Point-of-View & the Wayne Gretzky Parable
I grew up in a creative bubble. Between hours spent dancing and super-artsy friends, I floated through school barely realizing there were sports teams and student councils and yearbook committees. I assumed everyone’s world revolved around books and stages. (Can you say uber-ballet-Gleek? Or, maybe, snob?)
Freshman year, my English teacher asked us to peer-critique “Someone I Admire” essays. I was paired with super-popular Greg*. He had sandy hair, a perfect nose, and even I knew he was one of our school’s star athletes. We exchanged papers. I can’t recall the person I wrote about but, to this day, I remember Greg’s essay. It went something like this:
“I really admire Wayne Gretzky. He is the most amazing guy. If I could be anybody in the world, I’d want to be Wayne Gretzky. I hope I grow up to have a career like Wayne Gretzky.”
I looked from the paper to Greg’s swoon-worthy blue eyes, while two thoughts ran through my mind.
1) Wow, this guy cannot write his way out of a paper bag.
2) Who the heck is Wayne Gretzky**?
For YEARS, I told this tale to my artsy friends, getting kudos for my lack of sports knowledge and literary superiority, and having laughs at Greg’s expense.*** Then, in college, I was on a date with this cute theater dude and decide to trot out the Gretzky story. He laughed then said, “Seriously? You don’t know who Wayne Gretzky is?”
Here was a guy I admired. A funny guy. A hot guy. And he was basically implying I lived under a rock. I giggled as he talked about “Broadway” Joe Namath and other athletes he admired. He listened as I described my stage idols. Our conversation went on to favorite musicals, military generals, what works in stand-up comedy acts, the space shuttle…all kinds of stuff. But something about his Gretzky comment stuck. I realized I’d been so fixed in my own point-of-view, that I’d never considered learning about Greg’s.
Ultimately, I married the actor guy. We go to tons of theater performances. But I’ve also developed an appreciation for the Jets (I know, they’re football, not hockey). More importantly, as a writer, I make sure to envision the individual “bubbles” in which my characters live—to fill them with quirky details, to respect their differences, and to include the occasional worshipper of Wayne Gretzky.
Stasia Ward Kehoe’s debut novel, AUDITION, will be published by Viking/Penguin on 10-13-11. She is currently cheering for the Mariners (yep, baseball) while counting the days until the Les Mis tour arrives in Seattle. Visit her online at www.stasiawardkehoe.com.
*Name changed to protect the innocent.
**He is a very famous hockey player.
***I should mention that, despite his writing deficiencies, Greg turned out to be a successful businessman J