Yesterday my friend Little Miss Law talked about what’s on her nightstand: The Man of My Dreams, the latest book by Curtis Sittenfeld. LML talked me into reading Sittenfeld’s first novel, Prep, a few months ago. It’s a thinking-girl’s chick-lit novel about an awkward girl who feels like a misfit at an elite boarding school. I am, currently, completely awash in listening to The Corrections as I knit (it’s so insanely wonderful that I don’t think I can even talk about it until I’ve finished) but I read the cloth-and-paper version of Prep at the beginning of the summer, devouring it almost in a single sitting.
I read the book months ago, but it is still haunting me, and that’s always a sure sign of a great book and of trouble. It made me horribly uncomfortable because it felt so shamefully familiar, peeling back ancient scar tissue and poking at the still-sore places underneath. Most of my boarding-school girlfriends read the book too. Although there is some variation among those of us who “liked” the novel and those who didn’t, we all agree that it was fairly affecting and somewhat difficult to read. The hardest part for me about the book was the sad stubbornness of the main character, Lee. She’s so afraid of herself, so rigid about not wanting to stand out, and it reminded me too dearly of my own flaws.
I have a brittle lack of confidence that I cling to, almost as a security blanket. I’m terrified of being disappointed and as a result I’m fairly risk-averse and I steel myself against the let-down feeling by trying to never want, hope for or expect anything. Even waiting for news about my super-stressful, super-scary work project, I knew in my gut that it would be ok, but I was too scared to believe it. I kept telling myself what my contingency plan would be, in case of failure. The Baron and I had a little bit of trouble yesterday because even though I know what his feelings are for me, I have a hard time really believing and trusting – I keep making my secret preparations for that moment that I’ll be disappointed. Even worse, I keep my expectations at a bare minimum – without expectation there can be no disappointment. It’s a hard way to live, and I credit Sittenfeld’s incredible writing for bringing this painful side of myself out of the darkness where it huddles, feeding on me.
Tomorrow: Back to knitting with the long-awaited Frost Flowers & Leaves round-up post, complete with photos.