The Story of the Pretty Girl

When the pretty girl was seven a new girl came to school. She was from France. Her mother was chic with one side of her hair cut short and the other long. The pretty girl adored the French girl and her French mother and fell in love with France. She promised herself she would go to France one day. When she was 14 she began to learn French. When she was 19 she went to Paris and stayed seven years, studying music, singing and other arts.

I met the pretty girl tonight at a French conversation group. She's probably about 30 now, and her French was very very good, unsurprisingly, and she was very sweet. I also met a young man who has been studying mushrooms for 18 months. He rents a garage on the North Side, which he heats, and where he grows mushrooms. And a man who teaches ESL in a school and is frustrated because the parents of one Mexican girl know that she can't hear very well but have never gotten her hearing testing. The school is pushing for her to get hearing aids.

I've written before here about the strangeness of speaking a foreign language with people you don't know. How odd that this person and that are able to understand your non-English. How much easier it is to disclose in your non-native language. What I want to talk about now is how we package ourselves and our life stories. You can read about this in journals of biographical theory. You can present Exhibit A (French girl) and B (her sophisticated mother) and Intangible Exhibit C (the desire to go to France) and it all makes sense. But of course the pretty girl's life is more complicated. We like reading stories because there's causality. We like reading biographies because we learn that X and Y inexorably led to Z. It's the inexorableness that we crave. As historian and biographical theorist Hayden White says: "...there has been a reluctance to consider historical narratives as what they most manifestly are: verbal fictions, the contents of which are as much invented as found..." How I came to this country. Why I want this job. How I chose my major. Why I became a nurse. How Abraham Lincoln became Abraham Lincoln.

How I got cancer? A loose mess. Maybe environment (Which? Houston? Chicago? asthma medicine? plastic cups? hormones in milk?), maybe chance (This little cell got bored and decided to expand?), maybe lack of children, maybe maybe maybe...

The story of cure (of polio, smallpox) is so satisfying. Problem, solution involving heroics, the end. The story of prevention is not a story. It is lack of story. Prevention is invisible. It does not wear a pink ribbon. It does not go for four-day walks to develop its endurance. Prevention can be tracked, but it is always messy: what caused the lower rate of X and Y and Z? Peut-etre ca, peut-etre ca...

2 comments:

webs said...

There are people that have cancer and than there are people that are cancer.

viagra online said...

What lovely story! I wonder if you have more stuff like this in your blog! it would be so nice!