I’ve heard plenty of authors say they write for themselves and for God—an audience of two. I do that myself. I’ve filled journals with thoughts and prayers, written for myself, an offering to God. But my books? I don’t write them for me.
I do have an audience for them, though. And it’s not some generic demographic. It’s not some non-existent person between the ages of 20 and 60. No, my reader is more than that.
She’s in her mid-forties, a member of Generation X, and she probably couldn’t tell you what that means. And maybe it means nothing. As a little girl, she wore orange-flowered pants and pulled her milk out of a gold refrigerator. Or maybe it was olive green. She watched Sesame Street and never missed Saturday morning cartoons. She got a perm in middle school, hated it, swore she’d never do it again, and then got another one in high school. She wore great big bows in her hair to go along with her shoulder pads and chunky jewelry. She shampooed with PermaSoft or Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific, and then she covered that great scent with Aqua Net to keep her big hair in place.
She joined her family to enjoy the Huxtables every Thursday night. She remembers that chick from Weird Science asking viewers not to hate her because she was beautiful, and she remembers secretly wishing being beautiful enough to be hated.
She watched the nightly reports about the hostages in Iran and the images as they returned to American soil. The shocking moment when John Hinkley’s bullet came within inches of altering the course of history was wedged forever as an image in her mind, as was the wedding of the century. Prince Charles and Diana taught her that even ordinary girls can be princesses.
She thought Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet Child of Mine a stirring melody. Or maybe she couldn’t be bothered with “Water Pistols & Pansies” and instead preferred the more sophisticated sound of U2. Either way, she knew all the words to Toni Basil’s Hey, Mickey, and if she happens to hear it, she sings along every time.
She wore jeans from Sasson and Jordache and Gloria Vanderbilt and Calvin Klein. She owned a Member’s Only jacket, sported a bi-level at least once, and dated a guy with a MacGyver mullet. Business in the front…always more party in the back.
Her parents, products of the 50s, were gloriously unaware of the world they raised their daughter in. About half of them stayed married to their first spouses, so it’s likely my reader was raised by a single mother and spent Wednesdays and every other weekend with her dad. Unlike her mother (she hoped), my reader did not wait until she was married to experiment with sex. In fact, she might not have waited until she was out of high school. She learned early on that so-called free love came at a great cost—more than just pregnancy and disease. The emotional cost couldn’t be undone with a procedure or a prescription.
Unlike Bill Clinton, she might have inhaled a time or two. She discovered alcohol young enough that it was still deliciously illegal, and the drugs and the alcohol, too, cost more than just her weekly allowance. Or maybe she was a good girl watching her friends make those choices, wishing her world were less complicated.
She was raised to believe she could have it all—career, marriage, children. Her future was so bright, she needed Ray-Bans to look at it. She went to college, studied hard, and planned to achieve success in the form of a six-figure salary and a four-bedroom house.
Only it didn’t turn out as she’d planned. Not that it was bad—just unexpected. She got a job and realized the workplace was nothing like Michael J. Fox made it look in The Secret of My Success. She met a guy and learned the hard way that marriage was nothing like they made it appear in The Cosby Show. And then she had children, and nothing had prepared her for that.
She rocked her babies and cried as she watched the towers fall on 9/11, wondering what kind of a world she’d brought these children into. Along with the rest of the nation, she sang God Bless America and prayed and somehow went on in a world that was no longer sane.
Maybe she worked full time and raised her kids. Maybe she was blessed with a part-time job. Maybe she home schooled. No matter what, she was busier than her mother, than any woman in any generation before her. And she still is. Today, her favorite music is on the oldies station, and her kids sing along with her, because somehow, it’s cool again. If only big hair would come back into style, too.
She’s struggling with her teenagers while her parents have procedures—joint replacements and heart surgeries and everything in between. She’s still married or long divorced, and either way, despite all the people in her life, sometimes she’s lonely.
She remembers the choices from so many years ago, the boy with the bad haircut and the sweet talk. The partying and the fun that never really was. She thinks about those things that cost her so much and longs for the simple joy of floral-scented shampoo. She sometimes wishes she could do it differently. Yes, she lives with regrets. And then she sees the faces of the people she loves and realizes she, too, is loved. She’s not perfect, but she matters. Because it was never about perfection. It was about going for it. Trying and falling and standing up again.
The woman I write for is not a demographic or a statistic. She’s a real, living, breathing human being. She is my friend.
And yes, maybe, she’s a lot like me.
What images remind your of your wonder years? Do any of these images resonate with you?
For just 99 cents for a limited time, you can get Women of Heart, a collection of five Women’s Fiction novels, including Robin Patchen’s Finding Amanda.
Robin Patchen lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, with her husband and three teenagers. Her third book, Finding Amanda, released in April, and its prequel, Chasing Amanda, released in July. When Robin isn’t writing or caring for her family, she works as a freelance editor at Robin’s Red Pen, where she specializes in Christian fiction. Read excerpts and find out more at her website, robinpatchen.com.