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Friday, January 3, 2014

Dear Jeannie: Dressing Drab and Losing a Child

Dear Jeannie,

My heroine is the oldest of five, a member of the highest class of her society, was abused by her father as a child. Everything in her life is about protecting her sisters, and she's very bitter about men and her mother's obliviousness to what happened. Her father always told them little girls should never dress in colors because they attracted unwanted attention, which was immediately followed by said unwanted attention. As a kid her wardrobe was gray, brown, black, and very drab. As an adult she wears bright colors to make sure she isn't lost in a crowd and easy to dismiss if some man makes any kind of advance. With her mother's death she's now in the public eye as a High Lady, in a science fiction universe. She's torn between wanting to be left alone and not wanting to get lost in a crowd and becoming another statistic. I want to make sure her color choices make sense on a psychological level.

Lost in the Future

Dear Lost,

What happens between her childhood and adulthood will answer this question. If she does wear the bright colors, then she must have gone through a rebellious phase or an "I don't care" type phase. She would have to change her basic thinking about colors, and maybe come to the conclusion that brighter colors equals more protection (perhaps she saw this in action?). You don't specify when or how her mother dies, but an event such as that (especially if she was estranged with her) could prompt such drastic changes in her wardrobe. But this would need to be carefully thought out, because childhood trauma of abuse (I assume sexual in nature?) would be intricately tied to the need to dress drably an blend in. More info is needed about how she became a High Lady (and what that even is) for this to be fully fleshed out. Feel free to respond in the comment section below...but she sounds fascinating!

Dear Jeannie,

Reva has grown up in a demoralized martial-law state (following a failed coup). Her parents were big supporters of the put-down rebels, and she's grown up being fed a steady diet of bitter anger and frustration. Trouble is, she's fallen in love with (and married) a state sympathizer. He's fun, kind, solid--hard to resist. In an effort to start fresh, they've moved to a new frontier. My question is about the dynamics of their marriage. They had one child, who died right before the move, and Reva can't have any more children. What kind of grief/trauma is she going to face, especially cut off from the family and friends she grew up with? How is she going to react to other children they encounter in their new life?

Starting Over in Statesville

Dear Starting Over,

That is not where I thought you were going with this question (I thought it'd focus on the marriage itself between two people with opposite philosophies). Having a child die is considered one of the most traumatic experiences an adult can go through. It's unnatural in the life scheme of things, and will stay with her forever, made doubly traumatic by not being able to have any more children. She will experience grief, of course, and this can look as different as each individual is. I imagine she'd be more depressed without any of her regular support system around. She would have one of two prominent reactions to other children, which can and will change over time. 1) She can isolate away from them, not wanting to be reminded of her loss (which might be more likely in the beginning), or 2) She will want to be around children in any way possible, to take what joy she can have in them (more likely later on, I'd think). Best of luck writing her!

Got Questions?

Maybe I've got answers. Leave your question anonymously in the comment section below, using monikers like Sleepless in Seattle. I'll post my answers in future Dear Jeannie columns.

Hope your Christmas was wonderful, and that you're off too a good start in the new year! :)