February 21, 2012

Girls who like boys

Can I tell you something? Though I had best friends growing up and hung out with groups of girls up to my sophomore year in high school, I've always preferred hanging out with guys.
My first best friend was a bit of a tomboy too and we spent more days playing softball and war than playing Barbies. The first inkling I had that there might have been something wrong with this, I was six years old. We had moved a few months before and I was playing with a gang of kids when the boys wanted to go off and play football, while the girls were headed back somewhere to play house. I headed off with the boys. I do remember the ringleader of the girls saying something, but clearly it wasn't enough to penetrate. I'd rather run around outside and thought it was no big deal. After the game was over and we met back up, I was snubbed. All the girls were in on it now, saying mean things. I still couldn't figure out what the problem was, but went home to play by myself the rest of the afternoon.
Fast forward through more moves, more friends, awful middle school behavior (including my group of friends turning on me before throwing me over and another girl harassing me to the point of police involvement because someone said the boy she liked liked me) and all the awkwardness that comes with it to high school, where I finally started to gain some confidence and be myself. A handful of us girls usually had lunch with a handful of guys, playing silent football or Egyptian rat screw in the hall near our lockers. One day, the girls were all headed off somewhere before the lunch period was over. I elected to stay where I was. Again, I didn't think there was anything abnormal in this. I still didn't, until several days later, when the guys were missing during lunch and I was pounced on. Who did I like? Um, what? Which one of the guys did I have a crush on? Was is this one or that one? This other guy? None. Seriously, none. (Okay, I did end up briefly dating one of them later. But that didn't play into it here.) None of them believed me, of course. But there was no nice way to tell the truth: I simply preferred the company of the guys over theirs.
I have made some women friends over the years, but for the most part, my female friends are the wives and girlfriends of friends. I like them, I really do. And some of them I might even be friends with if they weren't dating/married to someone I've known for 15 years. But the only reason I don't slink off with the guys now is that I can't play an instrument. And the ladies will play Scrabble with me.

February 17, 2012

You give Jane a bad name

When I mention Jane Austen, what comes to mind? Maybe sweeping, period romances? Perhaps zombies, or cross stitch, or English class memories?
When I mention Jane Austen fans, what comes to mind? Unmarried ladies who baby talk to their cats? Young girls swooning or grandmas in cardigans?

I love Jane Austen, and even I've fallen prey to the generalization. She's used as shorthand, to mean a certain type of fiction, but it does a great disservice, because it tends to leave out all of her subversive, satiric humor.

While browsing the library last week for fluff, I picked up a book whose jacket proclaimed "For fans of Jane Austen and mysteries!" I love both of those things, so what the hell. I'll give it a shot. I did not bother to read the inside of the jacket, so made the assumption it was a mystery set in the Regency. Instead, it turned out to be yet another retelling of Pride and Prejudice, crossed with a plot practically stolen from Agatha Christie's A Murder Is Announced. That in and of itself was not the problem.
The heroine grated on my nerves. She quoted Austen lines, from the books or movies, at the drop of a hat. The author seemed to have spent more time figuring out how to work these in than craft realistic characters or a compelling story. The girl was supposed to be in her mid-twenties, yet she referenced childhood crushes on Corey Haim, Peter Gabriel and Jake Ryan. (The book was published in 2009.)
From the Harlequin romance school of writing, I was treated to detailed descriptions of practically everyone we met and their outfits, even store clerks who had absolutely no bearing on anything. Even for a founding member of The Society for the Preservation of the Adverb, there were far, far too many "colorful" descriptions.
Every time I'd turn the page, something would make my head want to explode. An example? Our heroine is of course (of course!) on a diet and grabs a package of Oreos, only to think better of it, so she "flung the package back untouched." Or another character "grabbed a large piece of bread and popped it in his mouth."
Naturally, I finished the book and because I am a glutton for punishment, read the sequel, which I had also picked up.
Moral of the story: browsing the library instead of just grabbing your books on hold is akin to grocery shopping while hungry.