This could be embarrassing. Which I guess is the point.
As a writer, I tend to embarrass almost every heroine in my YA books, in some cases in every way imaginable. (Come to think of it, I’ve done this to a few adult heroines, too.)
Why? First, it gives her something to triumph over ultimately, including the asshats (pardon my French) who laughed at her in her lowest, most embarrassing moments.
Second, I think almost everyone remembers with vivid horror their worst, most embarrassing moments, especially from their teens, so they identify with fictional characters who suffer intense humiliation, especially at the hands of “mean girls” and the like. We remember EXACTLY how it felt.
For me, high school wasn’t without embarrassment, but it wasn’t horrible. I played sports nonstop and got good grades, and I didn’t get crap from anyone for either of those things.
But junior high? Hoo boy.
First, I frankly looked horrid. I got glasses the summer before 7th grade; they were in the shape of octagons. Nightmare. I wore my hair in a ponytail, no exception, and that bad decision lasted two years. Although I hated the color red, I didn’t yet realize (nor did my mom) that any clothing in the red family makes me look like I died several days ago and they just discovered the body. And on and on. I went to school every day feeling ugly and embarrassed and wishing I could crawl into a hole.
On a positive note, those memories made writing Being Mary Bennet Blows — about the ugly duckling in the modern Bennet family — a total snap.
I had many SPECIFIC embarrassing moments in junior high, but here’s the one that always leaps to my mind whenever this topic comes up.
Luckily, I have absolutely no recollection of who the guy in question was.
I was in 7th grade. One of the coolest guys in 9th grade (we’ll call him “Rock Star”) rode my bus. I didn’t have a crush on him, not really, since it would be like a kindergartner having a crush on a 5th grader, but he was cute and cool and, as Gidget would say, the ultimate.
One day we had a fire drill. At that moment, I was on the third floor of our building. Rock Star was, too. I happened to be wearing what I considered the coolest thing I owned: a pair of brown-and-navy-blue-plaid elephant pants with cuffs. I’m sure NO one else thought they were anything but hideous, but I owned my style. As the hallway flooded with kids, all rushing for the stairs down to the first floor, I wound up directly behind Rock Star. At the top of the stairs—
Yeah. I tripped on the cuff of my elephant pants and fell forward, but I didn’t fall down the stairs. I fell ON TOP OF Rock Star. Let’s just say it didn’t end well.
Now, every time I write yet another scene of horrific embarrassment for one of my teen heroines, I think of that excruciating moment — and other moments like it — and I know EXACTLY how my heroine feels: like a cockroach under someone’s shoe.
Like they say: write what you know!
Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at marystrand.com.