I carried a watermelon

When a friend read my upcoming A Lily Among Thorns, she pointed out that my heroine is good at everything. She said it got a little improbable.

It’s a totally fair criticism: I did originally intend Serena to be the female version of the “good at everything but feelings,” dark-pasted alpha hero.

But the hidden truth, the one I should maybe have played up a little more in the book, is that there are plenty of things Serena’s bad at. Millions of things. But, up to the point where she meets Solomon, she’s very carefully arranged her life so she only has to do things she’s good at. It’s a major limitation in her life, and something that’s always at the background of her consciousness: “If I might not be in control of my image while doing this, I can’t do it.”

I had the realization recently that I have a tendency to do the same thing. Not, obviously, to the extent that Serena does. But I really, really don’t like doing things I’m not good at. Even if I want to do them. I never learned to ride a bike because I didn’t learn when I was a kid and then when I was older everyone else already knew how and it was easier to say, “I don’t ride,” than to wobble or fall in front of friends (or strangers!). I rarely have the courage to sing karaoke or dance in public. I hate working out where other people can see.

You might notice a trend in this list: I have always thought of myself as a klutz, someone who’s good with her brain but not very coordinated or sporty. But the truth is, I love sports. I played soccer and basketball as a kid…but it wasn’t until I started fencing in middle school that I found a sport I really could love wholeheartedly.

Edwardian postcard showing a man and woman fencing

At the time, I thought I was so much happier fencing because I was better at it. Looking back, I suspect it’s because it was less awkward for me socially. The other fencers were mostly geeks like me, and because it wasn’t a team sport, no one got mad or blamed me when I lost. (Plus, come on, fencing! To a history nerd, it’s the most glamorous sport EVER.)

I’ve found myself swooning over dancing in movies lately. All kinds: tap, krumping, swing dancing, Broadway musical, ballroom, popping and locking. It just looks like so much fun!

Johnny shows Baby some basic partner dancing at the watermelon party

I can’t do that, right? I have no sense of rhythm! I’m uncoordinated! I have two left feet! I’ve never done any kind of formal dancing in my life unless you count that British folk dancing class in college where I could only really do the English country dances, not the Scottish ones, because the English ones only required me to remember where to walk and the Scottish ones required me to learn special footwork and keep a beat! I can dance at parties, but I certainly can’t dance with anyone without feeling hopelessly foolish!

And the thing is, I’ve always just thought of this as part of who I am. It’s something I’m not good at, something I can’t do. But I don’t really believe in natural talent. We’re good at things we care about enough to work at and spend time on. I’m a good writer…because I’ve been reading and writing stories consistently since I was a tiny child. I’ve never put the effort into music or dance. Partly because I was busy with other things, and partly because the other things I was busy with didn’t give me a sneaking sense of inadequacy.

I think maybe it’s time to step outside my comfort zone and sign up for some beginners’ dance lessons.

When’s the last time you did something outside your comfort zone? Did it work out? I could use some inspiration!

14 thoughts on “I carried a watermelon”

  1. I am just like you. I avoid things I’m not good at and – surprise, surprise – most of them are physical activites that require coordination.
    The only exception is bowling. I am a ridiculous bowler – I think I have a lifetime 47 average – and yet I adore it. I think if I had ever bowled in an organized way it might have killed my enjoyment or made me self-conscious but since it’s always been totally casual I’ve been able to retain my love for it.
    I am completely envious of your fencing and English Country dancing. The dancing scenes are what I watch obsessively in every Regency adaptation.
    And to close with something totally off-topic, your subject line puts me in mind of Jim Allodi. ALWAYS A GOOD THING. *g*
    <3 Ande

    1. Jim Allodi IS always a good thing! I am very impressed by your love of bowling. I am also terrible at it and so I HATE it! It is TORTURE for me. I guess I can enjoy it in a context where everyone else is also terrible at it? But if anyone is really good OR if anyone tries to give me tips, it kills it right away. I do love bowling shoes though.

  2. Hmmm… Well, I have a couple of options for examples. I signed up for a photography class this spring with my fancy new camera so I would have some clue what the settings did, and therefore maybe use them. When we showed up, it turned out that there was a earlier class that maybe technically I should have been in, along with one other woman in the class. It worked out perfectly though, because so much of the class hadn’t had a formal class on some of the settings we just did a really quick overview before going out to shoot. The good thing about classes is that you’re not expected to know how to do the things in the class yet. They are supposed to teach you. 🙂 The dance classes I’ve taken have all pretty much been beginners, and if you’re trying and having fun, you’re fine.
    The other thing, which I’m still a little nervous about, I signed up to do NaNoWriMo this year! I’m reminding myself to take deep breaths and that if you’ve had fun, that’s what matters.
    I hope you sign up for a class and have a great time!

    1. Eeek! NaNoWriMo definitely intimidates me, although I know a lot of people love it. What I’ve heard is that it’s really good for getting your inner editor to shut up. Good luck!
      Photography is another thing that always looked really cool. Is it a digital camera or film?

      1. This one is a digital SLR. It made the class a lot more interactive because you could see the picture right after you took it. 🙂 Lots of fun.

  3. Trying something that you are uncomfortable with can be very challenging, like say learning to drive when you are “older”, but think of the possible liberating feeling that you could achieve. Sometimes can can’t be “good” at something but you can appreciate the thing you are trying to do better. Years ago my wife and I took up kayaking and got a great appreciation for the outdoors. I never became a dashing outdoorsman but I did learn to appreciate the great outdoors of the northwest.

    1. Yes, and I learned to drive with such grace under pressure! Still, I do like driving. Do you guys still kayak? That sounds like fun!

      1. We just bought a boat hear in Hawaii. (Pictures on facebook).
        Think of the freedom that driving gave you? And you did show grace, and you are more responsible than most! As far as natural talent, surprisingly my favorite students were always the one that had to work the hardest (maybe that is something I shared with them) to finish. I can also remember when I was a kid I learned to fly, I soloed when I was 16 and got my license when I was 17, yet a more nerdy kid never existed. I also skydived 3 times. These things gave me great confidence. Anyway those are great memories!

        1. Aw, thanks!
          Whoa, you can fly a plane?? That’s intense!
          I have to admit skydiving is the sort of physical thing I would never do, not because I don’t have the confidence but because I don’t enjoy that type of thrill. I don’t even like roller coasters and they are way less scary!

          1. As far as skydiving, that was part of my youth, I think I was 22 and I did it with two different sets of friends. For years we could get together and whenever we talked about what we did we would just have the most intense conversation about it except it was mostly non-verbal, just a bunch of “yeahs”, “wow”, etc. Just to intense for words! Anyway you should think about dance, maybe not skydiving.

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