About six months ago I was in Aerie with my daughters and I noticed a few pics where one of the models had cellulite. Then I saw another where she had stretch marks. As I looked around I realized I was looking at young women whose “flaws” were being displayed as simple fact, not in hiding, not in shame. I pointed this out to my daughters and they shrugged as if to say, “No big deal mom”. Maybe not for them but for those of us who grew up in the age where there was only one standard for a beautiful woman…and she looked like Christie Brinkley, this is a BIG deal!!!! Of course, it hasn’t stopped with Ms. Brinkley, the acceptable list of who and what is beautiful continues onto the magazine racks today. I’ll admit that my children’s exposure to media has been more limited than many kids. We don’t watch TV, I very rarely bring magazines (unless they’re design mags) into the house, and we have frequent discussions about what they see. I do have to catch myself on the body shaming stuff–not to them but about myself or about people we see. We live in a culture of discontent and lack of acceptance of what’s “ok”. I’m guilty as much as the next person.
I think about these facts as I am in the position to “sculpt” Patience. I wouldn’t call it a struggle but I seek to balance my desire to write about a woman whose life has more fantasy than most of us and a real-life person with regular problems. She’s wealthy, attractive, educated, traveled, and lives in an athletic body. Her sex life is out of this world. And that might be where it stops. Patience lost her mother at a young age in a very tragic way, people disregard and disrespect her because they are jealous of her privilege, men disrespect her because she is a female, her skin is several shades darker than her father’s and people often assume she’s adopted. When she explains her mother was half Indian they often look at her skeptically. She gets in bad moods, her skin breaks out on occasion, she bloats when she has her period, and she has stretch marks from growing so quickly;)
I seek to I create a character whose life seems so different, at times so much more exotic than our own that we are compelled to read her. Generally, we read fiction because we want to be swept away. I want to do that for you. I’ll also admit that I’ve sought to create a character who experiences her life in a way that’s universal. Sometimes it’s simple stuff and sometimes it’s big-life stuff (spoiler alert she gets her heart wrecked at least once). So to borrow a line from the above article, as a metaphor for how I narrate Patience, “(I) use beautiful lighting, locations and make overall color shifts from raw camera files — temperature, exposure, etc…” but beneath it all is a woman’s story with whom many of us will relate or want to live or a little of both!