I need a keeper.
My family and friends have known this for as long as they’ve known me because I’ve never quite made it as a functioning adult. Case in point:
I’ve been part of the “Supper Table Project,” a multidisciplinary arts project celebrating 12 diverse women from South Carolina history whose lives were dedicated to the betterment of humankind. The project includes women artists (literary, visual, theatre, and film arts) who have created an essay, painting, film, sculpture, etc, that represents one of the twelve foremothers featured by the project. I wrote an essay to celebrate Sarah Leverette, a tiny dynamo who was one of the first women to complete law school in SC and devoted her life to civil rights initiatives. My essay is a work of heroine worship.
On Sunday, I was invited to join this amazing group of Supper Table artists for a nice brunch; fifty dynamic, artistic women all assembled in one room. And I got to be among them! Of course, I wanted to look my best. I wanted to exert the sense of “I’m a classy cool woman in that special artiste way.” I put on a pair of black capris and a brand-new linen top with a shark bite hem.(Definitely a cool outfit.)
|Note stylish shark bite hem!!|
I tried on four pairs of earrings—because they had to be the RIGHT earrings— selecting the artsy male/female wire ones.
Here’s the part where I need a keeper. I walked into the lovely “Stormwater Studio” where the brunch was being held. The hostess gave me a name tag and put an Arnold Palmer in my hand that was quite tasty (did you know that some Arnold Palmers have alcohol in them? I didn’t.)
I began mingling with the beautifully dressed, inspiring artists, pretending like this was somewhere I belonged, when a complete stranger walked up to me and whispered, “Hey, Carla? How about I remove those clothing tags hanging from the back of your shirt?”
“Uh… damn. Yes, please.” She did it in a very discreet way, while I muttered that this is not at all unusual for me. I offered profound thanks to her.
I’m blessed that this woman made the effort to correct my faux pas before I embarrassed myself even longer. Just like I was blessed by the writer friend who, when I arrived at a writing festival, pulled me aside to say, “I think your wrap is on inside out” (It was.). And the woman who stopped me before I left a restroom to say, “I don’t think you meant to tuck your skirt into the back of your pantyhose” (I didn’t).
See why I need a keeper?
The truth is this: I have lots of them. My husband catches problems all the time: “You have a bit of ketchup on your chin.” Friends and colleagues save me from myself more often than I can count. And, as proven in this blog, complete strangers step up when I need them to. The universe takes care of its fools.
I have one more reflection to share about needing a keeper. When I was younger, it would have gone very differently when I was told that I had tags hanging out of my top. I wouldn’t necessarily flee the building, but I would have been horrified. My fluster would have lasted for much longer than it did on Sunday. As I’ve aged, I’ve learned to accept my flaws. I’m good at laughing at myself, and I get to laugh A LOT. While I can pretend to be the classy, artsy woman who tried to arrive at the brunch, I’m actually doing well if my shoes match each other (they don’t always match).
This self-awareness has been very useful in character creation. Flawless characters aren’t real. Flawed characters who make stupid mistakes are. Readers connect with them, feel their embarrassment or shame, and hope they succeed despite the ways they sabotage themselves.
Readers would gladly cut the clothing tags off their favorite character as she stumbles into a party.
How about you? What part of yourself makes its way into your writing?
PS you can read more about the Supper Table Project here: http://jasperproject.org/supper-table