22 November 2010

little women

I saw a community theater production of Little Women over the weekend, and it was not half-bad. I say this as a former member of a community theater, so don't get the idea that I'm looking down on what happens when a group of people who have full-time jobs and families and other hobbies get together a show.

When you factor in everything else people in community theaters have going on, I think you should always give a standing ovation at the end of the show. It's admirable to want to give a couple hours of beauty to the community, especially in a way that puts you so—on display.

And really, how can anything related to Little Women ever be all bad?

After all, there is no day so terrible that Marmee and Jo and the rest of them can't make it seem a bit more bearable. This may be a good life lesson for me to keep in mind; it will blend well with my belief that Anne of Green Gables and Marilla can vastly cheer me up when I am in need of some self-care.

Anne and Jo {and their attendant mother figures}: These are two of my go-to girls, part of my arsenal of "taking care of me" weapons I pull out when I've had a bad day. {Other weapons include: The Mary Tyler Moore Show, red wine, and journalling.}

Anne and Jo are also two characters my friend Katie and I argue over. We don't fight over anything as prosaic and dull as the interpretation of the characters or what they can teach us or what reflection they give us of women's place in society at that time.

No, Katie and I argue over who gets to be Anne or Jo.

Not that we're playing dress-up and acting out the roles—no, that'd be ridiculous at our age.

We merely discuss, in hypothetical ways, who we're more like.

You know when you read a book, and there's a character that so reminds you of yourself—or who you'd like to be—that you start to identify strongly with them? You start to think that if you ever met in real life, if this person ever ripped themselves from the pages, you'd be best friends. You'd get each other without having to give a lot of back story.

You start to feel a bit possessive of the character, even though you fully understand that other people are reading the book and perhaps even identifying with her or him.

But that's why I love reading and interacting with stories so much: no matter how many other people know the story, your experience with it is still unique. Yours. Special. You're the one who, in your head, is most like Anne of Green Gables, even if you have brown hair and are not an orphan and live in America, not on an island in Canada.

Girls who want to be Anne also, in general, want to be Jo. Both are highly verbal and highly imaginative. Both are passionate, which is a kind way of saying they both have tempers they struggle to control. Anne and Jo are genuine and eager to experience and describe whatever they can; they have thoughtful eyes that take in more of the world in one glance than most of us see all day.

And in this similarity of Anne and Jo lies the problem for Katie and me. I guess you could also say that the problem lies partly in how similar Katie and I are.

{Girls who like Anne and Jo are also, by the way, drawn to Elizabeth Bennet, but Katie and I have never argued over who gets to be Elizabeth; I think she's accepted the fact that I'm the one with the Jane Austen-esque blog. My blog title alone gets me Elizabeth without a fight.}

Long ago—at the beginning of our friendship when we discovered a shared love of Anne—I'd staked my claim in Anne of Green Gables. Very, very deeply. As in—if I were a homesteader, they would recruit me pound the stakes into the hard prairie soil at the corner of each claim. I was here to stay in the belief that I was Anne.

I told Katie she got to be Diana, Anne's best friend, and that even though Diana is frightened to use her imagination after they scare the bejeezus out of themselves by imaging ghosts in the woods, Diana is a lovely girl. Steady. Trustworthy. Loyal. All things Katie is, plus, I told her, if she were Diana, that means she gets to get drunk on raspberry cordial.

When you're trying to reason with a girl who thinks she deserves to be Anne of Green Gables, pointing out that she gets to drink is not a strong argument for making her be the best friend.

I refused to budge, though, partly because the last time I had this "Am I more like Anne or are you?" discussion, it was with a bosom buddy who had red hair. I can't compete with someone for the title of Anne when she looks like the modern-day reincarnation of the girl.

I felt it was my turn to be Anne. I deserved this.

But then, in the course of my friendship with Katie, we worked our way around to Jo and Little Women. {I assume other friendships involve these same literary discussions, yes?}

Truth be told, I am more like Jo than Anne, but I couldn't very well demand to be both of them {in again, this hypothetical world Katie and I were creating}. That'd be so selfish of me. So not like Anne or Jo.

And so even though I'm a brunette and even though I'm a writer, I let Katie be Jo. I even put it in writing {which, not to belabor the point here, but that is something that Jo would do}.

Katie is like Jo, of course. She's generous with her friendship and with her encouragement, just as Jo is. She holds tightly to those she values, and she's a hard worker who isn't too proud to laugh at herself. She likes games, and she has this knack of making even the most ordinary activity feel like an adventure.

Those are all very Jo-like things, but let me repeat: I'm a writer. I have a writer's callous, and I come home from work many days with ink spots on my hands {I'm a messy writer, just like Jo!}.

Katie, it might be time to renegotiate.

I will consider letting you have Anne for half the year if I can have Jo for that same half.

But I still get Elizabeth Bennet. I'm firm on that point, Anne.


  1. I think I am open to negotiation. After all, Anne is a spunky teacher who helps out with the theater productions? That is definitely a point for me for Anne.

    Also, we have never had the you = Elizabeth Bennet discussion. I need to weigh in on this (aka argue my case!). :)

    Love, Diana/Jo

  2. Katie, you didn't even know that Elizabeth's older sister was named Jane.

    I win. I am Elizabeth.



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