In My Room

Really intrigued by photographer Rania Matar’s project, “A Girl and Her Room,” which features photographs of teen girls and their bedrooms from around the world. About her photographs, Matar says:

“I was discovering a person on the cusp of becoming an adult, but desperately holding on to the child she barely outgrew, a person on the edge of two worlds and trying to adjust to the person she is turning into.”

Since most of my characters tend to be teen girls, Matar’s photos made me think about their rooms and how their stuff reflects that balance between adulthood and childhood. Might be a good character exercise to write down all the things that are in a character’s room and why they’re there.

Incidentally, my bedroom as a teen was kind of a mess. I hated the pink wallpaper I’d had since I was five (not that I ever liked it) and tried to cover it up with movie posters, pictures of friends, collages I’d made, and lists of quotes I liked. Nothing came together well–probably a reflection of that childhood/adulthood dynamic.

(image: Rania Matar, via Newsweek)

3 thoughts on “In My Room

  1. I took a class in college on Rites and Rituals (it was theoretically a religion class, but it was an anthropology class in reality).

    One of the things that came up was the fact that America, specifically, and the West, in general, lacked any real coming-of-age ritual. Think about it: there is no Gentile equivalent of a bar/bat mitzvah that marks a Jewish teen’s entrance into adulthood.

    And anthropologists have found that “typical” teenage problems in the West, like rebellion, anger, and depression–which we so often blame on hormones–are almost non-existent in cultures were there is a ritual which firmly delineates childhood and adulthood. Even a two-step ritual–where you clearly enter a training period and clearly graduate from it–works well.

    I thought about that when I wrote my first novel; it opens with a coming-of-age ceremony for my 16 y.o. protagonist which is based on a bat mitzvah. When her parents die, she gets caught up in a conflict between her aunt–who still wants to treat her like a child–and her mentor, who insists on treating her like an adult who is capable of making her own decisions. It might sound crazy–letting a 16 y.o. make her own decisions–but there comes a point where if you don’t let young people do things on their own (mistakes and all), they’ll never learn to think for themselves.

    I can’t remember if I left it in, but at one point I had Anselm tell Kalyn that she was an adult, and he wasn’t going to undermine that by telling her what she could and could not do… but he would really appreciate it if she would just tell him where she was going and with whom so he wouldn’t worry.

    And, boom, it works! Anger, guilt-trips, and grounding not needed. Rather than having a parent-child relationship, where the latter owes the former a report out of obedience, they end up with a relationship more like that of a husband and wife who self-report out of love and consideration for the other person.

    I think you get out of kids/teens what you expect out of them.

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