DISCLAIMER THAT MAYBE THIS POST MIGHT CONTAIN SOME CONTROVERSIAL VIEWPOINTS AND NOT EVERYBODY IS GOING TO ENJOY THE LOVE SONG
Or maybe everyone will love it, who knows? That disclaimer is there to let folks know that I realize not everyone will agree with my position on things, but I don’t wish to engage in debate. Debate stresses me out, but I’m promoting and answering reader questions about my books with love songs here this month, and this particular book got lots of attention I didn’t expect it to get. So…I’m answering the reader questions.
First, I want to say that I’ve been genuinely surprised that anyone ever wants to read anything I write, particularly the fiction. I’m still earnestly stunned every time I make a book sale or get a review or hear from a reader. For real? I’m like this…
You could all ask J. I’m like this with EVERY book. But a couple of them, I’ve been especially taken aback, and Storm Chasing was one of those books. I’ve had multiple people ask me for a sequel to this one, which just…blows me away, because I felt weird releasing it at first. I thought it might be preachy. I thought it might be too cute. But I guess not. That will teach me to assume how readers will view my work. Anyway, one of many reader inquiries I got about this one is where my inspiration for Bridget came from. The short, immediate answer is that I have a dear friend who has been a bright spot in my life for 35 years. Yes, really. Since first grade. And she is now, and has been for her entire working adult life, a kindergarten teacher. I confessed to her a few years back, WAY before I even dreamed of publishing anything, that I wrote romance stories, and she said (very likely in jest) that I should write a romance about a kindergarten teacher, because she’d never read one. So…you know…I did.
But Bridget is more complex than that, which is a point I hope I made in the story. I think all of us have this view of how a kindergarten teacher looks and behaves, and many of those things are true of Bridget, but they aren’t her entire being. Bridget is an intersectional feminist. Just like me. Just like many of the friends I have in my life. She believes people of all genders should be afforded equal value and opportunity. She believes diversity is a strength and individuality is too. She believes people shouldn’t be pigeon-holed by what can be observed of them from the outside, particularly their gender. She believes that every person is whole and complete on their own. She believes a person’s value (a person of any gender) is not defined by archaic and arbitrary patriarchal standards. She TRULY believes all of these things. Which makes her feel weak, and helpless, and selfish, and ‘wrong,’ and guilty for wanting romance in her life. For wanting a husband and family. She almost feels like she’s betraying feminism and modernity and progress for having the desire for these ‘traditional’ things. She feels ashamed of valuing outward beauty and reluctant to accept appreciation for her own outward beauty…like it’s wrong to appreciate it, to want that appreciation, to feel good about that appreciation. Bridget (rightly, I think) ends relationships with men when she sees they only want her outward ‘old-fashioned’ beauty and her stereotypically ‘feminine,’ kindergarten teacher-y qualities, and she’s been conditioned to mistrust appreciation for those things about her, and in a way, actually devalue them in herself. To me, that’s its own form of internalized misogyny…to discount and feel shame about the traditionally ‘feminine’ parts of herself. To feel embarrassed by the desire for love and romance and family like those are things modern women shouldn’t want because they serve patriarchy…they’re ‘anti-feminist.’ To feel guilty and ashamed of her tastes and the things she likes, because of the potential role socialization played in forming her affinity for them. To feel like she has to search for the sinister, oppressive ulterior motive behind a compliment to her attractiveness or to her traditionally feminine traits, because there MUST be one. Right?
I think modern feminism actually does a disservice to women who have natural inclinations toward traditional femininity. Who are drawn to aesthetic beauty and service and nurturing and traditionally ‘feminine’ career choices. As though wearing a vintage pinup bathing suit or the color pink or painting her nails or being a kindergarten teacher and wanting to get married to a man preclude a woman from believing all women should be able to live how it makes them happy, even if what makes them happy includes NONE of those things. In my opinion (and Bridget’s quiet one), a woman should be allowed to choose the traditionally feminine with as much pride as they choose driving trucks and wearing boots and pantsuits and becoming high powered corporate attorneys or brain surgeons or professional athletes. Maybe a woman likes wearing a dress every day and putting on her winged eye-liner. That should be okay too; the same kind of okay that a woman who hates wearing dresses and make-up should be. Women of course shouldn’t be forced into a narrowly defined box of ‘femininity,’ but isn’t it also an insult to women if we denigrate the traditionally feminine?
And what’s so wrong with wanting a partner to go through life with? Sure, we can do it on our own, it’s ideal to be ABLE to do it on our own, but…is it so bad to want a little pleasant, cooperative company?
This post got preachy for a love song book promo post, right? Sorry.
But here’s the song Bridget sings silently to herself often, and then feels bad about liking the song. I like the song too. And sometimes I feel bad about liking it too.
Like Bridget (and many other women), I 100% want all women (and men too, really…men want to be kindergarten teachers?…then they should get to be without having to feel ‘less than’ because of it) to be able to make their own choices about their lives to find happiness and fulfillment, whatever that means to them. Like Bridget (and most women), I’m fully capable of taking care of myself. I am actually usually taking care of other people. But sometimes? I admit that I do want somebody to take care of me…to look out for me…to prioritize me. And I try not to feel bad about that. Or about loving this classic Gershwin song, performed here by Amy Winehouse.
(The gif is Jessica Chastain from the film version of The Help.)