Hokey and Proud

The wall above my desk is super cheesy, eh?

I just wrote a book—a full-on 64,000-plus word book! The process started last September, and it took me five months to finish the first draft. Then, I needed three months to complete two extremely thorough edits. Yesterday, I sent the manuscript out to some trusted folks to give it a read and let me know if I have something worth publishing.

For a person with a history of anxiety and catastrophizing, this is a big leap. Especially since the book is about my self-doubt—how I came to have it, how it held me back, and how I am finally moving past it.

I have much trepidation about the forthcoming responses from my test readers. Amongst my many fears is the sinking feeling that this memoir reveals me to be hopelessly trite. And I don’t think I’m alone in preferring not to be associated with that trait.

Call it what you like—hokey, cheesy, corny, sentimental, earnest—it’s a quality that our society doesn’t typically value, at least not proudly. These words might mean slightly different things, but I think they all imply a certain softness, and being soft marks us as vulnerable.

On the Ten Percent Happier meditation app (which I use faithfully), co-founder and journalist Dan Harris has referred to his aversion to coming across as cheesy. It’s helpful to know that someone as successful as Harris struggles with the connotations of this label.

I’ve come up with some examples from my own life to help illustrate what I’m talking about here. I think you will agree that some of this stuff is pretty embarrassing:

Hokey – Making up a song about our dog, sung to the tune of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy

Cheesy – Clapping along with an audience on TV (I get this from my mom)

Corny – Using sayings like “good golly!” and “holy guacamole!”

Goofy – Dancing down an empty aisle at the grocery store

Sentimental – Crying while watching This Is Us

Treacly – Crying while watching Top Chef’s Restaurant Week (it was soooo good this season)!

Trite – Hanging inspirational quotes, like “enjoy the journey,” on the wall above my desk

Earnest – Believing an “angel” in human form was sent to save me at just the right time

As I typed this list, it occurred to me that these behaviors and emotions are coded (at least partly) as feminine and/or young. Our culture tends to idolize femininity and youth, but we don’t seem to respect them. There is a delicacy that makes femininity and youth special but not dignified.

Dignity, on the other hand, is a characteristic that conveys strength and power, which is coded as masculine and mature. I’m not saying I agree with the associations of these words as being female or male, or that one or the other is necessarily good or bad. I just wish we could get beyond the kinds of simplistic characterizations that hem us in and make us anxious.

Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being soft. We are all fragile sometimes. And if we’re lucky, we feel free to act silly when the mood strikes us. I don’t think anyone is immune to these attributes—it’s just a question of whether we are in touch with them and can embrace them.

If my book, and by extension me, turns out to be sappy, I will wear that badge proudly.  

4 thoughts on “Hokey and Proud

  1. Congratulations on completing the manuscript! I started a novel a year back and am no where near done with the first draft, so I can appreciate the work you probably put into it.
    I can also say with full confidence that being quirky is far more fun than being serious/cool. One thing my mom used to do that I picked up on was singing songs throughout the day with a random melody and making up the words to match whatever activity she was doing. Dishwashing, laundry, driving, and looking for lost keys all had their own song. Recently, I noticed my wife started doing it too. Hokey habits are quite contagious!

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    1. OMG, I do that, too, with songs! I either sing a line from an existing song that fits the situation or I create new lyrics. One of our neighbors has a sign in their yard that says “Welcome to Our Lake House” and that has inspired me to create a song to the tune of “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses! Thanks for the congrats on the book. Also, I should note that I created a book proposal as part of a class back in 2017-18, working on it for about 10 months, and then I put it away for two years. The memoir I just wrote was partially based on that proposal, so I kind of had a head start. Best of luck with your novel!

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  2. Just because
    you are soft 
    doesn’t mean
    you are not a force.
    Honey and wildfire 
    are both 
    the color of gold. 

    Victoria Erickson

    (I’ll leave this right here) 😉 XOXO

    Like

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