Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Other

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.


  1. Otherness can be very diversified.

    I find the overabundance of redheaded heroines in Romance novels these days ironic. I grew up in a very small Canadian town and as best I can remember, I was the only redhead.

    There was nothing subtle about my hair; it was that shade of bright copper red that almost glows. To a number of my peers I stood out like a sore thumb, and they let me know it. Harassment, both verbal and physical, became a way of life.

    I often wonder if some of my adult personality quirks stem from that time. I was Other through most of grade school.

    The thing is, I think everyone has their own personal Otherness. Doesn't have to be race or color or even hair. That's why communication is important.

    And that's why these blogs are a true blessing.

  2. What a great article. I think you just summed up high school for most people. If only I'd known 20 years ago that the people I thought were 'the cool ones' felt as awkward as I did. I just assumed I was the only one. It feels good to know better now, but it's also easy to forget.