women’s self-image

Weekly Wrap: Making a Difference in 2008

by Susan Henderson on January 3, 2008

We spent New Year’s with our friends who, if anything tragic ever happens to Mr. Henderson and me, will take custody of our kids. It’s a house full of sarcasm, heckling, eye-rolling, laughter, and elementary school kids drinking coffee on the weekends. In other words, we approve.

Our friends have three daughters, and they are probably the closest thing our boys will ever have to cousins. The kids all woke up New Year’s Day, built a fort that used every blanket and pillow in the house, and hid underneath with walkie talkies, announcing Code Red alerts whenever they saw a grown-up. It was the girls’ idea, but inside the fort, they decided to eat sardines and anchovies for their first meal of the new year. This small detail will become important later when I explain my resolution for 2008.


I spent most of 2007 holed up in my writing cave. I was pretty much unavailable to my neighbors – always rushing, always trying to get out of a conversation and back to my book. I went on vacations with my laptop, sat in the living room with papers between me and my family. The focus was great for the book, but this year I want to look outward. I want to be more present about what’s going on around me, and I want to take the time to be sure the decisions I make day-to-day reflect my beliefs.

I’m going to share with you two personal decisions I made last year that I’m going to keep up in 2008. First, I completely gave up bottled water. And more specifically, Fruit2O, which I bought by the case every week at Costco. I bought all that Fruit2O, thinking it was a good thing to drink more water (especially if it was peach and grape flavored) – but the benefit to me left a lot of plastic waste for all of you. So now it’s water in a glass; and when I play soccer, I take a thermos.

If you think you’re seeing blond highlights, they’re not blond.

The other personal commitment I made is not to dye my hair, despite the constant pressure I get from my hairdresser. He loves to point out all the gray and thinks the world would be better if I had highlights. I tell him I think the gray is sexy. Besides, I earned those gray hairs. But I have other reasons. One is environmental. Those chemicals are terrible for the environment, not to mention the folks breathing them in on the spot. My second reason is financial. There’s not a lot of cash left over once the Hendersons pay their bills, and that money can go to Nature Conservancy or hair dye. Spending it on my hair would, frankly, make me feel shallow and hypocritical. How can I say I believe in one thing and then go do another? But the main reason I resolve not to dye my hair has to do with the girls eating anchovies and sardines in the fort.

Right now, those girls are smart and bold. They’re making forts. They’re doing spy duty. They stand with their hands on their hips and tell you their opinions. They know who Barack Obama is. They know why their grandpappy had to sneak out of Hungary when he was eight. They have big ideas about what they want to be and how the world could be better. Thirty years from now, the last thing I hope for these girls is that they’re standing in front of the mirror, criticizing their looks, and putting all their extra time and money into hair dye and wrinkle cream. There are more important things for smart and fiesty anchovies-for-breakfast types to do with their futures. I’ve thought about this all week, and I’m convinced that we do a disservice to young girls when we panic about looking older.

It’s not that I’m not panicked. If you want to feel shitty about the way you look, open any magazine, look at any ad.

I did a little Google search to see the difference between Hollywood looks and normal people looks. Here’s 40 in Hollywood and some 40 year old who posted her photo on a dating site.

Hollywood 50; normal 50:

Hollywood 60, and a lady I’ll bet has never considered plastic surgery or face creams:

It’s damn hard to grow old gracefully in this country, but what if we take this burden off the little girls of today by talking less about our looks and spending less time trying to pretend we’re still twenty? (It’s not like we’re fooling anyone!)

We all know it’s the heart that matters. But how many of us, in the daily choices we make, are spending our time, energy and money on what we believe?

Imagine if these ten-year-old girls, when they are my age, are so perfectly content with the natural changes that happen in their bodies that they spend their time pursuing dreams bigger than trying to achieve Hollywood beauty? Imagine if the magazines were full of normal women? And rather than ads about diets and Botox and plastic surgery, imagine if there were articles on these young women as they run for President or create great architecture or write great literature?

I’m not saying it’s easy to lose the crutch of beauty, but I do believe it’s my generation’s responsibility to change the message we’re sending to young girls. Just a thought.


One last thing. Speaking of heart…

If you already know Patry Francis, I don’t need to tell you what a wise and generous writer she is. If you don’t know her yet, take a trip over to her blog, Simply Wait, where she writes about her life with inspiring, unsentimental candor.

Patry is one of the pillars in the writers community, who knows the long haul of writing a book and taking those rejections and reworking the book and knocking on doors – and somehow, even experiencing these blows, she manages to show grace and compassion and joy. One of the best thrills I know is to see folks who are both great writers and great souls get their breaks in the business. So when it happens to someone you love, someone you’ve been rooting for, and during the time of celebration, you find out they got diagnosed with cancer, what do you do?

If we could cure her, we would. We have to leave that to the doctors. But can we take up the job of promoting her book so she can focus on getting better? Yes, we can!

This is where you come in!

On January 29th, THE LIAR’S DIARY will be released in paperback. And we’re holding a huge, joint-effort blogging day for all those who want to show support for Patry, for cancer survivors, for writers helping writers, and for the strength and spirit of the blogging community.

I’ll tell you how. On January 29th, use your blog, your MySpace page, your Publishers Marketplace page, whatever you’ve got, big or small, and point people in the direction of Patry’s book. You can even come to LitPark on the 29th and copy whatever I’ve posted and use it verbatim on your own blog. There will be photos, promotional videos, free books for folks who’d like to write reviews.

Just to give you a very small idea of what you’ll see on the 29th, I’d like to thank the folks who have already stepped forward to help: Laura Benedict, who came up with the idea. Patry’s editor at Dutton, Julie Doughty. Her agent at the Jean Naggar Literary Agency, Alice Tasman. Her publicist, Laurie Connors. Eileen Hutton at Brilliance Audio. Dan Conaway from Writers House. Jeff Kleinman at Folio Literary Management. Eve Bridburg at Zachary Shuster Harmsworth literary agency. And…

Mario Acevedo
Susan Adrian
Samina Ali
Christa Allan
Joelle Anthony
Jorge Argueta
Melanie Avila
Tricia Ares
Terry Bain
Gail Baker – The Debutante Ball
Anjali Banerjee
Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Elizabeth Bartasius
Carolyn Burns Bass
Brett Battles
Laura Benedict
Pinckney Benedict
Janet Berliner
William Bernhardt
Alexander Besher
Marcie Beyatte
Brenda Birch
Roberto Bonazzi
Raven Bower
Laura Bowers
Beatrice Bowles
Tara Bradford
Gayle Brandeis
Stacy Brazalovich
Susan Breen – Gotham Writers Workshops
Heather Brewer
Eve Bridburg – Zachary Shuster Harmsworth
Sassy Brit
Heatheraynne Brooks
Josie Brown
Pat Brown
Ruth Brown
Ken Bruen
Rachel Kramer Bussel
Aldo Calcagno
Austin S. Camacho
Bill Cameron
Lorenzo Carcaterra
Vincent Carrella
Karen DeGroot Carter
Rosemary Carstens
Cynthia Clark – Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine
Jon Clinch
Kamela Cody
Oline H. Cogdill – Sun-Sentinal
Tish Cohen
Eileen Cruz Coleman
Laurie Connors – Penguin
Eileen Cook
Richard Cooper
David Corbett
Auria Cortes
Bill Crider – Pop Culture Magazine
Kim Cristofoli
Ann Mare Cummins
Sheila Curran
Kristie Cutter
Jordan Dane
Josephine Damian
Daryl Darko
A.J. Davis
Kelli Davis
Alyssa Day
Alma Hromic Deckert
Jim DeFelice
Mike Dellosso
Katrina Denza
Bella DePaulo
Karen Dionne
Felicia Donovan
Julie Doughty – Dutton
Gerry Doyle
Firoozeh Dumas
Christine Eldrin
J.T. Ellison – Killer Year
Sheila Clover English – Circle of Seven Productions
Kate Epstein – the Epstein Literary Agency
Kathryn Esplin
Rachel Fershleiser at SMITH Magazine
Ryan Field
Michael A. FitzGerald
William Floyd
Natasha Fondren
Jamie Ford
Connie May Fowler
Heather Fowler
Therese Fowler
Jenifer Fox
Thaisa Frank
Michelle Gable
Gary Gach
Leighton Gage
Neil Gaiman
Colin Galbraith
Jayson Gallaway
Jane Ganahl – Red Room
Erika-Marie S. Geiss
Linda Gerber
Shane Gericke
Tess Gerritsen
Karin Gillespie
Anne Glamore
Kathi Kamen Goldmark
Jewelle Gomez
Susan Helene Gottfried
Deborah Grabien
Elizabeth Graham
Caroline Grant
Robin Grantham
Bob Gray – Shelf Awareness
Nancy O. Greene
Robert Grudin
Lisa Guidarini
David Habbin
Jim Hanas
Lynette Hart
Melanie Harvey
Michael Haskins
Melanie Lynn Hauser
Bill Hayes
Susan Henderson
Heidi the Hick
Georgia Hesse
Billie Hinton
Vicki Hinze
Lori Hope
Khaled Hosseini
Eileen Hutton – Brilliance Audio
Gina Hyams
International Thriller Writers
David Isaak
Susan Ito
Lisa Jackson
Arachne Jericho
Allison Johnson
Jen Jordan – Crimespree
Jungle Red Writers
Lesley Kagen
Polly Kahl
Jessica Keener
Charles Kelly
Lisa Kenny
Jackie Kessler
Merle Kessler
Kristy Kiernan – Southern Authors Blog
A.S. King
Jeff Kleinman – Folio Literary Management
Sandra Kring
R.D. Laban
Rebecca Laffar-Smith – Writers Roundabout
Clair Lamb
Daphne Larkin
Judy Merrill Larson
Caroline Leavitt
Virginia Lee
Leslie Levine
Mary Lewis
Richard Lewis
Sharon Linnea
Julie Anne Long
CJ Lyons
Jonathan Maberry
Amy MacKinnon – The Writers Group
Tim Maleeny
Ric Marion
Nancy Martin
Adrienne Mayor
L.C. McCabe
Ellen Meister
Christa Miller
Kyle Minor
Jacquelyn Mitchard
P. A. Moed
Terri Molina
Pat Montandon
David Montgomery
Alexis Moore
Joe Moore – Inkspot
Amanda Morgan
Sarie Morrell
Amy Nathan
Tia Nevitt
Carolyn North
Martha O’Connor
Andrea Okrentowich
Lori Olivia
Aimee Palooza
Michael Palmer
Stephen Parrish
Marie Peck
Marcia Peterson – WOW! Women on Writing
Jason Pinter
Anthony S. Policastro
Douglas Preston
Terese Ramin
Jody Reale
Janet Reid – FinePrint Literary Management
Kamilla Reid
Lance Reynald
Michelle Richmond
Maria Robinson
John Robison
James Rollins
M.J. Rose – Buzz, Balls & Hype
Renee Rosen
Jordan Rosenfeld
Russell Rowland
Anneli Rufus
Hank Ryan
Marcus Sakey
Harris Salat -Visual Thesaurus
Rachel Sarah
Maria Schneider – Writer’s Digest Magazine
Nina Schuyler
Dani Shapiro
Rochelle Shapiro
Charles Shaughnessy
Jessie Sholl
Robert Siegel
Clea Simon
Lynn Sinclair
Shelley Singer
Sisters in Crime
Robin Slick
BPM Smith – Word & Bass
Bridget Smith
Claudia Smith
Kim Smith
Stephie Smith
Alexandra Sokoloff
Char Solomon
James Spring
Emilie Staat
Maryanne Stahl
Bella Stander
Kelli Stanley
Marta Stephens
Bronwyn Storm
Jennifer Talty
Judith Tannenbaum
Mindy Tarquini
Charles R. Temple
The Outfit
David Thayer
Joyce Tremel
Danielle Trussoni
Louise Ure
N. L. Valler
Barbara Vey – Publishers Weekly
Bev Vincent
Brenda Wallace
Therese Walsh – Writer Unboxed
John Warner – Tow Books
Gary Wassner
Brenda Webster
Sarah Weinman
Kimberly M. Wetherell
Dan Wickett – Emerging Writers Network
Jennifer Weiner
Laura Wellner
Susan Wiggs
Liz Wolfe
Cheryl Wyatt
Stephen Wylder
Irvin Yalom
Belle Yang
Dawn Yun
Michele Zackheim
Victoria Zackheim
Ernie Zelinski
Crystal Zevon

And you, too, right? I will link everyone on this list and anyone else who drops me a note in the comments section, telling me you plan to participate on the 29th.

Okay, then. I just wanted to give you a heads-up so you could join the fun!


Thank you to this week’s guest, Anthony Marais, and to all who played here. And thank you to everyone who linked to LitPark this week: Xujun Eberlein’s Inside-Out China: A Literary and Cultural Blog, The Very Hot Jews, She Shoots to Conquer. I appreciate those links!