I used to really care about what people thought, that is, what they thought about me, not just general day dreaming whimsical fancies. I used to worry about their opinions of me and how I came across. Then something happened, or more precisely Northanger Abbey happened. Here is a book that unapologetically juggernauts all over the gothic genre, ripping it up like a mole to freshly laid turf. And here was the reading material I was waiting for, to give me the same unshakeable faith in myself as a born again Christian.
The gothic had taken itself as a trope way too seriously for far too long... as had I. Jane Austen subverted its gloomy corridors, its damsel in distress in a white floaty dress, and its most villainous villain with gleeful abandon. I remember turning the pages secretly appalled, openly delighted, and utterly in love with Catherine Morland. Here was a heroine coming of age and learning that her fantasies were just that, fantasy... time to get real girl. Like Catherine, I was spending far too much time 'imagining' what was going on and far too little, getting on with reality. There was something so inspiring about Miss Morland not only discovering who she was, faults and all, but not being cowed by it. Screw social mores and perceived internal monologues of others, she would end up marrying who SHE wanted, because SHE wanted to, oh and she would be self deprecating and mocking along the way. I envied her wit especially her sarcastic humour, as she announced 'I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible.' And then I thought the green eyed monster becometh no one, so head in book Austen words sauved me in confidence.
Catherine is no beauty, again a wonderful subversion of gothic ideals. Instead, she is a 'Strange, unaccountable creature', and this for me this was far more exotic and intriguing. Who wants to just be ridiculously attractive and painfully dull as so many of Austen's counterparts painted their heroines? No, here was someone unabashedly different and different was exciting. Beige, vanilla, magnolia and cream I was fed up with being the choice of paint for every two up and two down. Too afraid to rock the boat I was just a good girl, head down, rubbing along nicely with the world. But, who wants to be nice? So... when life offered me the opportunity to take a risk, to leave my safe country bumpkin lifestyle for a new life, with no job in waiting, no friends for sleepovers and no family to knock on my door with homebaked goods and kind smiles... I jumped.
It wasn't easy, the first few weeks I mourned my oatmeal coloured self, but I did a Catherine, I rocked an Austen and I mocked my misery and made my own luck. I attacked jobs with a knife, jab, jab, jabbing my way in till one fitted me for size and I refused to conform. Initially, I had sought the comfort of a boyfriend to be my shield to not giving a fig. Then I realised it was not I using him rather him using me. I lost that crutch and realised my leg had never been broken in the first place, he had just made me believe it so. And so in turn I learned to give myself more credit, to ignore others perceptions and opinions and to just be me, as me, for me.
Oh Jane Austen I owe you my sass, my attitude and my truest and most honest expression of me. Is it little wonder then that you, you feisty authoress are the only female to grace our British currency ... beside the Queen of course. And well... you're clearly amongst equals there.
Post by: Lottie Keble-Wyatt