I’ve been thinking about labels lately – particularly “good girl” and “bad girl.”
At the Integrate Retreat, among other things, we talked a lot about being “good” and “bad,” and what that means. We saw Wicked together (and if you don’t know, this show completely flips your assumptions about “good” and “bad” upside down and backwards). We also talked about owning the “good” and “bad” parts of ourselves – the parts that are presentable, the roles we put on with a smile, and also the hidden parts, the ways we act or wish we could act when nobody’s looking.
“You might find it easier to own the bad girl than the good girl [or the other way around], but they both have something that you need,” Jen told us. I’m still mulling over that one.
I usually find it easier to own the good girls, actually. All my life, I’ve been the smart, capable one who has her stuff together; the reliable one; the “glue person.” I am an oldest child; I am driven; I am responsible; I am a detail person; I am compassionate. In a lot of people’s eyes, this equates to “good.”
As I’ve kept thinking of this, I’ve made two lists (surprise!): my favorite good girls and bad girls. Of course, all my greatest heroines are complicated – a messy mix of good and bad, mistakes and triumphs – but here are some who are seen as good. (There’s some overlap here with my literary heroines, but I think that makes perfect sense.)
1. Anne Shirley. I know she was a hot-tempered orphan to begin with, but she’s so sweet and pure and hard-working, and she sees beauty everywhere, which is my favorite thing about her. She is eternally optimistic and joyful, without being saccharine, and she never stops believing in dreams.
2. Meg March. Now, Jo is my favorite March girl, but Meg is responsible, good-hearted, hard-working, and takes care of everyone. She’s the glue that holds them together when Marmee is gone. I love her for that, even if I have a sneaking sympathy with Jo.
3. Kathleen Kelly from You’ve Got Mail. One of my favorite characters in one of my favorite movies. She fights so hard for her little bookstore, and bounces back from some hard knocks with the help of optimism, good friends and daisies. (“Don’t you think daisies are the friendliest flower?”) She does learn to let herself grieve, though, and accepts an entirely new life with grace.
4. Rory Gilmore. I love, love, love Gilmore Girls, and Rory and I share a love of books, high academic ambitions, and the desire to be peacemakers. Rory’s always trying to talk someone off the ledge – be it her best friend Lane, her neurotic friend Paris or her rebellious mom. Yet she’s courageous, smart and funny, and a loyal friend. And she eventually learns to go after what she wants.
5. Betsy Ray. Like me, Betsy wants to be a writer – is a writer – and also like me, she’s lucky. She’s got a wonderful family and a big crowd of warmhearted friends, and a peaceful childhood in Deep Valley. However, she grows into a woman who can travel Europe on her own (sound familiar?) and meet the challenges of adulthood, career, marriage and even war with grace and creativity.
6. Hermione Granger. She’s such a rule-follower and a book-nerd – and I totally sympathize with both traits – but she learns when friends (and, you know, the fate of the wizarding world) are more important than rules. She really grows into her own through the Harry Potter series, and she always has the right facts at hand when Harry and Ron need them.
7. Nancy Drew. She’s always so put together – chic cardigan sets and a cute blue roadster, anyone? – but she can also change a tire, stare down a bad guy and solve a mystery. Serious girl power, before girl power was cool.
8. Lena Kaligaris from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Like me, she’s shy and reluctant to show her truest self, and it’s hard for her to go against what people expect of her. But she learns to do that, and does a lot of growing along the way, without losing her sense of compassion.
9. Iris Simpkins from The Holiday. My heart breaks for Iris (played perfectly by Kate Winslet) when we meet her, but she charms everyone she meets in L.A., and helps her elderly neighbor regain his strength, and her friend Miles find the courage to go after what he really wants. And she finds her own voice in the process. Love her.
10. Maria from The Sound of Music. This has been my favorite movie since I was a child. I love Maria’s singing voice, the way she wins over the children (and the Captain), her courage and her deep zest for life.
Who are your iconic good girls (or guys)? What do they have that you need? (Bad-girl list coming soon.)
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