When I was a teenager, I read The Notebook and became
obsessed with it. It was the first book I managed to read before its
movie came out, and it was only the second contemporary adult novel
I’d ever been able to finish, so I felt very grown-up about it. My
obsession with the book led me to all of the special feature-like materials that went along with it, one of which was an interview with Nicholas
Sparks. In that interview, he said something that’s stuck with me
The interviewer had already asked the obligatory questions about
where the inspiration for the book had come from, blah, blah, but
then he asked how Sparks had managed to write a novel that
represented voices of the young and the old, male and female, etc…
Sparks explained that he started with the assumption that all people
think and feel in basically the same ways. Of course he wasn’t
implying that everyone comes to the same conclusions about
everything, because you need only turn on Fox News to find evidence
to the contrary. What he was implying (I think) is that writing is
about revealing and honoring the human element in any situation.
are two extremes that go along with this and both of them are wrong. We
ought not to assume that others are just like us, nor should we
assume they are completely different from us. The way I’m currently thinking about it is sort of like one of my pet peeves about Barbies. Have you ever thought about how Barbies are all exactly the same size? Forget the fact that their bodies are stupidly unrealistic… they’re all unrealistic in exactly the same way, and they can all share all of their clothes. I’m pretty jealous of that, because it seems like there are very few people I can share clothes with. Point? Barbies are the same, but different. They all have the same structure, but it looks different on each of them. Some of them have brown hair, or skin; some have weird purple eyes or weirdly bendable legs, but they’re still basically the same thing.
It’s the same with people; even though emotions and thoughts manifest themselves differently on each of us, they’re sitting on the same basic, human structure.
reason I bring all of this up has to do with a conversation I had a
few weeks ago that I’m still thinking about. During the conversation, I felt like a friend was misperceiving my structure so extremely that I felt the need to say, “I’m
just a normal person.” I even felt a little Shakespearean about it… “If you prick me, do I not bleed?” I didn’t say that, but it might have fit the moment.
friend I was talking to seemed caught up on the differences between
us, and it reminded me of what Sparks said in his interview. My default tends to be the “We’re completely different” paradigm, and I think my friend was caught up in that paradigm right then too. It’s a really sucky paradigm for everyone involved becaus it puts people onto teams.
Which reminds me of Comicon.
I know that’s silly, but just stick with me. I really struggled not to hate everyone at Comicon this year (see this post for more details). But the reason I felt that way was because I was starting from the assumption that I was different from them. I was among the initiated. I mean, come on – I’ve read Transmetropolitan, so I’m obviously in the club. I’ve been to four – count them – one, two, three, FOUR previous cons. Also, I call it a con. I am on team “I Deserve to be Here”, and all of those teenagers clearly aren’t, so they should go home and play a little more D & D so they can eventually join the club. They obviously haven’t put in enough time yet.