Girl applying makeup

Girls Will Be Girls

I just finished reading The Girls by Emma Cline. If you’re interested, the book is a spin on the Charles Manson cult, of which I don’t know much except what is now common knowledge. It opens the door to a subject that I probably wouldn’t have broached otherwise, but my greatest interest in the book is the girls themselves. I can’t believe how many flashbacks I had to my teenage self: the insecurities, the self-consciousness, the second-guessing, all completely self inflicted because you think everyone is watching and judging you. The reality is, 99% of people don’t care who you are, what you look like, or what you’re doing, but it takes years to learn that lesson. These characters are all so real, like people I’ve actually known. The way the girls seemingly exist just to be around a man, to please a man, waiting for a man to acknowledge them, or, that they strive for approval from other “girls.” I don’t know that all women feel this way, but it hearkens back to an outdated model that I’m not removed from. Fussing over your hair and make-up, clothes, diets, all the ridiculous things “girls” do to elevate themselves because their mothers, or their girlfriends, or Cosmopolitan magazine, or some famous beautiful women made them feel like they ought to. I also found it compelling that the narrator, Evie, spends most of the book pining after another girl who mocks cultural norms of 1969 women, but who herself is pining after a man and going to crazy lengths to please him.

Overall, I read the lesson to be that we all have ideal characters we want to play, maybe based on a conglomerate of real or imagined people, but a look behind the curtain reveals that they are just as conflicted and human as everyone else. And maybe it isn’t their fault that we build up a persona of perfection around them, but who would admit to doing that? I also have to add that Emma Cline is a beautiful writer–she concisely delivers these images and emotions in ways I’ve never read before, but that are really striking and enjoyable to read. Although I was irritated by Evie’s dull post-teenage existence, I couldn’t put this one down!


A Woman Is Never Just One

Somewhere in between a hero and a
villain, between life and death, is woman.
She is praying in China and she is
studying law in Montreal. Never
once has she been singular. Never just
a woman, but a collection of one.

Between honey and vinegar, someone
in 1591 experienced a
side of one woman. Just one side of just
one woman. One facet of one lady.
She’s always on because she is never
off. Her identity throughout time is

evolving yet constant. From birth she is
innocent, each moment she grows by one.
One moment in one mosaic you’ll never
see because it burned to ashes in a
forest fire. Each child has had a mother
who surrendered part of her body just

to keep life going, whether it was just-
ified or not; and every mother is
an intricate machine called a female.
Every cell must sing with another one
to nurture a heartbeat to become a
fresh person. And she can cry when ever

she must without judgment, but she never
cries for the wrong reason. And tears are just
a tiny salty waterway down a
cheek in a grayscale photograph that is
aging in a damp basement of someone
you know. Somewhere in between a school girl

and a matron is one side of one her,
one face of one diamond that will never
be extracted from one chip of one stone
buried five hundred feet deep. Each side just
a glimpse of the whole, just as each whole is
a glimpse of what is woman. She is a

book that misses its title, because just
one title never captures all she is,
someone in between zeta and alpha.

As published in Arches – Fall 2014, the Mount Mary University student periodical