The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Friday, October 19, 2012

Like the Layers of an Onion, So Are the Facets of Our Lives

      Yesterday I led some middle school students in a session at a  writing workshop.  Each young writer got a small mirror tile. I spoke about the layers of an onion--the outer crackly-paper skin, so delicate and thin. Then I dug into the onion with my fingernails as we discussed how we are like the onion...we have an outer, fragile layer which covers layer after layer. Some of those layers are so private, no one sees them. Others we share with our family, our friends, our loved ones.

photo by faygate
           The students used the mirror tiles to look at parts of their faces. They were instructed to imagine...If someone saw them walking down the street, and saw their eyes, their mouth, their nose, their hair...what judgements would they make? What kind of labels would they come up with?

        We discussed teenagers, and the stereotypes teens are burdened with. We discussed football players, African Anmericans (especially African American males), students from expensive private schools and the erroneous conclusions people jump to when they encounter them---we had them all in our community of writers

        The students then wrote--prose or poetry--about the surface them compared to the real person underneath the surface. Some of them began with "People think I'm....but really, I'm...." One writer created an interesting "checklist," with checkmarks in the boxes of things she really was, and Xs in the boxes of things that people thought about her but were incorrect. We then shared  our pieces (some of us) and I put in a plug for NaNoWriMo. 

       Two of the writers had earned an a field trip to an amusement park for the same day--due to being on the Honor Roll--but chose writing instead. How cool was that?

       Here is what I wrote as we all sat and created together:

You see someone fat, frumpy...
But deep down inside,
I'm really a skydiving,
Breaking Bad-watching woman.

You judge me,
calling me old,
calling me out of touch.
But under the surface
is a tattooed semi-radical,
a Sons of Anarchy fanatic
left behind from the 60's.

You envision me as slow-moving,
lethargic--part of the primordial ooze
I perhaps rose up from?
But try to tred on my passion,
try to smother my fire...
and you'll see.  

       What do people think when they see you? When strangers see you on the street, when someone hears you read your writing out loud but has never met you, what impressions do they form? What kind of "mask" do you wear, and what lies under the surface?

       Come on--share. It's safe. We're all writers 'round here...