Self-as-Character Assignment: Eight Examples

Unfortunate Truths

Justine Giardina

I had a lot of anxiety in public when I was little, which is why I think that in my late teen years I have made a hobby out of unabashedly having breakdowns in public. I will walk right into stores like I belong there, tears streaming down my face and sticky black eyeliner marring the backs of my hands and I will make purchases as though I am not even a “hot mess.” I’ve cried in restaurants, on subways, in parking lots, on the corners of sidewalks, between library shelves, in convenience stores, under bridges, on buses and behind cars all with a certain degree of shamelessness that is typically reserved for people who aren’t bawling their eyes out. The only exception to this rule is Toys R Us. Anyone really can cry in Toys R Us and still get fairly normal customer service. Once on a sidewalk I overheard a man walking by me say “I’m tired of seeing prostitutes crying on the street” and for whatever reason that made me feel a little better.

I feel as though the person who knows me best is my mother, which is definitely strange because she is the person who I most often feel misunderstood by. My mother is a somewhat typical suburban mom, she works in a preschool and has a favorite coffee mug and yells “No one cares!” at reality television shows but continues to watch them anyway. My mother always wanted a girl, but I don’t think I turned out as she expected because she is frequently pushing the idea of being “like all of the other girls.” Unfortunately for my mother, in addition to sobbing on public transit I have a slew of other atypical hobbies, none of which she is particularly fond of. I once spent a month drawing tampons and sanitary napkins and I could see a little piece of her die inside as she slowly began to realize that we would never bond over reality television together.

The people who are most honest about what I am like tend to be on dates with me and their unfortunate truths always come veiled as some sort of passive-aggressive compliment. “You were even more jaded when I first met you than you are now,” someone said to me once over cheap Chinese take-out. He didn’t say anything after that for a little while, and I think that was because he was waiting for me to thank him. “That was cute,” another once said to me, “like in the way a baby horse tries to walk for the first time,” this was followed shortly after by “Your bangs actually look straight today” and “I bet you don’t even wax your eyebrows.” I think the reason why this happens so frequently is because I have a very specific type, and that type is metrosexual with moderate to severe mommy issues. Mostly these instances are ok but usually when they occur the date ends at dinner.

If I were asked to describe myself to someone I would probably leave out the fact that my bangs don’t fall perfectly straight and probably wouldn’t think to disclose any information about my eyebrows. I would describe a person who doesn’t really know how to balance things in her life and I would describe someone with a deep restlessness that I guess I could call a “Wanderlust” if I felt the need to romanticize it. I would talk about how I find little things about people endearing, like how they talk about their sister or the way they write their name, and I would also talk about the way that I am repulsed by, without exception, every single person on the subway and will whisper “How dare you” under my breath if anyone so much as looks at me. Sometimes this is difficult because when someone is bawling on a subway like they are in the privacy of their own home a lot of people, for whatever reason, want to watch.

I sometimes wonder if that is because they are bored of watching the crying prostitutes on the street.

Discussion Questions

  • Why would somebody want to read this piece (the “Who cares?” factor)?
  • Can you clearly identify the author’s intention for the piece?
  • How well does the author support the intention of the piece? Cite specific details that support or take away from the author’s intention.
  • Is there information missing from this piece that would make its intention clearer? What else would you like to know?
  • Does the author portray herself as a round character? How does she do this?
  • Do you trust the author of this piece? Why or why not?
  • How clearly does the author establish a sense of setting/space in this piece? Cite specific details that support your claim.
  • How clearly does the author establish characters other than the self in this piece? Cite specific details that support your claim.
  • Did you learn anything new from reading this piece? If so, what?
  • Are there particular passages with engaging language/description that stood out to you? Describe the appeal of these passages.
  • Would you read more writing from this author? Why or why not?



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