On babbling idiots and other stereotypes
Posted March 16, 2011on:
While waiting for my mother, who was undergoing oral surgery, I spent forty minutes observing the oral surgeon’s office staff working it, if you know what I mean.
The staff, all women in their twenties, and probably all intelligent women under usual circumstances, completely dissolved into four giggling, tittering morons in the presence of a good-looking patient. I sat in the waiting room, hoping the floor would swallow me whole, while the group turned periodontal care into a flirtation. Apparently, the word ‘spit’ is sexy. Who knew?
But I digress. The girls’ antics reminded me of a book I’d just finished in which the heroine couldn’t string together two words in front of her boyfriend’s rockstar dad. This got me thinking… why are women reduced to a bowl of Jello around male coolness? Are we really hard-wired for dumbness or are we just perpetuating the stereotype?
I considered this for a few minutes. Hell, anything to prevent gagging over the floor show. I’m smart. My IQ is higher than my shoe size. I win at Jeopardy often. I have never feigned ignorance of a subject in which I excelled just to please a guy. While sitting there, patting myself on the back, it dawned on me with all the horror of checking my reflection on a date only to discover I’d spent the whole night with a big ol’ spot of lettuce in my teeth that I’d permitted a character to behave in just this way.
I should be publicly flogged and I hang my head in shame.
The lead character in my current WIP wants desperately to be judged on her aptitude, not her looks. Kind of hard to do when she keeps forgetting how to speak in front of the hero. Watching the office assistants trip over their own tongues in front of Hot Dental Patient, I vowed to go straight home and revise the entire meet-cute scene.
Phew. That was close.
Where do you find cliches and stereotypes sneaking into your writing? Discuss. I promise not to gag.