Write Part of My Memoir in November, Day 11: Beware Those Family Stories

Write Part of My Memoir

Welcome to Day 11 of my memoir writing challenge, which explores how your family’s stories can really screw you up.  

By family stories, I don’t mean the ones that they tell you about the old country, about people and places in the past. I mean the ones they devise about you. The stories that get reduced to an adjective: The cute one, the smart one, the one who’s terrible with money, the ditz.

Me, I was the family klutz. My sister was the one with the coordination skills and athletic prowess in the family, so the story goes.

I’m not going to claim that I don’t sometimes trip over my feet. Also true: Tripping and clumsiness are funny. The notion that I am both clumsy and directionally challenged has been a recurrent joke in my memoir.

Naturally, the reality is more complex. I never tried out for athletics because I’ve always been bookish. And I often trip because I’m thinking of other things and not paying attention to where I’m walking.

But I internalized the simpler story, that I’m a klutz.

I realized this today when I got home from Zumba. I had avoided taking the class at my health club for years because I was certain I would embarrass myself. So many people told me how much fun it was, I finally decided to go for it.

In the beginning, I was skittish. It took me a while to learn the steps. Eventually, however, I realized it took me no longer to learn than it took most other people. After that, it was a slippery slope, in a good way — not one that I tripped on. As soon as I got over my fear, I began to enjoy the class. Then, wonder of wonders, I discovered I was really good at it. New people in the class would come up to me and say, “You look like you’re having a great time, and that’s probably because you do it so well.” I was gobsmacked the first time; I thought I was being mocked. Since then, I’ve heard it often enough that I believe it.

That’s the thing with family stories. You hear them often enough and you believe them. But they’re not always true.

I’ll keep my klutz stories in my memoir; they serve a comic purpose. In my life, it’s time to chuck them.

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About the Author

Edie Jarolim is a writer and editor living in Tucson, Arizona. Sign up on this blog to get updates about her humorous tell-all/memoir, GETTING NAKED FOR MONEY: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All.

2 Enlightened Replies

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  1. This is a valuable piece, and gives me the courage to try Zumba which I’ve heard is a lot of fun. I think it may be a more searing effect on our souls what we internalize than what this brief telling suggests. I applaud your aplomb!

    • Edie says:

      Thanks, Diane — and I’m sure you’re right. The good (and bad) thing about having restricted myself to a short form is that I can’t delve too deeply. But the first layer is a start — and who knows how deep we want to go?

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