An Introduction by Theresa O’Neil Knight
July 1st, 1997
Kathy Bruin and I have been friends since we were 16 years old and attended the same American school in Tehran, Iran. We, along with hundreds of other Americans, were airlifted during the revolution in the late ’70s. Her father was a Westinghouse executive who was helping to build the country’s infrastructure. Mine was with the U.S. State Department, doing whatever skulduggerous work is undertaken in embassies worldwide.
I have many wonderful memories of the two years Kathy and I spent chasing boys and contemplating losing our virginity which, thank goodness, neither of us actually accomplished until after we had graduated high school. I wish I could say we spent a lot of time contemplating the revolution we were living through, or that we had difficulty choosing between neurosurgery or submolecular biology as career paths, but mostly we worried about boys and losing our virginity – or not. I am proud of Kathy’s campaign to heighten awareness of unhealthy body images in advertising and negative stereotypes of women and was flattered when she asked me to write a column for her website.
I chose the title “Growing Grace” because of my daughter Grace, who is now four years old. She hasn’t even entered kindergarten yet she is already preoccupied with jewelry, clothing and being pretty. After I put her hair in pony tails each morning she twirls in front of the mirror and admires herself. “I’m pretty, huh, Mom?” she says. But I know, as confident as she is now, she will soon begin to question her looks. She will think her nose is too big, or her hair is too straight, or perceive some other imagined shortcoming. I am prepared, but I’m sure it will break my heart.
She emerged from my womb large and in-charge and I became aware almost immediately that ours would be a journey along many bumpy roads. Still, I look forward to each unfolding aspect of her leonine personality. She is strong and intelligent and already has a clear sense of herself. Someone once told me that raising a child is like holding a mirror eight inches from your face. I hope that this is true, because if it is, there is more strength in me than I ever gave myself credit for. (And if my 2-year-old son Ian is anything to judge by, I am exceedingly goofy as well.)
After I chose the title, I stared at my computer screen, uncertain how to proceed. A phone call was in order.”What do you want me to write about?” I asked my old friend.
“Anything you want,” she responded. (This is not exactly the guidance I was seeking.) “You can rant on about any old thing. The website is about women’s issues. You are a daughter, a wife, and mother. You are the only feminist I know in Virginia. Write about those things.”
“Alright,” I said, hanging up the phone with only slightly more direction. Ranting is something I know how to do. I have been employed as a reporter and editor since I was 22 years old. I prefer to think of myself as a “writer” rather than a “reporter,” although I realize it is probably slitting hairs. There are so many stereotypes attached to both words. For example, to many, the word “writer” conjures up images of tortured alcoholics or pompous white men with British accents while the word “reporter” conjures up…well…the same thing I suppose.
For the time being, however, I am finished with my first column as I have filled two pages, double-spaced – my directive from Kathy. I must call it a day and turn my mind to my next profound exposition.
Theresa O’Neil Knight is the editor of the Culpeper News in Culpeper, Virginia. She has been known to try on several outfits before leaving the house, and is one of the funniest people I know. She let me be godmother to both her children. Her column will appear on the 1st of each month. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. -kgb