Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Day My Calculus Class Was Mortified

I'm saving my trip into the garbage can for a later date because the day my calculus class was mortified is more relevant to my current work.

In it, are two girls who are extremely close and as I was writing it, I thought their relationship could be construed as lesbian-y (Not that there's anything wrong with that. I just hadn't intended that type of relationship for this particular work.) My agent disagreed, saying teenage girls are like that: always sitting in each other's laps, hugging, kissing on the cheek, etc, which is true. I did that, and consequently several people, most of my Calculus class, thought my friend Vanessa and I were in a romantic relationship.

It probably didn't help that we both had trendy short hair cuts, or wore ratty jeans and t-shirts most days. And I'm sure it didn't help when she sat in my lap one class because there was a hair on her seat, but there was one event in particular that clinched it.

Keep in mind, Vanessa and I were the oddballs in Calculus. We were more social, hung with a different crowd and were probably the only two in there to have seen the inside of the detention room. I feel we kept the class lively, and because of our outwardness, we were often used as an example.

One lesson, our teacher explained a problem on the board using a drawing similar to the one below:

"Let's say Rachel is standing on top of a cliff and Vanessa is down below in a boat--"

He didn't get further than that because Vanessa burst out...

"Why does Rachel always get to be on top?"

The entire class exploded into laughter, but many of them had an "I knew it look" in their eyes. When we went to Calculus Camp (yes I went to Calculus Camp, don't judge) our cabinmate Christina tried to force us to tell her we were dating.

So if there's such a fine line between two very close friends and two people who want to be "more than friends", how can we as writers, distinguish these two types of relationships? Where do the lines between them start to blur and is it okay to let them blur? Think about it and think about why two characters are just friends or more than friends. What does one get from the other? How do others perceive them? How does your reader perceive them? Real relationships are multifaceted, and your characters' relationships should be too.


Brigid Kemmerer said...

Don't feel bad about calculus camp. I went to physics camp before my senior year of high school. And I was EXCITED to go.

This is a great post. When I was in my early twenties, I had a big diesel pickup truck. I was constantly with my friend Erin, and since I was generally fresh off the farm (work boots and all), I'm SURE people thought we were lesbians. Because Tamar is right: girls are always leaning on each other, touching each other, things like that. I'm a little more distant than that, but even still, I have no problem with a hug or a peck on the cheek -- even from a complete stranger.

Rachel Menard said...

Ha! I wasn't excited to go to Calculus Camp but I survived it. We had a dance at the end. Talk about awkward! Did you have a dance?

Brigid Kemmerer said...

OMG, no, we didn't have a dance. Seriously awkward!!