Wow, I have to say I am just blown away by the comments you all have left in response to my oral diplomacy post. Thank you so much! There is so much wisdom there, so much to think about, so much inspiration for... well, okay, here's an interesting twist. I just realized this morning that this confession of mine and the conversation it sparked has been very valuable in firming up the direction for my next novel. The one I haven't really done much work on for seven months. Part of the story will involve the protagonist taking a hard, honest look at her "promiscuous" past. Just as I'm doing. I hadn't meant for it to be "research" and yet all the feelings of hesitation, shame, anger, self-forgiveness, even tenderness are definitely going to be part of my protagonist's self-exploration. And it really makes me feel braver about going ahead with it with your support and interest.
Erobintica attended a workshop with Stephen Elliott and among other memorable things he said: "A book that everybody likes, nobody loves." I must plead guilty to thinking too much about the market at times. As if a "downer" book won't sell. But then I do circle back to the truism that if a writer isn't passionate about her work, readers sense that. Or at least if she is passionate, then whether it's published or not, it's a job well worth doing. The best job there is.
So I'm going to go for honesty in the book and it may not all be pretty.
Even so, I wanted to end this poignant tale on an up note of sorts. After Avignon, I returned to my junior year at Princeton that autumn with a few pretentious French-isms to my speech (for about a week), some cool posters, a nice denim mini-skirt, and some sad lessons about the low exchange rate of small breasts out there in the real world. At Princeton, my "deficit" didn't really seem to matter all that much, fortunately, but I knew my days in This Side of Paradise were numbered. I decided to adopt the same wry cynicism I used to deal with the "smart-girl-as-undateable" rule that operated beyond the Ivy as well and mostly forgot about the boob issue.
But then I got the opportunity to conduct a little anthropological experiment.
One of the eating clubs was hosting a "Come As You're Not" party around Halloween. As I was pondering possible costumes, I got a brilliant idea. I would borrow my roommate's 34D bra, stuff it with socks and go as a chick with knockers. My roommate agreed although she gave me a dubious look. Before I headed out to Prospect Street that Saturday at 11 or so, I stuffed the bra and took the additional measure of dressing all in pink. Definitely not me. I was amused that my sweater was straining in new places, but I put on my innocent mask and sauntered in to the party.
The results were fascinating.
I'll start with the people who knew me. Closer friends remarked on the change immediately and seemed amused. Acquaintances gave me funny looks, as if they couldn't quite figure out what was different, and were embarrassed to guess. But the strangers--the soldier boys in town for the Army game, especially, were staring at my temporary boobs with such longing, it was hard to keep from cracking up laughing. Yep, my chest was practically smoking from all the hot male gazes trained on those twin mounds. One rather cute, crew-cutted, tipsy-looking soldier stared and stared. When I moved, the eyes moved with me, at chest level of course.
What can I say? I loved it. I really enjoyed that feeling of pulling one over on them, of turning the American male's obsession with breasts into a joke. Guess what? You're in lust with a couple of pairs of sweat socks, buddy.
I don't think I stopped smiling all night.
But I was also glad I didn't have to deal with that kind of thing all the time. It felt good to take off the bra, toss the socks back into my drawer, smooth out the sweater, and go back to being me. Still, it was an interesting study--if I'd gone into anthropology, it might have made a good thesis.
Do you think any of those army boys dreamed about that "stacked" girl in pink? Alas, nothing but a dream....