I still fume when I remember a boy in my 5th-grade science class. I was shy and silent at that age and everything bothered me. My mom had moved my sisters and I away from Indianapolis to Detroit after she and my dad got a divorce. It made me sad and angry to leave my dad and other relatives here.
That mean boy told me one day that my hair was dirty. At the time, I didn’t care about hair or clothes because I was too young and depressed. When he told me that, I went home and scrubbed my hair VERY hard and soaked in the tub in steaming hot water for an hour. I poured some of my mom’s perfume, Evening in Paris, in my wet hair and went to bed. The next morning, I brushed it 100 times because I’d read that in Good Housekeeping magazine. It was so shiny! He sat next to me. I wanted to sit somewhere else, but the teacher wouldn’t let the students change seats. The boy sneered at me and didn’t complement me, but he did tell me I should use curlers. My hair was stringy, according to his opinion. What did I do that night? Of course, I curled my hair! I borrowed Mom’s brush curlers and fastened them to my head. I slept in them and tossed and turned all night because the pain in my scalp was so bad. I took them out slowly because that was the advice from REDBOOK magazine. I combed gently and applied tons of hairspray. The next day, that boy didn’t compliment my curly hair. He insulted me even more when he told me I had “Ni….r lips”. I used to have full lips, a lot fuller than I have as an adult, especially now as an older women. If I showed you my school picture from that year, you would see what I mean. Anyway, the boy laughed at me, and even pointed at me to the other kids. That night I practiced ways to make my lips smaller; keeping them closed and not talking to anyone, covering them with several layers of Mom’s foundation and keeping my head turned away from him.
He insulted me in many ways. According to him, I didn’t have any breasts. I was a bit confused about that one because I was obviously a girl. I went home and asked Mom to buy me a bra but she didn’t have the money. I put one of hers on and stuffed it with socks and toilet paper to make them “big”. No compliments from him, of course. I endured suffering from him about my body until Mom decided to move back home at Christmas. I never had to sit by him again.
“A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.” Coco Chanel
I thought about him the other day, and I don’t know why. Maybe it was when I washed my hair and used the curling iron. Hurt lasts a long, long time. Those people who were abused when they were younger make me feel sympathy with them. I secretly rejoice when the bad guys get outed. But those celebrities and so-called important people escape to sex-addiction clinics with equine therapy, yoga, gourmet meals, and other luxuries at the $30,000 six week stay. Six weeks to ride horses and have aromatherapy massages? Baloney! caca in Spanish/ poop(that’s a mild form of meaning) in English. Now many people are coming out of the woods to bring the evil to light, and it is a form of evil when somebody assaults a person sexually, emotionally and physically. I wish I would have said something to my Mom or a teacher about that boy. I wish I could have told someone about abuse at my jobs as an adult. That is another story…
“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951
Telling Stories: Part Two
Webster’s Dictionary defines the word story primarily as a noun: an account of an incident or event; a statement regarding the facts pertinent to a situation in question; an anecdote; a narrative; a legend. There are other definitions of the word story, but I will discuss the first one today.
A story is an account or retelling of an incident or event. If someone says they witnessed an event such as a wedding, they would relate details in order to make the story interesting to the listener. While the statement, “I went to a wedding” is technically a story, it is pretty boring. The person you are telling the story to would want to hear many details. Where was the wedding located? What did the bride’s dress look like? How many attendants did she have, if any? What color were the bridesmaids’ dresses? Was it a religious service or civil service? What religion? What did the groom wear? Did they write their own vows? What about the parents of the couple-did they attend the wedding? If not, why not? Did their relatives and friends show up? And the reception: Where was it located? Did they have a band or a DJ, or no entertainment? What type of food was served? Did they go on a honeymoon? Where? Some of your listeners might want to hear secret details that only a few are aware of, or even gossip about the wedding. Depending on the person who hears about the event, the type, number and details may vary. Someone might want to hear every detail you can remember. Another may want to hear just the main facts. The discussion of the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses could go on as long as the storyteller and listener want to continue it.
You, as the storyteller, might embellish the details without lying. Embellishment means that instead of saying the bridesmaids’ dresses were light blue, you could instead give your opinion or viewpoint about the color. You could say the color reminded you of the old hospital rooms from the 1930s where your aunt used to work as a nurse. You might further add that you will always recall the color from your visits to your elderly great-grandfather who was confined there due to Alzheimer’s.
Another way to spice up your story of the wedding would involve your perception of the people and their actions. Your listener would ask you about how a certain guest acted, or maybe your view of the mother of the groom’s attitude. These perceptions of yours concerning the attitudes and actions of the guests may be desired from the person hearing your story. Maybe they will ask you to give your thoughts on the day. Do you think the couple has a chance for a happy marriage, or do you think the man and woman are too different to have a successful union?
According to what you witnessed at the wedding, you may add to the story by recounting other details that your listener did not ask for. While adding details such as these to your story change it from bland to lively, you are not lying. Lying would be to tell untruths and then present them as true. If you say that the reception was held at the beach, but it really took place in a small town seventy miles away from the water, then you are lying in your story. Saying that the groom’s sister hit the bride is untrue if all that happened was that the sister bumped into the bride in the dressing room. As a storyteller, you want to give an account of an event or incident, whether you simply say the facts or make your story interesting by using details. But in the end, it’s up to you, the writer, to make those decisions. Remember, the writer is always in control and has the power to write an entertaining story.
I will discuss some of the other definitions of the word story in another post.