Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The "Ugly Me" Essay

When we see great characters on screen or in books, it is often their vulnerabilities that connect us to them.  Margaret Mitchell drew an indelible portrait of Scarlett's selfishness, her childishness and cruelty, her infatuation with the wrong man. . . all of it crystallizing into one of the most unforgettable heroines in modern literature. We loved her, we hated her. I wanted to be her. Or maybe I just wanted Rhett.

Putting our vulnerabilities on paper - writing about the "ugly me" - can be revealing and provocative.  I remember when I was in second grade, the teacher asked us to draw a landscape of fields and pumpkins. The next day our artwork was hung from clothespins on a string in front of the coat closets. One drawing jumped out at me - and, I am sure, at  everyone else. It had lovely contours, shading . . it had perspective. Birds soaring in the distance looked real! By comparison, my pumpkins sagged like lopsided beach balls; my corn stalks rigid stick men on a bad hair day.

Without understanding why, a jealous rage welled within me. As everyone headed outside for recess, I stayed behind.  Surreptitiously looking around, I grabbed a piece of black chalk.  My hand reached up, my heart pounded. 

The teacher made much of the "culprit."

"Whoever did this, come forward now!"  We sat frozen in our seats looking at the picture with horrible black scribbles defacing its lovely vista.   "The child who did this can expect coal in their stocking at Christmas," Miss Stafford  fumed.

For years I thought about that day with shame, although I suppose I wasn't much different than Scarlett throwing an expensive vase into a wall after she learns Ashley has found another woman.  Growing up, learning that others are more attractive or talented - or that someone doesn't love us as much as we love them - is hard. Yet these are the lessons that connect us.

I would like to try something new at the July meeting of the Circle.  Write a 100-word essay about yourself.   If you are uncomfortable, then please bring whatever you desire.  I will work on my own "ugly me" essay for the next meeting of the Circle at 9 a.m. July 10. See you there.

Susan
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