“Ce visage, je ne peux meme pas decider s’il est beau ou laid”

dec 30 “Ce visage, je ne peux meme pas decider s’il est beau ou laid”When I was 13 I would write what would eventually become an enormous manuscript – a tragedy that took place during the never-ending Saskatchewan winter.

This was before I knew what a blog was. This was when teachers still allowed you to submit hand-written essays and this manuscript was entirely hand-written. And also, at 13, this was well before I ever learned French or had been introduced to Jean Paul Sartre.

I wanted to document, at that time, the daily dread I felt, what Sartre calls “the Nausea” – I wanted to contribute to literature a voice and a story I hadn’t been able to find – the internal struggle of a girl who’d just discovered what agency was and realized she was being barred from it.

Looking back now, it seems apparent I was also maybe suffering from a form of depression. Then again, maybe I had good reason to be depressed – every girl around me – and myself included – was infantilized. We were teens, but we were expected to dress, speak and behave as “girls,” which meant cheery, polite, interested in our outward appearances, so long as we dressed conservative and pretty (I dressed in cut-offs and pajama bottoms as a form of rebellion, which really only served to isolate me from most of the girls). We were encouraged to voice our opinions, but only those opinions that were pretty were validated.

When I expressed anything dark or sad it was admonished. My mom wouldn’t let me hand in a writing assignment where the protagonist was locked in a dungeon for 18 years because she was worried my teacher might think I was being abused at home. When I told my teacher I felt sad all the time, he said that was just puberty (which might have been good for me to hear – it was the closest anyone ever came to saying I was “normal”).

A lot of teenagers’ writing is dark – it’s a shitty time: being able to understand the concept of freedom and knowing you are nowhere close to grasping it. And yet, expressing those feelings, as a young girl in particular, are shocking to a lot of people.

I was “supposed” to be happy. Why wasn’t I happy? Why did I feel depressed? Why did my life lack the lustre of all my idolized literary heroines? What was wrong with me? I must have asked that question dozens of times a day.

I finally tore it up, my manuscript that is. I don’t know if Sartre ever re-read his work and determined it was too dark, but I was embarrassed by my writing – it was depressing and if I continued to write this way I would never contribute anything to literature, I thought. So I fed the whole thing, every last verse, poem and paragraph – what I had spent the better part of my 8th grade year writing, through the paper shredder.

When I would begin to write from a personal point of view again, probably with Raquel’s Rant, a blog I started in university, it was always tongue-in-cheek, satirical or humorous. I could write about a young woman’s personal experience, but only if people could laugh at it – because who would ever take a young woman seriously?