Stereotyping

My Norwegian grandfather came to America with a large number of other immigrants in the late 1800s. Within America today there are still immigrants, many coming from different lands than in the 1800s and early 1900s. No doubt most of them come for a better financial future, the same reason for coming as those from my grandfather’s era.

Part of my job is to teach social skills to high school students within a high school of many cultures. The reason I decided to teach stereotyping as part of good social skills program is because I’ve heard too much of it at school this year. Violence can result from saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, perhaps more so with teenagers who can be impulsive (sorry, I’m stereotyping here).

School is not the only place stereotyping takes place; let’s look at our books, what we watch on television and at the movies. To their credit, they have a smaller space to make information known, a shorter time slot to make a point. For example, mentally ill people in the movies are often a villain. All mentally ill people are not villains. Also, if the director wants to portray a character that is not the sharpest tack in the box, you may see a pretty blonde with wide eyes trying to understand a conversation. Yet, all blondes are not dumb. Another example seen in books, on television, or in the movies is if you want someone in the scene to be a tech whiz, you may describe a male with glasses and pens in his front pocket to portray this character. Not so often is the pretty blonde woman the tech whiz. As a matter of fact, on my way home from work last week I saw a van with the name, Geeks to the Rescue, embossed on the side. Perhaps Blondes to the Rescue would be their second choice for a name. 

 Sure, many don’t think too much about all this, don’t make a fuss about a blonde joke in front of a room full of people whether there is a blonde in the room or not. But it can be more serious than this. If I clump together a race or a country with certain traits, I could have a problem if I offend a person within that group, which is what I am trying to teach at school and what I am trying not to do when I write a story.

Writing Inspiration

What inspires you to write? Is it a place, a special setting, purpose, thought, or character? At one time I thought I had the perfect setting for a suspense story. For two years I worked in one of the state’s most haunted places. The building, built in 1906, had four floors and in its early years housed orphans and catholic nuns as caregivers.

People in the orphanage died over the years and according to staff report, mysterious things happened on every landing, but most often on the fourth floor which happened to be the old sleeping quarters.

During my time there, I worked with a team teaching eight behaviorally challenged middle school students on the first floor. Related offices were on the second and third floors, but the fourth floor was empty and falling to ruin. I did wonder why they didn’t make use of this fourth floor; my assumption is that it had to do with reports of haunting.

When I was hired, a psychologist gave me a tour of the fourth floor, such as it was. Looking around at the empty dark corners gave me an eerie feeling but that was the extent of my concern about being in the building.

Even though trusted staff of many years had a chilling story or two to tell about the building, the only thing unusual I experienced was that posters would never stick on a section of the wall in the classroom, no matter how hard I tried. I suspected the nuns didn’t want anything up there. Otherwise nothing untoward happened, so I suspected the “ghosts” didn’t want to have anything to do with behavioral students.

When I started to work there, I thought the building would inspire me to write scary or suspenseful stories, but that’s not what happened. All I really gleaned from working in a haunted building was how to write better descriptors of creaking floors and staircases, and how to better describe a large old building with tall ceilings and beautiful woodwork.

I still remember looking up the four floors of the building on my way into work each day and wondering about the fourth floor, but once I got inside my focus was on the students that I worked with, my mind was on making a difference in their lives. Sometimes writing inspiration doesn’t always come to you in ways that you would think.

Romance 101

Monica Moore of the University of Missouri did a study on flirting, spending many hours observing and recording numerous situations and learned there is an art to flirting. Her work included describing and understanding flirting and what role it plays in human courtship.

I’ve always wondered about flirting. After all it seems to me it is a negative thing to be called a flirt. To fight the label we females sometimes try to curtail our advances (except in private). I also remember having mixed emotions about it-was I wrong (too forward, or aggressive) to get in his “face?” Maybe so, but it sure felt good. So is it a right or wrong thing to do?….

Ms Moore states that it is simply nonverbal courtship signaling, and that it is helpful to males so that it is not such a burden to make the first move. Yes, a natural thing. She found that nonverbal courtship signaling, which she considers to be flirting, is a process that is a must and that “flirting may be the single most important thing a woman can do to increase her attractiveness.” I wish someone would have told me this way back when…….

Shut up!

At the beginning of Maya’s Gold, my characters, Stanton Black and Maya Valentine argued at the drop of a hat. I like to put that kind of verbal bantering in my stories, because I think it can add humor and, I hope, sexual tension. But in real life, I’ve always thought of fighting as a bad thing or something to prevent from happening.

I learned a lot in the Psychology class I took last spring. One topic I remember very clearly had to do with male female relationships and arguing. Psychologist John Gottman, who is known for his five-to-one-ratio of positive interactions to negative interactions in relationships, says that verbal fighting, whether rare or frequent, is sometimes the healthiest thing a couple can do for the relationship. In fact, blunt anger, appropriately expressed, seems to immunize marriages Gottman also states that, couples who start out complaining about each other have some of the most stable marriages over time, while those who do not fight early on are more likely to face the road to divorce.

What to do with the rest of us who can’t open up like Maya and Stanton? Maintain the five-to-one ratio, Gottman says. And that men should help with the housework, but that is another story.

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