10 Stories about Self-Destructive Women

From Electric Lit:

One of the greatest thrills of reading a first-person story is in the tension between what the narrator understands about themself and what we, the readers, understand about the narrator. But in these first-person stories of self-destructive women, the lies are so thin, the self-delusion and denial so absurd, the jokes so dark or so dead-pan or so sarcastic, that we get the sense the narrators, at least on some level, know they’re wreaking havoc on their own lives. Perhaps the obfuscation isn’t about how they’re making messes of their lives, but why, what pain those messes hide.

Many of the narrators in my short story collection Girls of a Certain Age behave self-destructively as a means of coping with circumstances beyond their control. In “First Aid,” the main character makes a case for self-injury. In “Human Bonding,” a college student is thrilled to be punched in the face. In “None of These Will Bring Disaster,” an unemployed binge drinker purposefully picks up smoking and keeps finding herself in unfulfilling relationships. “If you keep stepping in the same ditch over and over,” she says, “people stop feeling sorry for you because you’re either an idiot or a masochist.”

Maybe I’m the idiot or the masochist, because no matter what the women in these stories and novels do—no matter how blatantly they lie, how many mind-altering substances they consume, how easily they turn on their loved ones—I find I am rooting for them, holding out hope that they might change.

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

2 thoughts on “10 Stories about Self-Destructive Women”

  1. My hackles rose just at the title of the OP. Can you imagine 10 Stories About Self Destructive Men? No, me neither because on the whole men destroy other people before they destroy themselves. But for some reason fiction and real life loves the destruction of women, even in the so-called ‘literary canon’ – Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary … Back when I was researching and writing my novel about the wife of Scottish poet Robert Burns, it became clear to me that not only had she been the love of his life, but she had been a bright, well regarded woman who lived on long after his early death and forged many friendships. All of it ignored or misrepresented by subsequent commentators who couldn’t stomach the idea of a sensible, non-self destructive woman and much preferred the saintly dead.

    • Don’t forget the hagiographies that paper over mundane reality of both men and women. The latter are increasingly popular in both print and video. Because reality just isn’t good enough.

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