An old shoot for a lookbook. The other model informed me that "only one girl can win" when a shoot features two models. I just thought, "Oh boy, Gloria Steinem! We need you! Someone shine the bat light over Gotham!" The following story proves my point even more.
"Let them win."
That's what the librarian with Hermione Granger's curls and Harry Potter's glasses was hissing at me from the wings of Union Hall's basement's stage. Me? I was centerstage, under the spotlight, absolutely owning the two guys on either side of me in the "Guess the Pseudonym" category of the Librarian Olympics.
Wild times, I know. But hey, it was a Thursday night in Brooklyn, and I was pregnant.
The dramatic irony of the situation didn't escape me despite three factors: my stage fright, how much the MC's crazy suggestion enraged me, and, most of all, despite the fact I was so focused on ABSOLUTELY NOT letting the two men I was competing with win anyway. Because...
Well, just because. I've always been competitive. Even six-months pregnant on a Thursday night in Brooklyn.
The total craziness of what the Contender for the World's Worst Feminist was saying didn't fully sink in until later. My husband and I had combed the paper for events sponsored by the Brooklyn Book Festival. Although I'm not a librarian, and I wasn't sure we'd be welcome, we were. Still, it was mostly a librarian crew in attendance in that very cool space below Union Hall's bocce courts, recently profiled in the New York Times here.
And when I say cool, I mean it was an uber-Brooklyn event par excellence with judges like David Rees, author and proprietor of an artisanal pencil sharpening joint.
And I am not making that up. http://artisanalpencilsharpening.com/)
I enjoyed watching and not participating in events like "Name That Novel" based on covers of books with the titles removed, if memory serves. I do clearly remember there was one guy who knew absolutely everything, and everyone knew him. They were all cheering him on. All of 'em-- Miss "Let 'Em Win, too. And he didn't once pull back or let someone else win or "shrink himself and make himself smaller" to paraphrase Chimamanda Ngozi Adicihie's "We Should All Be Feminists". Luckily for me (or maybe luckily for him), that guy didn't volunteer for the "Guess the Pseudonym" category hosted by Carmela Ciuraru, author of Nom de Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms, but I did. Naturally, that's a category I know a little about, especially considering my personal experience with the phenomenon. (I first used a male-ish pseudonym when I was first writing.)
In some ways, I regret not sticking with that male-ish name: Izzy David. Especially when I read what I read today. After I couldn't remember Carmela Ciuraru's name, I Googled pseudonyms and authors. These are the depressing stories a Google search brought up:
"Want to Be a Successful Writer? Be a Man".
And "Why Women Writers Still Take Men's Names"
Actually, I'm not depressed. It's only 2016. We have a whole bright century ahead of us, ladies (and gentleman, too, because I doubt you want your daughters-- or granddaughters-to-be-- to let the men win, either.). And I'm glad I switched to my actual name. I'm proud of my work, and I'm proud to be part of a positive change in the world and its perception of women. I do believe it's coming yet! When man to woman the world o'er will brothers and sister be yet. (To paraphrase Robert Burns this time). There is a difference, slight as it feels sometimes. Charlotte Bronte HAD to write under a male pseudonym. Her publisher told her it wasn't proper to publish books written by women.
"Proper" being 19th century speak for "let the men win."
And maybe I owe that MC a favor, too. Maybe, what with my tongue-tied tendencies, I wouldn't have owned those two guys quite so easily, even though it was a subject dear to my heart, if that other librarian hadn't told me to let them win.
It isn't only men who like a challenge. Fueled by rage, my shyness evaporated.
Over my dead body was I going to lose.
I didn't. And, best of all, the two men, the audience, and Carmen were not only totally fine with it. I'd entertained everyone with how thoroughly I showed only a woman could win at what was, in effect, a woman's game.
So that's the moral of the story. Also, if you're a man reading this, please pick up a book by a woman. If you want grit, there's Katherine Boo's stellar reporting in Beyond the Beautiful Forevers. Try Nancy Mitford's biography of Frederick the Great if you're thirsting for military adventures or Connie Willis if you're thirsting for sci-fi. She's won eleven Hugo Awards and seven Nebula Awards, and I've never heard a fanboy (or girl for that matter) utter her name. For more on women's voices in fiction, theater, and the world, please check out my book of poems here, available soon from Finishing Line Press or Amazon:. Or this piece about juggling writing and mommying published in the perspectives section of Easy Street Mag here.
I'm a busy mommy of two and a writer who loves fashion. I also want to teach myself and my children to care for and love the environment! I don't have the energy or time to be as 100% perfect as I'd like to be about my carbon footprint, but I'm trying to do the best I can. For example, I switched to a vegetarian diet (with a little bit of fish thrown in for now-- ah I cannot live without fish tacos!--), walk when I don't have to drive, wear as many sustainably made or secondhand clothes as I can, and recycle in other ways, too. Follow me as I try (at least 50% of the time) to strike a balance between the two-- mothering and writing, shopping and sustainability. You can also follow me on Twitter or Instagram @IsabellaMDavid.