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MFA in Writing at Vermont College

Monday, October 31, 2011

Playing for Cheescake

On Saturday evening I returned home to find my house filled with card playing women! 

That sounds like the opening to a great novel but in reality it was simply my wife’s turn to host the monthly girlfriend game night.  Not being privy to many “girl” moments in my life I will admit I was curious and purposely came home early to see what this game night was all about. 

I will now observe this rare species in its natural habitat and witness first-hand the communication skills of this utterly strange and confusing creature called… woman! 

This picture has been altered to protect the identity of those involved

I was surprised to see that the game in the center of table held very little interest.  There was no score, no leader, very little intensity and certainly no taunting.  I was entranced… this was like no card game I had ever witnessed before.  Conversation topics ranged from fashion to movies to recipes to the snacks on the coffee table.  I took a handful of trail mix and pondered my strange surroundings.

Observed in their natural habitat woman behaves in a dignified and respectful manner, never competing with another and frequently making use of compliments.  All competitive tendencies, natural to most animal species, appear nonexistent.

Frequently throughout the game I heard the comment, “Oh, we forgot to bet.” I do not believe this has ever been uttered at a card table before.  I looked away to the appetizer table for answers but only found more questions: how do they grow pumpkin spiced almonds?
I pulled myself away from the food to observe the action of the game as it was coming to an end and a winner would soon be crowned.

“Whoever wins this hand gets the first piece of cheesecake!”

I nearly fell off my chair. 

Men play for honor!  We play for bragging rights!  We play to conquer! 

We do not play for cheesecake!

It dawned on me at that moment that I could never in a million years write a woman character accurately.  They play cards for cheesecake for goodness sake!

That evening I went to bed and began reading Libba Bray’s Going Bovine and happened to notice she was writing from the viewpoint of a teenage boy!  This was all too weird.  Here I was just pondering how someone could possibly write from the opposite gender and Whoop here it is.

Now granted, to write from the viewpoint of a teenage boy you merely have to keep things simple, swear occasionally and have them get all squirmy whenever a girl comes near.  I know this because I lived it… I went through it… I was there!  Bray was not.  I give her credit for stepping outside herself and successfully creating an unfamiliar character.

It must have taken Bray years to write that kind of book.  I mean, I spent several uncomfortable years in the mind of a teenage boy and I never want to go back.  I can’t imagine the effort it took her to create an authentic and real character.  I spent a whole 45 minutes with a gaggle of card playing women and am pretty sure I will never be the same.  

Here's to you Libba Bray for getting in the head of the opposite gender and trying to figure out what is going on in there.  You are a brave woman.

And with this we end our lesson. Please tune in next week as we explore why women go to the restroom together.

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