Oh, to be thirteen…

A thirteen-year-old is a kaleidoscope of different personalities, if not in most ways a mere figment of her own imagination. At that age, what and who you are depends largely on what book you happen to be reading at the moment. You are the yellow-haired, skinny little heroine of The Secret Garden, slowly adjusting to the rigorous disciplines of English country life after being pampered by your devoted Indian ayah. You are a Brontë sister—not Anne, not Charlotte, more likely Emily—pouring out your wild genius on the lonely moor. You are Elizabeth Barrett Browning on her sickbed, great luminous eyes staring from an emaciated face, the helpless victim of a narrow-minded, vengeful father—but your iron will is capable of triumphing over his petty tyranny in the end. You are Jane Eyre, painfully thin and pale of face but steadfast in spirit, able to withstand the cruelty of the hateful Reeds and in the end, after their downfall, to forgive them. For a day or two you might be a tall, serious, dark-eyed sixth-form prefect out of one of Angela Brazil’s school stories, adored by the smaller girls, and, though full of human little faults, pride and joy of the headmistress. Sometimes you are even Clara Bow, the “It” girl, stirring thousands with your warm beauty and throaty voice; or the mysterious Swedish spellbinder, Greta Garbo.

From Jessica Mitford’s memoir Hons and Rebels

If I was going to be a woman, I would want to be as beautiful as possible. And they said to me, ‘Uh, that’s as beautiful as we can get you.’ And I went home and started crying to my wife, and I said, ‘I have to make this picture.’ And she said, ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Because I think I’m an interesting woman when I look at myself on screen, and I know that if I met myself at a party, I would never talk to that character because she doesn’t fulfill, physically, the demands that we’re brought up to think that women have to have in order for us to ask them out.’ She says, ‘What are you saying?’ and I said, ‘There’s too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.’ It was not what it felt like to be a woman. It was what it felt like to be someone that people didn’t respect, for the wrong reasons. I know it’s a comedy. But comedy’s a serious business.
Dustin Hoffman
Browsing my late grandmother’s bookshelves and found this first edition, signed copy. I can’t recall a juicy fact I discovered about her—she had a crush on someone’s husband, which I discovered by reading a memoir (I hate how these things escape me), but I did find this famous letter Amelia wrote her to-be husband on her wedding day: “You must know again my reluctance to marry, my feeling that I shatter thereby chances in work which means so much to me… . In our life together I shall not hold you to any medieval code of faithfulness to me, nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly… . I may have to keep some place where I can go to be myself now and then, for I cannot guarantee to endure at all the confinements of even an attractive cage.”

Browsing my late grandmother’s bookshelves and found this first edition, signed copy. I can’t recall a juicy fact I discovered about her—she had a crush on someone’s husband, which I discovered by reading a memoir (I hate how these things escape me), but I did find this famous letter Amelia wrote her to-be husband on her wedding day: “You must know again my reluctance to marry, my feeling that I shatter thereby chances in work which means so much to me… . In our life together I shall not hold you to any medieval code of faithfulness to me, nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly… . I may have to keep some place where I can go to be myself now and then, for I cannot guarantee to endure at all the confinements of even an attractive cage.”