When the Young Adult market began to boom several years ago, I started writing a manuscript called “She’s Not That Good.”
It was supposed to be the new “chick lit,” and because that was my genre, I thought it might be a good fit for me. I figured, hey, in my heart I’m still 24 and I can easily be 15 in my head.
I was feeling pretty good about it until I entered the first 10 pages in a contest. One of the judges said it sounded like a 40-year-old writing. Maybe I sounded 40 when I was 15. Anyway, I put that manuscript away but am bringing it out today because it was rather insightful back then.
While Brandi is not me (I excel at quite a few things – grin), and Brandi’s mother is not my mother, they share some similarities. And when I read Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers last year, I understood everything.
Anyway, here’s the excerpt from my wip, She’s Not That Good, circa 2008:
“She’s not that good.”
Five little words that have haunted me my entire life. Six, technically if you count she’s as “she is.” Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if whatever it is I’m not that good at hadn’t been somebody else’s idea in the first place. Like, “You know, you’re really good at singing, so why don’t you try out for the school play?”
I would resist using the argument that having a good singing voice does not make one an actress. But they would eventually wear me down and actually convince me that auditioning for the school play was the only thing to do and that I’d be a shoe-in. I’d rehearse for weeks and finally arrive for my audition.
And there “they” would be, those same people who had practically twisted my arm to audition for their lousy play, huddling together, whispering, until finally their so-called whisper turned into a stage whisper, and nobody could help hearing them all say, as if in unison, “She’s not that good.”
I began making plans to attend college, but every application came back saying the same thing, “She’s not that good.”
You’d think I’d get better at choosing what I was good at, but people misled me. My essays in English class would garner an “A,” and my teacher would convince me I should pursue a journalism degree. But after meeting with a counselor who ran me through the paces, he wrote on my application, “She’s not that good.”
Which brings me to today and the interview I slunk out of where I had to take a writing test, a typing test, and a math test. The HR lady called me into her office afterwards and read the note written on the results. You guessed it. It said, “She’s not that good.”
Everybody thought I should be a writer. Maybe they saw in me some creativity and accomplishment. I was flattered by that, because you see, I wasn’t a complete loser, although it may sound like that to you at this point. The problem was I was good at a lot of things–I wasn’t good enough to excel in any of them.
I wrote good papers. I loved history, so I got an “A” in my history classes and people concluded that I was an intellectual and recommended I become a lawyer or a historian. But even I could tell I wasn’t that good.
To make myself feel a bit better after that job interview, I checked my cell phone for any messages about the other jobs I had applied for. You know, the hand modeling job. Everybody said I had beautiful hands and even the rest of me passed for attractive, but when I sought after those modeling jobs I heard the usual, “too short,” “too tall,” “too fat,” “too thin.” I was starting to feel like Goldilocks never finding the one that was “just right.”
My mother answered the phone and I said. “I thought today was your surfing day.”
My mother kept saying stuff like, “I’m starting over,” when she suddenly began pursuing all of her “childhood” dreams. One day it was hang gliding, then it was drama class, and now it was surfing.
I knew she wouldn’t stick with it–she never stuck with anything to be very good at it. My entire family is like that–mother, grandmother, and even great-grandmother. And they certainly didn’t keep men around. No wonder I had the problems I had. But my mother insisted I not follow in her footsteps, as if by saying it will change this family curse we seem to have.
“Be a writer. That’s who you are.”
Like everybody else? I wanted to say. Who wasn’t a writer these days. But my mother is the one who had wanted to be a writer, and when it didn’t pan out as quickly as she thought it should, she jumped on other so-called dreams, although I really wonder if she ever dreamed of surfing.
She wanted to give me the pen name she always wanted. “Constance Brocade–can’t you see that on the front of a romance novel? Isn’t that the perfect name?”
Only her name was Debbie, so she wanted to name me Constance. I would have died before I would let anybody know my name was Constance.
Thankfully, my grandmother stepped in, and out of spite, my mother named me after her favorite drink–Brandi. I’ve always suspected that’s what she was drinking the night I was conceived. And maybe that would have been okay if our last name wasn’t “Redwine.”
My mother continued, “No surfing anymore. It’s not for me. I think I’m going to start photography next. I can be on the beach without hurting my knees. Don’t wait until you’re 40 to follow your heart, Brandi. Do it now while you’re young.”
“Okay, mom.” Didn’t I tell you?
“So did anybody call for me? You know the hands modeling people.”
“I’ve told you, Brandi, those hands were meant for sitting at the typewriter pounding out novels.”
“Mom, nobody sits at a typewriter anymore. Computer, you mean. And no, I’m not going to be a writer.”
“Well, why not? You lock yourself in your room and read every book under the sun. Why wouldn’t you want to write one?”
My mother couldn’t get past her own unmet dreams to see that my dreams were different from hers.