Bridget Hoida: On Magazine Glossy

Okay… I know if L.A. has taught me anything, it’s that I’m supposed to play it cool and pretend like this is a regular occurrence, but OMG! you guys… A magazine glossy!

“This is an exceptional first novel. […] So L.A.is a little autobiographical and a lot experimental as Magdalena’s subsequent unraveling turns the city into a sometimes trite but often revealing “soul” window. Hoida’s style makes the story seamless–for instance, she avoids using quotation marks in passages of dialogue. But in the end, as in all good endings, her protagonist finds a new determination and a new dream. We leave Magdalena anticipating a successful rebuilding in her altered, but more realistic, lifestyle.”

-Jane Glenn Haas, “True Grist,” Orange Coast Magazine, September 2012

Bridget Hoida on: Traffic Stop

This post originally appeared as a “Traffic Stop” on the TLC Literary Tour:

Some might say, that beyond the sun-struck streets of the Sunset Strip, or the well worn glitter-specked cement of Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles is best known for its cantankerous traffic. And this is mostly true. The freeways of L.A. shift and snake their way across the city like congested arteries. But what’s surprising is that even when stuck in rush hour (which has no real set hour, but rather runs all day and well into the night, because in L.A. everyone is always in a rush to go someplace they’re already not…) even when stuck, bumper to bumper, Angelinos do manage to have a little fun. Like in this true-to-life excerpt from So L.A.:

WHEN WE first moved to L.A. my favorite thing to say was, That’s so L.A. I used it to describe just about everything from fake boobs to traffic. Then I got implants and started to drive. Drive not to go someplace, but as sport. On the 10 you can pick out the regulars from the tourists. Those who merge left just before the lane ends and then have to merge back right again versus those who know the La Brea shortcut: exit but don’t ever get off. During a crunch you can save five minutes plus if there’s a pile-up. My favorite time to drive is early morning and right before dark. I like the added thrill of the sun in your eyes. It throws mirage into the game and the DJs are at their prime.

Sig alert on the Santa Monica Freeway West, the Shady Lady hums through my speakers. Since nobody’s going anywhere anyhow I’ll take caller number nine for some naked rush hour bingo.

I kid you not. Bingo. Naked. In rush hour.

Shady Lady here. Name, make and license plate, please.

Oh hi-yee! I’m Alyson, with a y, and I’m in a silver 325i on the 10 West, wearing pink and black—

Which, as you may realize, is the physical description of a gazillion people on the 10, but everyone plays along.

Okay listeners we’re on the prowl for a silver Beemer license 1MY325I. If you see her, honk. And Alyson, you know the rules: you lose a piece of clothing for every honk you hear.

As if there isn’t enough honking on the 10. As if taking your clothes off while stuck in traffic weren’t so L.A.

To read more about Magdalena, the six-foot tall blonde protagonist of So L.A. , and her adventures in love, loss, infidelity and self transformation in Los Angeles pick up a copy of So L.A.

“Never thought a book about the shallowness of Los Angeles could surprise me, but it did. […] I really liked this book. I liked it for a number of reasons but probably because it surprised the hell out of me. I didn’t expect to have a girl-crush on Magdalena but I have to tell you, I sort of did. Imagine the cuteness of Bridget Jones, the craziness of Suzanne Vale from Postcards from the Edge and the vulnerability of Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. THAT is Magdalena.

I also didn’t expect the story to pack such an emotional punch. Her relationship with her brother and her memories of home were really quite sweet and at times, heartbreaking. No matter how glitzy the lifestyle, loss is loss and when it comes down to it, we are all imperfect humans trying to make the best of it.” -Tina Reed, Book Chatter

Book Chatter

So L.A.

So L.A.
By Bridget Hoida
(Lettered Press, Paperback, 9780985129415, April 2012, 382pp.)

The Short of It:

Never thought a book about the shallowness of Los Angeles could surprise me, but it did.

The Rest of It:

Magdalena wasn’t always a Botox-injected, Juicy Couture wearing gal. No, life before her designer water empire took off involved a vineyard in Northern California, a brother whom she absolutely adored and a simpler life; complete with a “tell it like it is” mother. But when her brother Junah dies tragically, she is completely and utterly destroyed. The only way to get through it, is to transform herself into someone other than herself. Maybe then she can leave the pain behind and at least pretend for a while that she isn’t some pathetic creature, pining away for a brother who will never pal around with her again.

Los Angeles is a lot of things to…

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Need some back-to-school fashion advice? Ask an author, that’s what I always say. Trending today are maxi-skirts the length of a run-on sentence paired with an ombre ellipsis bandeau on top. And OMG! have you seen those adorable small brim fedoras made entirely out of commas? A must have, indeed.

Sweet Southern Home

Today I am featuring the super stylish novel, So L.A. by Bridget Hoida!

I have some cool stuff to share, including a guest post by Bridget and some of her thoughts on fashion!

Book Description

Magdalena de la Cruz breezed through Berkeley and built an empire selling designer water.  She’d never felt awkward or unattractive… until she moved to Los Angeles. In L.A., where “everything smells like acetone and Errol Flynn,” Magdalena attempts to reinvent herself as a geographically appropriate bombshell—with rhinestones, silicone and gin—as she seeks an escape from her unraveling marriage and the traumatic death of her younger brother, Junah. Magdalena’s Los Angeles is glitzy and glamorous but also a landscape of the absurd. Her languidly lyrical voice provides a travel guide for a city of make-believe, where even Hollywood insiders feel left out.

Like a lane change on the 405 freeway during rush hour, Bridget Hoida skillfully navigates…

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TLC Book Tour: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile

The following review by appeared on the blog Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile.

You can find the full article here: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile

At first glance So L.A. might draw you in with its gorgeous cover. It might entice you with its chick-lit feel. However I can promise you that what is in these pages is so much more than that. A mixture of dry satirical humor, and a no-holds-barred look at the culture that is L.A., this is a story that is hard to define. What I can say, is that it is brilliant.

I think it’s fitting that I read this book while sitting in a 60 story sky rise in Downtown L.A. Overlooking the hub of the busiest parts of Wilshire Boulevard. This is the setting that Hoida chooses for her book, and it works wonders with Magdalena’s story. From small town girl, to big city business owner, Magdalena’s point of view is a fresh and honest take of the high society that is Beverly Hills. Her life is by no means perfect. Sure, she has the perfect shoes, the perfect house and even the perfect nose. She soon finds though, that all those things don’t add up to a happy life.

It’s honestly hard to like Magdalena because of how exasperating she can be sometimes. She is definitely a character that you want to save and slap in equal measures. Trying, and failing, to cope with the death of her brother is all that Magdalena does the majority of the book. However, it’s definitely true to life. She tries to fill the gap with things, with fake people, with fake smiles. All the time falling deeper and deeper into the craziness that her life has become.

In the end So L.A. is about hiding from oneself. About changing what is on the outside to try to compensate for what’s on the inside. I won’t say that Magdalena’s story is happy. It does show how easy it is to fall into a life that isn’t your own. About how easy it is to feel lost, but hide it from the outside world. Briget Hoida’s book may look like chick-lit at first glance, but it’s infinitely more than that. I loved it, and I think you will too.

TLC Book Tour: Peppermint Ph.D.

The following review appeared on the blog Peppermint Ph.D.

You can find the full article here: Peppermint Ph.D.

So L.A. by Bridget Hoida
Lettered Press, 2012
Format – oversized paperback
Source – the publisher via TLC Book Tours
**FTC Discolosure – I received a complimentary copy of So L.A. from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a review.  However, the opinions and comments below are all my own and made without bias.

Why?  I have 3 daughters so the very real pressure on women to fit an ideal image is a serious issue to me. Those pressures exacerbated by the L.A. lifestyle was indeed something I wanted to know more about.
 —
What Now?  I’m happy to pass this one along to another blogger friend who would like to read it.  Just let me know in the comments that you are interested and leave your blog address as well as email so I’ll be able to contact you should you win 🙂
Bridget Hoida has also generously donated another copy of So L.A. to another Peppermint Ph.D. reader so next Friday, August 24, I’ll choose two winners 🙂
 —

Golden Lines


But contrary to the advice of seismologists, L.A. is virtually made of glass, its reflective surfaces sweeping and expansive, and so Junah was with me everywhere I went.

Puck and a drink or two is how I get through parties.

Jameson up, I said, looking at his salty hair and wondering if my instinct to push it out of his eyes meant I was ready to be a mom.  And a tall glass of gin with a straw and some ice so it looks like a Sprite.

Unlike Puck I didn’t mind being from a dusty place that sold Hydraulic Harvesters instead of Maseratis.  In fact, I missed it in a way that made my teeth ache.  But like him I slid on pair after pair of designer sunglasses and hid my origins well.  Not because I was afraid someone would call me out, but rather because I was afraid they’d ask me in.

Dean was a family man.  One of the good guys.  What the hell was he doing giving drunken tongue to a woman other than his wife on reality television?

What I meant was, if I worked at home, if I set up shop in one, three, seven of the bedrooms inside the house, I would actually have to work because there might actually be the possibility of Ricky or Immelda or the guy who does the bills suddenly walking in on me and expecting to see art, work, product, something other than a bedraggled girl, still in her pajamas, drinking gin with a straw and playing with rhinestones.

No, Magdalena, you already left and last time I checked, son trumped brother so take that to your shrink and smoke it.

When we first moved to L.A. my favorite thing to say was, That’s so L.A.  I used it to describe just about everything from fake boobs to traffic.  Then I got implants and started to drive.

And yet, here’s the thing: sitting silently next to Quentin felt all right.  It was comfortable even.  I had all sorts of things I could say, like: where are you from? or What do you do when the sadness gets so heavy you think it will crush you? or Ever killed anybody? but for the first time in a long time I didn’t feel the need to say anything.  And it felt good.  To sit.  And drink.

Standing in front of the Guadalupe Wedding Chapel I waited for a cab, and when it arrived it wasn’t yellow.  It was green with a billboard for Viagra on the roof.
Why isn’t anything like the movies?

Seriously, I snatched my keys from his outstretched hand.  I am just barely holding on here and you think a weekend with Mom and her bottle, watching Dad barbecue his dinner in the shed, is going to snap me back to reality?

We could have bought bikes and gotten inked and revved our engines, together.  But instead I was left.  In a hotel room.  Alone.  

Had I been there, had I not driven back to the ranch to work on water, you could have trusted me when I told you Junah didn’t fall from anything, but as you know I left him and down he went.  

He was the most level headed, until…
He was the safest climber they had ever met, until…
He was a badass soloer until…
…he fell to his death.
Until he fell to his death.
Until.


…Los Angeles, beneath the pixie dust and beyond the Sunset strip, is really nothing more than a desert where the water is scarce and we’re all thirsty.

Summary


Magdalena de la Cruz and her husband Ricky have made their fortune in bottled water and are living in L.A. among the filthy rich and famous.  Trips to the wax studio, power lunches, Pilates, gin, and business fill Magdalena’s days until her brother Junah is killed in a climbing accident…an accident that Magdalana feels responsible for.  Magdalena literally crawls under her bed for days and from there, her life begins to spiral out of control…retreating further and further within herself and physically re-constructing the outside.
 —

What I Liked

The chapter structure – from one paragraph to 3 pages, the chapters are very short and sometimes just seem to be a stream of consciousness…always from Magdalena’s point of view but jumping around in time as she explains her predicament and how she became a woman fighting within a woman.  Magdalena’s story is a complex one that would have been overwhelming I think without Hoida’s smart style in getting us inside Magdalena’s head.The complications woven throughout the plot…death, grieving, self image, the other woman, plastic surgery, therapy, marriage, fidelity/infidelity, sexuality, money, dysfunctional families, friendship…you name it; it’s here.  While this complex of a plot could be cumbersome, it isn’t in So L.A.  Hoida never brings it all back into a neat little package because it can’t be one…but she gives the reader enough information and enough insight to at least think about what the reader would do in Magdalena’s shoes.  So L.A. is so full of complications that I’m still thinking about it and trying out ideas as I get ready to post this review.

Puck – we’d all be lucky to have a true friend like Puck.  Someone who believes in you no matter what and accepts you just the way you are…freaky drama included.

Quentin – I won’t say too much about this character to keep from spoilers…but he’s a good guy.  Besides the obvious (and you’ll find that out when you get to that part), I think he really wants to help Magdalena…but unlike everyone else around her, Quentin realizes that she must want to help herself first.

What I Didn’t Like

No quotation marks – I’m an English teacher but this isn’t just a mechanical issue for me.  I really did have to re-read portions to make sure of who was saying what sometimes.
 —
Magdalena – pulling the seams out of Ricky’s clothes when she gets mad?  about things she’s just made up in her head???…there are times when Magdalena seems like nothing more than a spoiled brat.  Reading about her sometimes was like watching a horror movie…everybody in the theatre knows what’s going to happen when the young heroine decides to check into the old abandoned Bates Motel.  I wanted to scream at Magdalena more than once and say, “You dummy…THINK about this decision for a minute or two!!  Don’t go THERE!!”  But Magdalena goes there anyway.  It’s as if sometimes she’s trying to make things just as bad as they can possibly be.

Ricky – I’m sorry…I really feel guilty for this…but I didn’t like him.  How in the world he put up with Magdalena for so long, I’ll never understand.  He’s caught up in the L.A. lifestyle even more so than she is…and maybe that’s how he does it.  But, I just couldn’t see it.

Overall Recommendation


So L.A. is an intense look at the “power” of reinvention in a culture that values the outside of a person more than the inside…a Stepford Wives kind of culture that is L.A. as described by Hoida.  How can someone deal with real life in a world that is so make believe??  So L.A. is not a happy story by any stretch of the imagination…but neither is the issue of  stripping self image from individuals based on what others deem worthy…in any situation but especially not in Magdalena’s.  What complicates this story even more  is that Magdalena de la Cruz seems to choose a fabricated way of life in order to retreat into herself and protect herself from her grief…letting the outside world see a “costume” of sorts instead of who she truly is…possibly even a psychic protective measure after the trauma of Junah’s death and her perceived role in the accident.
Deep stuff this is.


The language and a few graphic sex scenes/fantasies would keep me from recommending this to everyone…it doesn’t bother me and I never felt that any of the scenes or language were gratuitous; I was shocked from time to time, but I think that was the point.  The rawness helps the reader see and even feel how deeply Magdalena is falling into her own trap.

Bridget Hoida on: Why I Write

I’ve always loved liars.

Writers who speak in hyperbole and whose pages are bursting with extraordinary exaggeration are totally my cup of tea. Like love stories. And war stories. Stories about childhood and politics and everything in-between. Especially, when guised as the truth. Especially when cloaked for the sake of story.

Portrait of Anais Nin taken in NYC in 70s by E...

And speaking such, I want to share a story with you. It’s not mine, that much is true. I came across it in the stacks of the periodical room, back when journals were bound twice yearly with thick leather backs and kept in rooms called libraries. I used to work in one such magical place. I was the assistant librarian in the Periodical, Newspaper, and Microfiche room at the Doe Library of UC Berkeley. I loved my job. And in ways most bibliophiles can understand, I miss that job more than I miss my youth. Because for me that job was my youth. It was paper and newsprint and dusty stacks of words that I would turn when I was supposed to be shelving or referencing or otherwise amending. But like every other assistant librarian, every volume I shelved was a volume I read. So there I was in the belly of the basement of PNM–while the microfiche machines hummed and clinking nickels made Xerox copies– reading serialized love stories of Henry and June. I will not lie. I do not remember who wrote it. I do not remember what journal or even what year. I am a bad librarian. But I remember the words:

“There is a hotel in Paris, above a café, of course, where Anais Nin and Henry Miller met for the first time and then made their way up to room 41. They brought along a picture of June, I swear to God they did, and they set it on the nightstand, (or perhaps it was already there). What they did next biographers are uncertain, but it involved most definitely Anais, Henry and Henry’s jacket. In Henry’s version he took the jacket off, laid it on the bed and Anais, naked lay upon it. In Anais’ version Henry took off all his clothes and wore the coat on top of both the bed and the woman. In June’s version the jacket was on the floor, out of June’s sight. Henry and Anais made love on top of it. Anais wore black lace underwear and when they were finished, Henry did a somersault on the bed and said to Anais, What? You expected more brutality?

“Before they met they had agreed to be platonic. Six days earlier, March 2, in a letter, Anais had sworn to Henry with silver ink on purple paper:  The woman will sit eternally in the tall black armchair. I will be the one woman you will never have. Excessive living weighs down the imagination. We will not live, we will only write and talk and sail the swells. Writers make love to what they need.”

Writers make love to the truth they need.

And in truth, the jacket is why I write.

This post, originally entitled “Lie To Me” first appeared on Ladies Who Proust: the real life Proustian heroines. To read the article in full and to find out how Henry’s jacket relates to Marcel’s cup of tea click here: Ladies Who Proust

Bridget Hoida On: Top Down Days

It’s hot in Southern California.

Which means everyone is talking about the weather. Spoiled as we are on the coast, we tend to complain, loudly, every time the temperature drops below 72 degrees or rises above 78.

There’s a reason our license plate frames read: Best Climate on Earth, and when mother nature denies us this boast, we get a little cranky, and more than a little vocal. Mostly because we don’t have in-home air conditioners, or if we do, we’ve forgotten how to clean an air vent, to turn them on.

In addition to living at the beach, or splashing in the pool until your toes are prunish, one way to escape the heat is to drive. Tops and windows down, we crank up the radio and blue dial the air-con and drive until the heat breaks.

In Play It As It Lays—or the best Los Angeles novel ever written as I call it—author Joan Didion drives her protagonist Maria through the heat as she takes on the iconic interchange of the L.A. freeway in brilliant and breathtaking fashion. She writes of roads and off ramps, rest stops and lane changes unlike any other writer.

In my book, So L.A., I was very much inspired by Didion’s freeway devotion. Particularly, the ways in which driving becomes a brilliantly choreographed dance, like in this passage:

Once she was on the freeway and had maneuvered her way to a fast lane she turned on the radio at high volume and she drove. She drove the San Diego to the Harbor, the Harbor up to the Hollywood, the Hollywood to the Golden State, the Santa Monica, the Santa Ana, the Pasadena, the Ventura. She drove it as a riverman runs a river, every day more attuned to its currents, its deceptions, and just as a riverman feels the pull of the rapids in the lull between sleeping and waking, so Maria lay at night in the still of Beverly Hills and saw the great signs soar overhead at seventy miles an hour. Normandie 1/4 Vermont 3/4 Harbor Fwy I. Again and again she returned to an intricate stretch just south of the interchange where successful passage from the Hollywood onto the Harbor required a diagonal move across four lanes of traffic. On the afternoon she finally did it without once braking or once losing the beat on the radio she was exhilarated, and that night slept dreamlessly.”

-Joan Didion, Play It As It Lays

So, in an effort to escape the heat, I invite you to join Joanie D. and me as we hop into something convertible, our hair wrapped in brightly covered scarves that flutter in the wind. Remember to buckle up. Use your hands free device, and above all, do not forget to press your oversized sunglasses tight against your faces as I put the car in drive.

Backing out of the driveway at Joan Didion’s “suburbia house” in Brentwood Park, the one that used to harbor a garden of “mint, stephanotis and the pink magnolia,” we’ll have to navigate the city streets until we catch the 10 freeway east to the 110 to the 101 before briefly hopping back on the 10 again to exit on Temple. There, we’ll find ourselves (if, of course we find parking), on streets well walked by another Los Angeles writer I adore, John Fante.

Often hailed as the best Los Angeles book that no one has read, Fante’s Ask The Dust (1939), is situated in Bunker Hill, in the heart of downtown. Part love song to an illusive women, and part love song to the city of L.A. herself, Fante declares his devotion (and his distaste) for the city of angles in breathless lines such as these: “Los Angeles, give me some of you! Los Angeles come to me the way I came to you, my feet over your streets, you pretty town I loved you so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town!”

-John Fante, Ask The Dust

From here we can walk to the corner of Alameda and Main. I know, I know. I’ve heard the song plenty and nobody walks in L.A., but trust me, in the time it would take us to find our keys, make a left turn on a red light and repark we could walk to Alameda and back five, maybe six times, so settle up your peep-toed shoes and follow me to old Terminal Annex Post Office building where Charles Bukowski spent years sorting the mail (and his various rejection slips) before the publication of his book Post Office (1971) where he confesses: “I wanted the whole world or nothing.”

 —

Next door, at Union Station, we can buy a round-trip Metrolink ticket to El Monte, home of the imaginary sun-bleached flower fields of the El Monte Flores, a notorious carnation picking gang who wage a war against Saturn and omniscient narration in Salvador Plascencia’s The People of Paper (2004). And if we listen carefully, we can hear the words of Plascencia’s papered people: “She had heard that Los Angeles was the last refuge for those who had lost their civilization and were afraid of the rain.”

-Salvador Plascencia, The People of Paper

 —

Off the train, we can walk back to fetch the car and end the day with a drive down Hollywood Boulevard, stopping for a drink at Musso and Frank, a place Gore Vidal said, “is like stepping into a warm bath.” Frequented by William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler and Nathanael West, the martinis never fail, and neither does Manny Aguirre, the 78-year-old bartender who is rumored to have once poured a drink for James Dean.

 —

With cocktails and dinner done, we can then turn in at the Hollywood Patio Hotel, with the “ugly maroon bedspread” where Money Brenton, the protagonist of Mary Robison’s brilliant Why Did I Ever (2002) spends her undermedicated days doctoring Hollywood scripts, while passing out beautiful zingers like: “There’s an anemic moon out there, milked over, hanging low in the low green sky. That couple in the heated pool. How do they, I wonder, figure into things?”

-Mary Robison, Why Did I Ever

 —

In the morning as we ease into rush hour traffic, remember, to put on your blinker. As Magdalena says in So L.A.:  “Ricky, like most Angelinos, doesn’t believe in the blinker. He maintains that by initiating the blink you actually hinder any small chance you have of actually getting over. The guy on your right, when he sees the click-click of the yellow light, will speed up and close in on the gap. But I disagree. One of the remarkable things about Los Angeles, one of those things that no one seems to talk about, is how we all do manage to get where we’re going. We slide from the fast lane (wave) to the middle lane (wave) to the slow lane (wave) to the exit ramp (blinker off), and we merge. It may not be singularly graceful or without incident, but 99.9 percent of the time we do manage to make our exits, our left turns, our way home.”

-Bridget Hoida, So L.A.

Bridget Hoida On: Boys Named Pancake

Ever buy a book for the poem on the first, unnumbered, page because the poem is so spot on you can hardly stand it? And you didn’t have a pen or a big enough scrap of paper or the time to kneel in the aisle of the store and scribble the first line and maybe perhaps the author?

And although Professor Dane taught you well, and with certainty, how to lift a page from any book, including those in fancy temperature controlled archival rooms–like the Huntington and the Bancroft and the Getty–you resist and buy the whole damn thing, in hardcover, even though you are fairly sure no one is watching, and even if they were, with some spit and a string you could lift it anyhow. But you’re feeling angelic and so you buy it outright. And tote it through the city. Even though your walk is long and the Santa Anas are blowing hot and your bag is already bursting with books you haven’t yet read, and are supposed to, and most likely will not get to.

You buy it and forget about it.

You buy it and shelve it with the others.

And then one day, when the very same winds are blowing hot and nasty you recall the poem and search out the book only the poem isn’t in there anymore. Someone tore it out. Without class. Without style or skill. With jagged edges. So you flip through the book hoping it’s folded in half and tucked neatly inside and that’s when the words start and draw you in and you realize the poem was a piece of crap written by a two bit hack, but this book…The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake

 

Bridget Hoida on: The Tall Wall

There are a lot of reasons why I adore my agent, the charming Sally van Haitsma. To begin, she’s smart. Really really smart. And by really really smart I mean smart in the way of getting obscure cultural references and understanding that some darlings cannot be killed all in the same breath. She’s also persistent. As in, she never, ever gave up on me or my book, even after we were told by the Big Six (and the little sixty) that it was, perhaps “too Hollywood insider” for anyone outside of the Hollywood set. Also of note, she cares. Which is rare when it’s true, and with Sally it’s always true. But if I had to list the best reason why I’m so smitten with Sally, I’d have to admit it’s because she’s tall.  Really, really tall. Almost as tall as she is smart and that’s why I like her.

ImageIn the first six–or sixteen– drafts of So L.A. Magdalena, the protagonist, was tall, but it was Sally who pushed me to make her taller. To make her own her tallness and to translate that tall onto the page. When you’re 23 or 36 tall is sexy, but when you’re 13 and taller than pretty much everyone in your junior high school –administration included– tall is not so delightful. In fact it’s painful. And even though I’m six feet it was Sally who had to reminded me of what it means, how it feels to be tall. Through her tallness, and her caring boldness, she pushed me back into the arms of a too-short eighth-grade-boy at the junior high dance. She made me slow dance with that short, sticky boy in my mind, the Karate Kid’s “Glory of Love” on perpetual repeat. While we brunched at Antoine’s Cafe, the two of us compared inadequate inseams and the brief but lasting horror of stirrup-pant blunders (thank god for scrunch socks and safety pins).

Which is important. Especially in Magdalena’s world where she admittedly “augmented everything” sans corneal implants. And height. And it’s important too, in today’s world of “perceived imperfections” where patience isn’t valued. Where girls (and boys) are having cosmetic surgery at 12 and 14 to “fit” the “beauty norms” of an increasingly image obsessed society. Don’t believe me? See here: The Upside of Ugly. Or consider my kid. He was born with one ear that is bigger than the other. The medical explanation is that the cartilage is missing. As his mother I was urged to fix his big ear “before the age of five.” I refused. He’s older now, way beyond five yet recently a doctor asked him, at his check up, if people bullied him about his ear and if he wanted to get it fixed? He looked at the doctor like she was crazy, held his big ear and said: “No way! This is my lucky ear.”

So what I want to say is: It takes time to grow into your face. And time to grow into your height, too. Why would anyone want to alter that? Why would anyone want to augment what inspires resilience? What gives them character? No matter how awkward or painful?

“The Tall Wall” an excerpt from So L.A. by Bridget Hoida

IN ADDITION to their supposed intuition, the Jablonowski women were also tall. At six feet I’m their crown jewel. Although I never saw it that way. What I saw was a girl hunched over at her seventh-grade dance, ignoring her grandmother’s pleas not to slouch, hoping—just for one song—that she would shrink short enough to be swirled in an awkward shuffle around the floor.

And because I towered over most of the boys in my sixth- through eleventh-grade classes, it was impossible for me to be pretty. To be pretty was to have Guess? Jeans that zipped just below your ankle, not two inches above. To be pretty was to have a spiral perm and jelly shoes and stretch pants with stirrups that actually stretched under your foot (and did not, for example, have to be cut off and pinned inside two pair of scrunch socks). To be pretty was to have your boyfriend’s name puff-painted on your pink jean jacket and an arm full of Swatches and friendship bracelets that linked you to Heathers or Valeries or Kimberlys or Kristens.

To be pretty was to be short. Shorter, at least, than the boys. Which, at fourteen, stretched out on my extra-long day bed and flipping through Vogue, didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Because when I looked at the glossy pages I didn’t see short girls. I saw stringy, awkward gazelles with spaghetti limbs draped in lace and slumped artfully across the pulpits of abandoned southern churches. I saw muted beach pictorials of barely-there bikinis and legs as long as the surfboards they perched upon. But apparently, as my mother explained while she stroked my straight hair, Real people don’t live in Vogue, Laney. They live in suburbs and neighborhoods and apartment complexes and farms. Real people have to work for a living and can’t spend all day in their underwear flipping through magazines and imagining themselves shorter.

I’m not in my underwear, I said as I slid on a pair of super-short cut-offs. And I don’t imagine myself shorter, I said as I slid the magazine under my pillow. I imagine myself tall, in a world with tall people who think that I’m pretty.

Well sounds like you’re home, my mom said as she motioned out the large bay window toward Junah and my three tall cousins bent over grapes in the field. Ready to join Tall World, because it’s crush time.

You so don’t get it, I said as I tugged an old Esprit t-shirt and ran out into the hall. You just don’t get it at all.

 —

OUTSIDE OF the land of giants that were largely male and entirely related to me by blood, the rest of the world had pegged me as Too Tall. At least for a girl. Worse yet, in their opinion, I refused to put my long legs up to any real use. I mean sure, I helped people reach top things on shelves and such, but I refused to bump, set, spike, lay-up, free throw or triple jump. Because I was neither athletic nor pretty I was left with smart, which I embraced fully and added to it—more from necessity than from desire—some flair. Let the pretty girls have their acid-washed jeans, cinch belts and China flats. I was going to be an artist. And because real paint supplies were too expensive, I took to installation and made-do with myself. I wore argyle sweaters and color-changing lipstick. I studied the fashion magazines I hid beneath my pillow and pieced together a new vision for myself. My mom was more than happy to let me take over the Singer, and with it I learned to sew sections of Junah’s old jeans into patchwork miniskirts that I adorned with safety pins and grosgrain ribbon. I was the first girl in Lodi to wear ankle socks with patent-leather pumps and, when it was cold, I pulled up mismatched leg warmers. If I couldn’t be pretty then at least I’d be striking. I’d be memorable. I’d be something more than a tall girl, tugging on the hemline of her store-bought skirt and slouching in the corner.