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"We Do Not Approve"

We Do Not Approve

She came home from college one day and announced, from out of nowhere, that she was quitting school.

"I just don’t see the point of it any more," she said, her tone striving, unsuccessfully, for defiance.

Obviously we were displeased. Our family had always placed such a high value on education, as a springboard for getting ahead and enriching the intellect, that to quit school and reject learning was all but heresy. We didn’t have to say so to her; she already knew how we felt, and the pained look on her face showed that indeed she knew.

Sensing our disapproval, she continued on, unprompted, as if she could somehow justify her decision.

"I’m going to Hollywood," she said weakly, unconvincingly.

To be? we asked with our silent stares, already knowing the answer.

"To be an actress, of course."

Oh, we thought, show business. It wasn’t bad enough that she’d leave school, but that she’d do so for something so disreputable. For a sordid business that all but required a young woman, no matter how talented, to sleep her way to the top. We knew that the days of the casting couch had never really gone away.

"I’m an adult, so you really can’t stop me," she insisted, somewhat more firmly.

No, our look and our turning away told her, we can’t, but you can’t stop us either.

Go to Hollywood. Go, and no longer be part of our family. Go. Just don’t think you’ll ever get to come back.

(Note: Most of this piece was written at Northwestern's writers' conference last summer, in a flash fiction class taught by Deb Olin Unferth, who instructed us to write a story in third person plural. It's certainly a challenging perspective to write from, but I think third personal plural turned out to be a pretty effective way of conveying the unified opposition of the family to this young girl wanting to follow her dreams.)

February 2, 2007 in Fiction | Permalink