Creative Nonfiction Prompts – 1/3/2013
January 3, 2013
Think about an aspect of your life story and rewrite it, telling the tale from another angle or perspective. For example, if your family always considered you to be a difficult teenager, write about other interpretations of your behavior. Or if you’ve always been considered successful, write about the fear of failure that lurks beneath the facade. Find a way to reconstruct an aspect of your personal narrative that explores the complexity of who you are.
“She’s nice and all…but she’s really quiet.” That’s what they would write in the 5th grade slam book about me. If there were a slam book, that is. Those are the words that would float around in the theoretical slam book of life. I was in the double digits, dammit, and I didn’t even have a good slam against me. What would that say about me? Other girls had “Cool” and “Hot” and “Sporty” and other Spice Girl-alias like terms to describe them, along with a list of guys they’ve kissed during rousing parent-in-the-other-room-monitored games of spin the bottle played at family super bowl parties. I had never even been to a party before—my time instead being holed up in my room reading the Michelle Tanner novel series. I squealed with delight when I noticed that Mary Kate and/or Ashley donned a pink dress that I owned on the cover. In this particular issue, Michelle is bummed because all it said in her class’s slam book was that she was a good speller. She was in the double digits, dammit, and all her classmates could say about her was that she was a good speller?! I think I’m a good speller too, but not enough for that to be my only quality but at least it’s descriptive! “Quiet” means nothing, and that pesky “nice” is outright insulting. How dare they think that about me?! I’ll make my mark in that book of life one day, and that day begins today…
“Jamie buys all her clothes at the flea market,” Stephanie whispered behind my back. I looked down at my pea-green leggings and green striped sweater. I distinctly remember my mom purchasing those leggings in the clearance section at Kids R’ Us and the sweater I got as a gift for Christmas. My outfit was not only NOT purchased at a cheap flea market, but was much nicer than what she had on. In a Catholic school, dress down days came once in a blue moon, and you always wanted to make sure you wore your coolest, most in-style outfit you begged your mom to buy for you. Being a rather poor kid in a private school located in one of the richest towns in Westchester made that a little difficult, but I made do with what I had. Who was Stephanie to talk, anyway? Last year during the big children’s Easter mass I had on a beautiful Easter Parade-esque dress and bonnet from Lord & Taylor while she showed up in a tie-dye shirt and jeans and picked her nose for 40% of the mass. At least I knew when to dress up and how to do it in style.
“Yeah, she said all of your clothes are from there because your family’s too poor to go shopping anywhere else,” my friend Julia confirmed that what I heard was true. Anger coursed over my body. I thought of going over there and setting her straight and letting her know exactly where my outfit was from, and about the Abercrombie and Fitch shirt I purchased over the summer. (Sure, it was an irregular-sized A&F shirt from the flea market, but she didn’t have to know that.) Maybe a good portion of my clothes were from the flea market, but at least I had style. I gathered my thoughts and turned to Julia, “I should punch her in her stupid face!” I said, as I made a fist with my tiny, weak hand. Then the bell rang and break was over, and it was time to study vocabulary. The battle was soon forgotten when Stephanie would be last in line behind me during the spelling bee, rooting me on… “She kept touching me, and made me nervous. That’s why we lost,” I’d explain to my friends later when I blanked during the last round. “She didn’t win either, so whatever.”
I realized that it would be hard for people to think of me any other way than “quiet,” but it didn’t matter, and “nice” wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe “buys all her clothes at the flea market” would be my description in the slam book of life, but at least that means I’m resourceful. And if anyone complemented my style and found out where my clothing came from, I could be a fashion trailblazer for the lower middle class. At least they couldn’t have me down as “a good speller,” maybe “kind-of good,” but that would be downright silly. I could rest easy knowing that I had once again had something in common with Michelle Tanner, and this time, I may have even had something better.