are the ones who populate our stories. Why must we draw lines around where and how we grew up and say This is what Hoosiers are like or this is what everyone from Oklahoma is like or this is how all rich kids (poor kids, city kids, country kids) think?
I'm who I am, and I'm nothing like some of my classmates and a lot like others. Shouldn't this be the way we write people?