So Why Am I Writing About Girls in College?

I’ve asked myself this question a lot as I worked on my first novel, tentatively titled, Everything From You.  I mean, it’s been a while since I dragged a book bag down a long, academic corridor or paid attention to a schedule measured in 50-minute increments (not counting therapy of course).  In fact it’s been over 35 years.

If I’m going to be completely honest, then I have to admit that it’s not just the novel.  I’ve always adored teen movies of the John Hughes variety.  You know, all those films with Molly Ringwald.  And recently, my partner Jenny and I watched one of our all time favorites of this genre–Valley Girl–with a very young Nicholas Cage and an actress named Deborah Foreman, who has been long forgotten.  It has a killer soundtrack with songs like “I’ll Stop the World and Melt With You.”  Great film.  Oh, and the photo at the top of this entry.  That’s Emily and Paige from Pretty Little Liars, a show I just started watching on Netflix to help me get through the 40-minute stationary bike ride I take almost every day.  Emily is the lesbian character on the show and Paige is her girlfriend.

Is my interest in high school and college age characters more acceptable because it’s focused on lesbian characters?  Or does that just make it worse?

Valley Girl (film)

Valley Girl (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I guess it’s fair game to ask if I have a thing for younger women, especially since  Jenny is 17 years younger than me.  But she’s 40, not 20.  And believe me, I wouldn’t want to get involved with someone who’s in the midst of all that growing up drama.  I’m happy at home, with me and Jenny on opposite ends of the living room on our computers or sitting at the dining room table playing Scrabble as we split a bottle of mid-priced champagne on our anniversary.

So why write about three young lesbians in college?

I’ve always been drawn to the kind of interior changes a person undergoes  in their formative years, and how those changes can be set into motion when they are captivated by someone who, on the surface, seems like their polar opposite.  This is in essence the plot of Valley Girl.  The pretty, popular Valley Girl falls for the rough-edged, punky boy from the other side of the tracks (well, actually, Hollywood), and after the requisite rounds of push-pull, like any romance novel, they live happily ever after.  Because, you see, underneath their stereotyped exteriors, there is a similar, truer essence.  The things that really matter to each of them are the same things.  The thing that makes one roll on the floor laughing that they think no one else would find funny, well, the other one also finds funny.  It’s the unexpected connection.  The one nobody could have predicted least of all the two people involved.

While it’s true that this can happen at any age, there’s something about the quality of self-discovery involved when it occurs in young adulthood.  This is a time when you think you’ve got it all figured out when, in reality,  you know next to nothing and cover up that fact with lots of bravado.  The unexpected romance cuts through all of that and forces you to take stock of yourself and what and who you truly want in life.  That’s the coming of age arc that draws me in as a reader, a watcher and now as a writer.

The blurb for my novel is an attempt to provide a peek into this theme.  Here it is:

Stifled by her suburban Long Island home town, Robin Greene, a young lesbian, regularly escapes to the city to hang out with a group of homeless gay youth whose easy interchange of sex and friendship influences her as a developing writer.

By contrast, in Durham, North Carolina, Tracy Patterson has successfully managed her teenage life in the closet. With a fake boyfriend and perfect feminine appearance, she flies under the radar while seducing a series of older women, including her mother’s best friend.

As the summer after high school comes to a close, Robin and Tracy find themselves in the last place either wants to be–at college right outside of Boston, a new and strange environment where each is sure she will never meet anyone like herself.

As these young lesbians navigate their college years, it becomes clear that Robin and Tracy share much more than their outward differences would suggest and that each has a lot to teach the other about becoming the person she was meant to be.  Can they overcome their outer differences and find happiness together?  Or will their natural inclination to run away from love and commitment win out?

I’ll write later about where I am in the process of moving forward with the book, but I wanted the first entry on this blog to explore why I decided to look back at an age when so much can happen that can veer you off the track on which you’ve been set and onto the one where you know you need to be.