Conformity as a Survival Technique

1a4492521bd2a453e6854372f4567f05Parenthood has a way of making you revisit your own childhood. I was never one of the popular girls. Fifth through eighth grades were a nightmare that I survived by retreating to my room with a book. When my two daughters got to that stage in their young lives, I was terrified for them. I wished I could guide them through the land mines of gossip and mean girls, but I hadn’t learned any tricks in the intervening twenty years.

I read all the books I could find and used my psychology background to try to help my eldest daughter. She didn’t fare much better than I did. She keep her head down and got through it with only minor scarring. My youngest daughter, on the other hand, figured it out. She realized she didn’t need the mean girls to like her or accept her as part of the clique, she needed them to not target her. She came home one day with a list of accouterments to make her blend into the herd. In her middle school, camouflage was a Vera Bradley bag, tan Sperrys, skinny jeans, Hollister t-shirts, and long hair. I was resistant to her plan. She’s a beautiful, bright girl. I wanted her to celebrate her individuality, not hide behind a facade of conformity. She was right. I was wrong. She sailed through middle school without any major traumas. She had a few close friends that were nice kids and the mean girls left her alone.

So why am I telling you this? What does this have anything to do with my writing life? My daughter’s experience made me reconsider the way I do things myself. Was I making myself a target for the adult version of the mean girls (more on that in Queen Bees) in the PTA? Should I outwardly conform and save myself a lot of grief? When I started writing Overlook, I decided that conformity would be a cornerstone of Kitty’s personality. She doesn’t know who she is anymore. She dresses the way her husband likes her to, she eats what he likes, she worships where he tells her to. Kitty blends into the crowd of other Overlook moms, The Lookers. She does whatever the people in her life tell her to do, at least until her husband pushes her just a little too far.