Thursday, December 06, 2007

Don't take me seriously

In the October issue of Seventeen (p. 122), Tina Fey writes a hilarious letter to herself at age 17 (she is 37 now). It starts, "Dear Nerd," and ends, "PS: You might want to think about plucking your eyebrows. Just a little bit in the middle. And on the bottom. And the top."

Because Tina and I are the same age, and because great minds think alike, I too wish I could go back to 1987 and hand myself the tweezers already.

In our defense, Brooke Shields and her woolly-caterpillar-above-the-eyes aesthetic were all the rage back then. And in my own defense, one of my all-time favorite books was The Pistachio Prescription by Paula Danziger.

Paula Danziger is the mother of modern teen romantic comedy (or at least the mother of mine). She meant her books to be funny. I doubt she meant them as dire warnings about cosmetology. Nevertheless, that's how I took The Pistachio Prescription. The heroine has a mishap while shaving her legs for the first time, and another while plucking her eyebrows.

Thus I was deathly afraid of taking these plunges myself. I probably didn't pluck my eyebrows at all until I was 25. My friend Catherine convinced me to shave my legs when we were teenagers after she did it first and did not die. But my mother suggested I only shave them up to my knees since my hair was blond and practically invisible anyway.

This worked fine until I got made fun of by the class clown on a field trip. Being made fun of is bad. Being made fun of by a boy is worse. Being made fun of by a really funny boy is downright depressing, and when he notices your unshaved thighs on the way to the field trip while you are stuck on a school bus with him and forty of your classmates for the rest of the day, you can imagine how angry you are at your mother by the time you get home. Mothers do not always know best. Mine also makes her lasagna with cottage cheese instead of ricotta.

I get the sweetest notes from readers telling me they enjoy my books and have read them ten times. This is the best compliment anyone could give me, because it means somebody feels about my work the way I feel about Paula Danziger's. But it also makes me wonder if anyone is taking the fictional episodes in my books as realistic omens. I'm sure not all trombone players are obnoxious like the ones in Major Crush. I have never met one who isn't, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. And please don't be afraid to wakeboard just because Lori has an accident in The Boys Next Door! This scene is based on my brother's water-skiing accident, but for heaven's sake, you're not my brother.


Anonymous said...

Oh, Jennifer. I wish I could post my 17 year old self here to make you feel better.

And you are a genius! I never ever realized my eyebrow plucking fear was Paula's fault.

It makes so much sense now... so much sense.

I think the book that messed me up the most was FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC. I couldn't look at my brothers for so long after that and every time one of my friends squeed that my big brother was so handsome, I'd run from the room.

-Carrie Jones, who has no blogger account. So sad. I'm on livejournal. Not the same thing, I know. I know.

Carla Swafford said...

I was a very mature 17 year old. My hair was bleached blonde and I wore tons more makeup than I do now. So that's a lot. LOL! I was into reading Rosemary Rogers, Kathleen Woodiwiss and any other romance I could get my hands on. When I was younger I read only books with horses on the cover. So I read lots of westerns and a few medievals. That's how I came across my first romance at 12. A wonderful (and not age appropriate for a preteen, more for a 17 year old) romance called Bond of Blood by Roberta Gellis. I was proud when I got to meet her a few years ago. She was so kind to me.

Jennifer Echols said...

Carrie, I never read those Flowers in the Attic books, but they're always on Simon & Schuster's list of best-selling books for teens, so they must be traumatizing a whole new generation.

Carla, that is so sweet! My adult romance reading when I was a teenager was mostly Mary Stewart. My friend Julie told me Danielle Steele's Loving was the best book ever, so I read it, and that turned me off to investigating new romance authors for about ten years.

Victoria Dahl said...

Carrie! Flowers in the Attic! That is hilarious. hehe

A boy in high school once told me I had feet like a platypus. I had no idea what that meant. I still don't. But it was - unfortunately - very funny. And very traumatizing. I was self-conscious about my feet for years. Now I like them, because I've seen what OTHER women's feet look like after they've been walking in heels for years. Ouch!

Jennifer you look cute with your Brooke Shields brows! And I didn't get on the plucking train until, um, two years ago?

Wendy Toliver said...

Great post, Jennifer!

And Victoria, love the platypus foot story. I was actually dubbed "Prancer" as a teen b/c I played basketball and my high-tops were as wide as they were long, so I looked like I had hooves. (My feet aren't so small anymore since I've had babies, but they're still quite small for my height.)

Anonymous said...

It must be pointed out that we were shaving not with real razors, but with those pink round "Flicker" razors, which were about as sharp as butter knives. I discovered them again recently in the Vermont Country Store catelogue, a catelogue that I think of as selling stuff from my grandparents days. You know, stuff from days of yore. Not a good sign that our childhood is now considered yore! Alas. Cath

Micol Ostow said...

Meanwhile, I started shaving/waxing/plucking/etc-ing the INSTANT my mother allowed it and sort of wish I had waited longer before jumping onto the hamster wheel.