Monday, October 10, 2011

Purple Hat Theory

The winner of the UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER is Shari Green!

Congrats, Shari!

There was a chain mail that made the rounds a couple years ago. There are several versions of it, but it was about a female's view of herself, and it went something like this. 

Age 3: She looks at herself and sees a Princess.
Age 15: She looks at herself and sees an Ugly Sister (Mum I can't go to school looking like this!)
Age 25: She looks at herself and sees "too fat/too thin, too short/too tall, too straight/too curly" - but decides she doesn't have time to fix it, so she's going out anyway.
Age 30: She looks at herself and sees "clean" and goes out.
Age 40: She looks at herself and sees "I am" and goes wherever she wants to go.
Age 55: She looks at herself and reminds herself of all the people who can't even see themselves in the mirror anymore. Goes out and conquers the world.
Age 60: She looks at herself & sees wisdom, laughter and ability, goes out and enjoys life.
Age 70: Doesn't bother to look.
Just puts on a purple hat and goes out to have fun with the world.
I like to think I've skipped a couple stages and hit the purple hat early. Despite who I am now, I wasn't the Princess type as a kid. I didn't do the Ugly Duckling bit either. I was wildly confident in my looks as a teen. I'm not a mirror person. There are days when I leave the house without looking in the mirror.(Dear God, I am so backwards!) I've decided that if I'm going to be doomed to have bad days, I might as well have fun on the good ones.

Or at least that's what I tell myself.

The other day a girlfriend of mine hailed me up. She lives a couple towns over, but we make a supreme effort to hang because we're both from Caribbean islands. And it's great not to have to rein in the way I think or the things I say because people won't understand. Anyhow, she asked me if I had any books to loan. I kind of loathe that question. Books are like air to me, so I own a zillion of them (these days more on Kindle than physically) but I read mostly YA. And maybe YA is catching on among adults in the UK and US, but in the Caribbean it's still very much, "What are you doing in the children's section?"

I guess it doesn't just apply to books either. If a 20 year old CHOSE to be a virgin, many people would think of that not as a commitment to her ideals, but simply as being immature. It might have to do with African tradition and the reverence for what is over what could be. Or a leftover from slavery, where there wasn't time to indulge in things not practical. But the fact is that certain things are adult. And all adults should do them. By extension, certain things are NOT adult, and adults should not do them.

Theoretically, as a disciple of the Order of the Purple Hat, all I needed to say to my friend was, "YA is what I like." Instead, I started to reason why I liked it. And the thing is you can't argue a subjective topic objectively. And even deigning to argue made me feel like I was agreeing with my friend that YA was somehow of less merit and that I should spend more time in books directed at my age group and with more literary merit. That's not how I really feel. Although it is an insecurity that I have. And one that I suspect a lot of children's and YA writers, if they're being honest, also share.

We've all got something that we're royally insecure about, some way in which we feel defective. One of mine is the fact that I'm not an adult in anything other than the fact that I'm over 18 (or 20 or 21 as the case may be) . Sure, I've got some adult traits, but just the ones I've always had. I was very mature as a child. I just don't feel grown up now. I feel like I'm a 6 year old walking around the house in Mummy's high heels. ( Unholy hell! I think I'm an emotional Benjamin Button!) Most days I'm fine with that, and I wear it almost as a badge of honour. I put on my purple hat and do what the heck I feel like. But there are days, and not as few as I'd like, where I'm absolutely terrified that someone will find out who the real me is. And they'll revoke my right to be an adult. And they'll put me in a cardboard box on display in the zoo, with the label "Pretend Grown-Up".

Deep inside I know. The true sign of adulthood- of maturity- is not being what every one else thinks you should be. Even the air-head cheerleaders in every 80's high school movie can do that. No, the true sign of adulthood is being the adult YOU were meant to be.

So I guess the only question left is this:

Are you wearing your purple hat?

It's Monday. That's what's on my mind.


Shari Green said...

Thought-provoking post! (And "emotional Benjamin Button" -- ha! love it.) Mostly I do wear my purple hat, but there are times I bounce around in those different stages, letting my insecurities take charge. And I wonder when I will finally learn....

Thrilled to win the book! Thank you! :)

asiamorela said...

Love the purple hat metaphor! :D

I must say I can pretty much see myself going through all the phases described (I expected them to be more vain, but they're not too bad). Only difference is I'm 24 and I feel like I've already left Age 25 phase behind and jumped in the Age 30 one... I check my teeth before I go out, like. ;)

Up until I left my parents' place to go to university, I was seen only in the children's section of my local library. Nowadays I mostly read romance, which is not linked with immaturity, but is still looked down on by most people, so I know all about justifying myself instead of just stating I like it. What I don't do, though, is admit that it isn't lofty literature, or try to prove my worth as a reader by mentioning I also read "classics".

You say it's not easy to argue a subjective topic objectively. I know what you mean, yet I don't think that tastes in literature are just 'facts', things we have to accept and not talk about. They are tied to beliefs, ideas, feelings, and specific worldviews. I wouldn't wear my purple hat about death penalty, for instance, I wouldn't say "I am against it" and just leave it at that. It's too important to be left alone (so is my taste in literature).

I think I like looking at myself (metaphorically). I like exploring my own thoughts and feelings. A purple hat is good, but it's even better with the story behind it. :)

Sidrah said...

I have gotten my purple hat (even if I like to say so) but sometimes I keep it away in a closet =)

As the eldest child I had to look after my brothers a lot, they are one of the reason am such a responsibility-freak.

Different people like different things, have different tastes. To each his own. Why label it?

Great post, Claire.