Jane, over at dear author, put up an amazing post about feeling like The Other (in your environment and in your mind).
It really resonated with me on a variety of levels. Her thoughts about reading books with Asian heroines and how much it means to her as an Asian woman in the midwest was fascinating. What I thought while reading was that we all consider ourselves other from the rest of the world. And I'm willing to bet that those who see books as more than just a throwaway pleasure feel it more than anyone else.
In reading we stop being ourselves and we become that bright and plucky heroine or the kick-ass Alpha that we're not in our own heads. In reading we stop being fat, old, ugly, awkward (pick your own negative thought and inset it here) and we become the woman who can charm the hero, catch the crook and make a perfect pie crust.
In books we find others who don't see themselves as worth much and we sigh and feel a kinship. We aren't other when we read because we belong to the story, to the fiction, to the imagination.
Personal story: yesterday I was with my daughter and her friend, Mr. Z (both 9 years old). Mr. Z came to me upset and said that he didn't like it when my daughter Mollie talks about what's happening in her life because she has so much fun and excitement and he has none. He feels so lacking, he complained.
Mollie wasn't telling Z about a trip to the Andes or turning into a vampire. She was saying we had concert tickets and a movie date with a friend and we're moving to a new house. But Z felt lacking in comparison.
I told Z that Mollie feels lacking to him. He has two parents and a sibling, a cat and a dog, a normal family unit. (As normal as the 1950s, that is.) Next to him, Mollie feels lacking and other.
One person's life is never as good as what we perceive someone else's is.
Anyway, wordiness aside...
Sometimes I see someone, usually a female someone, who is attractive and trim and looks happy and dresses well and envy sets in. She has more than I do, I think. She fits in the world better. She's not other. And when I'm astute I realize that she's like a novel: if she told her story I'd lose myself in her and neither of us would feel separate or other any longer.