I’ve concluded that scribing a memoir, on line, on this blog site, is lunacy. If Hemingway were doing this, he’d have visited self-annihilation much earlier. Swimming with hungry sharks seems more rational.
Then why am I tackling the We Were The California Girls project? https://charmainesmusepallet.wordpress.com/california-girls/ For all of the above reasons.
The memoir will, I pray, explain how a lonely kid found herself inside her imaginary world. It’s how escapism turns a nightmare into a palatable existence. It’s how spirit grows. It’s how what we believe is what we become.
But this is where I struggle. There were mean, wicked and evil people in my life. Fortunately I was never sexually assaulted. Unfortunately, all the other unpleasant assaults were mine for the feasting. Because I believe that forgiveness and prayer are a part of any healing process, and because I believe that my words are the skeletal formation of the future, calling a wicked snake a wicked snake challenges my writing.
Enter my beloved Edward. Edward is the truest of true editors. He calls it. I don’t want to hear it. Alas, there is no choice but to listen and adapt, that is, if I want this writing project to successfully conclude. Along with Edward’s sage advice, other wise folks have chimed in, like former classmate Christi; and my step brother, Paul, who shared some of those dark times. And personal notes from friends, who are shocked by some of my early-life events, are warm and comforting. Yeah, they do salve that inner kid’s wounds.
How does all this tie into California Girls? It’s coming. Alice, Lin, Sandy, and the rest are real California girls who are not what Hollywood, for the most part, falsely portrayed. We were not all shapely super-beachy fem bots. I was right down the middle. Alice remained in my life for more than 50 years and her road was NOT a happy beach party. Lin did remain beach close, but discovered a different lifestyle. Sandy remains an artist. Mary will tell her story about growing up as a Mexican-American California girl, etc.
The moral: Everyone has a story. It’s how it’s told and if it is even worth telling, that makes the difference. And that is my current nightmare. Will We Were The California Girls make a difference? Will anyone ever give a crap? Can I dig down and bring up a writer’s honesty that is not self-indulgent, that hits a universal theme, and has literary value?
We’ll find out.
5 thoughts on “Writing Hell — A California Girl’s Memoir.”
California Girl. It has a beachy, sun-streaked hair sound to it. But what about those of us who grew up in Northern California? In the perpetual mist of the Bay Area, under the shade of giant Sequoias? Are we California Girls, too?
Yes, and no.
Yes, because we thought we were by definition. At least until the question arose when, in my case, a family move to Southern California forced me to do battle with the difference between words in the dictionary and words that found their definitions in the humid air filling the space that envelops teen-aged girls.
Did I suffer a shocking transition? Or did I just slip right in without missing a beat?
Here’s a clue: I spent my entire freshman year in high school trying to figure out just what the Surf Rules were, how to live by them, and how not to stick out like the giant nerd I had suddenly discovered myself to be.
Thank God for uniforms! Mine gave me protective coloration until I got my bearings, and I only risked total exposure on free dress days, which, by senior year, I actually came to enjoy. But that is a tangent leading into another story, one full of tristesse, real joy, and real pain. My desktop now is cluttered with the rough early files for a book I’m calling One Heart, Many Gardens: Growing a Psychotherapist from Seed. (You and I are blessed, Charmaine. We share a gift that allows us to string tumbling emotions together into something that can actually look like jewelry. )
So I say: Go, Northern California! Land of Tall Trees and gentle mists! Home of the clueless. Home, nonetheless.
But here’s a tidbit: there’s still a part of me that whimpers and feels disenfranchised the moment I get off a plane in Los Angeles. For one brief moment, I wonder whether my hair is all right, or whether what tell myself is “a few” extra pounds might consign me to the margins, the back of the gym at a Saturday night dance. I re-apply my lipstick. Again.
I’m blonde now. But that doesn’t mean I ever crashed the Surf Rules Code. It just means I’m old enough now to know that lighter hair is more flattering than trying to go back to the natural honey color of my youth.
Of one thing I am certain: if surf ever really was up, I don’t think I saw it. I’ll never know whether I hid my perplexity or just blended in with the horde of other equally confused high school girls who also probably couldn’t see much past the tip of their own anxiety.
We all think our pain is unique. It is, if Tolstoi got it right. But I now suspect that the angst of high school stew is as predictable a recipe as macaroni and cheese: you can use elbow or curls, cheddar, jack, parmesan–and you still end up with America’s favorite comfort food.
Put a hundred girls in a freshman class at a private school in the mid-sixties and what do you get? Alchemy that produces the comfort food of memories forty years later.
Some day let’s share a glass of wine and reveal the truly wicked parts we choose to leave out of our memoirs. Our blessings already speak for themselves.
….that glass of wine with a tell all…and that shall happen, my dear!
Thanks for a lovely response. I’d like to use it. When I get to that point, I’ll be more formal.
Meanwhile, about the glass of wine….the ocean is a rich blue, the sun’s warm, the breeze is cool and it’s getting late on Saturday. Hmmmmmmm 😉
More than just giving a crap, this respondant still cares.
While I loved the photo of you ready for the First Grade, I was impressed by the recent quality of writing, both by you and the response by Doni. Do reassure her that real men are inclusive regarding all California girls, regardless of which point of the compass they hail.
Keep up the good work and perhaps as a side-effect of your project some of the demons will be exorcised.
Before we leave this earth, I would treasure a moment with you, Charmaine, and perhaps George, to talk about Chuck.
I apologize but I’m drawing a blank as to our acquaintance. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org