Not for the first time, a potential reader said I was too “cold” in Exposed. She “couldn’t relate to the character.”
This always surprises me. From the inside, I am anything but “cold.” There is laughter, there are tears, there is fear. I am passionate about many things, including passion itself. So why this disconnect?
My response is usually “Jessica’s not cold. She’s French.” While many in the U.S. now use that as an insult, what I mean is that there is a certain acceptance of circumstances in the French mindset: “C’est la vie,” or “Such is life.” This doesn’t promote a lot of whining.
The key metaphor in Exposed is “Tout passé, tout cassé, tout lassé.” Everything passes, everything breaks, everything wears out. Nothing is forever. When brought to focus on a “tragedy” in our daily lives, is this attitude “cold?” Is it “cold” to present it to someone who is clinging to something broken?
Empathy is important, but sympathy may not always be the best response. I admit that the Gallic shrug can seem indifferent if not arrogant. But it can also be perceived as an acknowledgement that “nothing lasts forever,” including relationships, cars, grandmothers, or preconceptions. Those who believe otherwise are living in a world of dreams, what-ifs, make-believe.
Admittedly, I leaned hard on this point of view in Exposed to make it different, to give it character. This is also my point of view and is how I was raised. If this seems “cold” to some readers, I’ll admit there’s a twinge of disappointment that my central message was lost. But, what can I do?
C’est la vie.