A Craft Party with Helen Gurley Brown and Frances "Baby" Houseman

Week 6 of #TheYearToBe___: FEARLESS


Cosmopolitan magazine has cornered the market on branding FEARLESS. The slogan “Fun, fearless, female” is etched into my brain. And I bet it is in yours, too. After all, it will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. 

Cosmo was a magazine I read way before it was age-appropriate. Thank you, public libraries! (Yes, adopt your “shocked” expression.) About the time I turned sixteen, I started buying my own copies—smuggled into my house after Friday nights at Barnes and Noble with the BFF. Oooh, wasn’t I the rebellious teenager? (PS—they were only smuggled into my home not smuggled out of the store. I assure you I paid for every copy.) I’m not sure why I felt the need to smuggle them in as I soon used the glossy sheets to decoupage any flat surface. (Y’all, I even decoupaged a trashcan before Pinterest was a glimmer in our crafty eyes.)

I present: Exhibit A 

When I posted it earlier this week, “Blow Like a Pro” was a twitter favorite. What do you think: did this snippet come from an article on the fine art of fellatio or a beauty editorial?

When I posted it earlier this week, “Blow Like a Pro” was a twitter favorite. What do you think: did this snippet come from an article on the fine art of fellatio or a beauty editorial?

Said BFF, co-conspirator in Operation Covert Cosmo Entry, found this gem while purging her house to get ready for her big move and sent me the picture. (Oh, is it ever good for a laugh.)

Full of inside jokes—94% of which I remember lo, these many many years later—and oh-so classy images and innuendo, the girl who painstakingly cut, layered, and sponged on Mod Podge was fearless.

If that girl was scared of anything, you certainly wouldn’t know it. She could do anything. Accomplish anything. Go anywhere. Be anything.

But inside, she bore a striking resemblance to Frances “Baby” Houseman from Dirty Dancing.

Johnny: I've never known anyone like you before. You think you can make the world better. Somebody's lost, you find them. Somebody's bleeding—

Baby: Yeah, I go get my daddy. That was really brave, like you said.

Johnny: That took a lot of guts to go to him! You are not scared of anything.

Baby: Me? I'm scared of everything! I'm scared of what I saw. I'm scared of what I did, of who I am. And most of all, I'm scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life.... the way I feel when I'm with you!

(Let’s pause for a moment to remember how utterly fantabulous this scene is.)

Is fearlessness knowing the risks…and taking them anyway? Or is it ignoring the risks and doing X, Y, Z because it feels good?

In romance—both reading and writing—I am drawn to heroines who take risks. Big ones. Risks rationally calculated and risks taken when she just throws her arms out and trusts that she’ll catch the current.

Isn’t that what falling in love is all about? Though we calculate the risks by different rubrics, it’s still a risk to let another human being take possession of our soft squishy bits. (Included are feelings/emotions; the metaphorical heart; and yes, those soft, squishy bits, too.)

In the rewrite I’m working on now (yes, rewrite—I will be fearless, damnit!), my heroine was a fearless 18-year-old girl who took a risk on her Hollywood dream…and failed. Now she’s back in her hometown, broke as a joke, and what’s left of her pride wouldn’t fit in an evening bag. (You know, the tiny sparkly ones that are only good for a lipstick and a driver’s license?)

Now that Amy is all grown up and has a PhD in the school of life, she learns that there’s a difference between being a daredevil and being fearless. Like me, she isn’t exactly sure what the difference is, but we think it’s centered in knowledge. In true confidence. And in accepting that depending on someone you love doesn’t mean you’re any less capable of facing those fears.