Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Soapbox

This is a rant:

I first became aware of my nemesis, the Amazing Girl, around the age of fifteen. Well, of one in particular: Anne Weinstock. An ethereal creature who wore scarves on her head and layers of shabby sweaters over her slender frame, Anne worked in clay, made vague, emotional statements of feeling in class, wept, and – perhaps her defining characteristic --referred to many, many things as "amazing."
Then there was her other defining characteristic. From the moment she transferred to our high school, boys worshipped her, and she moved from boyfriend to boyfriend with callousness obliviousness, cleaving to the next one with the same sensitive rapture that she'd shown the last.
Her appeal was, I could see, elemental. It was horribly depressing.
Once I started looking for them, I could see that Amazing Girls were everywhere.
Backpacking through South America, smoking hash with locals; reading Sylvia Plath in the park; earnestly worshipping Frida Kahlo in museums; dancing barefoot in the rain everywhere. While many are hippies, they are not all, by any means. They come in all nationalities, all shapes and sizes, from earth mother to ethereal. Some are insipid, others lively, some bisexual and others not, some vegan and some merely vegetarian.
But to them all there is a certain underlying sameness. All are vaguely creative, all sort of political, all sweet and kind and sympathetic and all lacking in any critical judgment whatsoever. Indeed, a lack of harsh judgment might be called the central tenet of their sisterhood, and perhaps a key to their particular magic.
To girls like me – sharp, mean, opinionated, decidedly lacking in mystery – they are a despair. Normal women cannot compete with Amazing Girls. We lack the mystique, the ready sympathy, the soul. They're twice as threatening as any bombshell, for they promise great depth. Supportive and uncritical in a way no one with any judgment can be, they also offer a famed flexibility towards traditional commitment, and the promise of utter sexual abandon. "Vice, Virtue. It's best not to be too moral." declares the definitive old Amazing Girl, Maude of Harold and fame – a favorite of every Amazing Girl. "You cheat yourself out of too much life. Aim above morality. If you apply that to life, then you're bound to live life fully." Indeed.
"Above all," wrote Joan Didion of Ur-Amazing Girl Joan Baez," she is the girl who "feels" things, who has hung onto the freshness and pain of adolescence, the girl ever wounded, ever young."
Sinclair Lewis captures it perfectly in Main Street’s description of the 1920s varietal: “Every cell of her body was alive – thin wrists, quince-blossom skin, black hair…a fragile child who must be cloaked with understanding kindness. “Psychic,” the girls whispered, and “spiritual.” Yet so radioactive were her nerves, so adventurous her trust in rather vaguely constructed sweetness and light. A girl on a hilltop…credulous, plastic, young; drinking the air as she longed to drink life. The eternal aching comedy of expectant youth!”
I began to keep lists of famous Amazing Girls: Joan Baez and Judy Collins, of course, but also Anais Nin, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Miranda July, Lady Ottoline Morrell, Edie Sedgwick, Caroline Blackwood,Vanessa Bell --to say nothing of Rima.( “So vivid was the image left on my brain that she still seemed to be actually before my eyes; and she was not there, nor had been, for she was a dream, an illusion, and no such being existed, or could exist, in this gross world: and at the same time I know that she had been there – that imagination was powerless to conjure up a form so exquisite.” )
Then one day, while staring at Vermeer's “Young Woman with a Water Pitcher” on an excursion to the Met, I had a horrible revelation: an amazing girl! And not just her, either! I thought of all the youthful poets and composers I knew, swooning after the vacant-eyed waifs who sat, chin on knees, gazing up at them at parties, nodding understandingly, breathing "amazing...” then leaping up to dance, abandoned, when someone's band started to play. Surely Raphael had been just as susceptible. The Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, the Nude Descending Staircase, the subject of every famous painting, poem, and piece of music -- they had all been Amazing Girls. I was as sure of it as I'd ever been of anything in my life -- Amazing Girls are and always have been the world's muses.
The career of an English major at a liberal arts college is littered with Amazing Girls in all their incarnations. Of course, college is their natural breeding ground. It is where they bloom and flourish, come into their own, staring up adoringly at professors and entrancing earnest young poets. They perform modern dances and read their original short stories. They hold forth in class, presuming emotion and feeling a more than worthy substitute for the harshness of fact.
It was infuriating to behold. The most attractive boys, otherwise rational creatures, worshipped them. Worse still, because Amazing Girls, by doing nothing but look sensitive, fit everyone’s idea of an artist, they were treated as such for doing nothing but sleeping with them! How had groupie-ism become such a talent?
“Primarily you belong to a special type, a special race of women,” D.H. Lawrence wrote to the mediocre muse, Ottoline Morrell. “Like Cassandra, and some of the great women saints. They were the great media of truth, of the deepest truth: through them…the truth came – as through a fissure from the depths and the burning darkness that lies out of the depth of time.”
“Like a wild and wise animal," rhapsodized Max Eastman of Isadora Duncan, “she fled from those who sought to capture the essence of her — which was motion — by making her stand still.”
Meanwhile, the promiscuous Edna St. Vincent Millay was, “a spokesman for the human spirit....with an intoxicating effect on people," according to Edmund Wilson, who further observed that this particular charm led many a man “to feel…he had found his mate.”
The world, women-wise, being divided into two camps, my friends – mostly of the wise-cracking girl-Friday school -- recognized the phenomenon immediately, and seized upon it with rage and excitement.
"The girls who hug all the time," said one friend eagerly.
"My yoga instructor," added another.
"Greg's new girlfriend," sighed a third sadly, referring to her ex-boyfriend, a struggling musician ripe for AG picking.
My male friends, of course, had no idea. To humor me, they’d pretend to despise them, and then likely as not show up a week later with Amazing Girls on their arms.
While the 1960s were a golden age for the Amazing Girl, it seems clear to me, after much consideration, that the 18th century provided one important model: the Romantics' ideal of the pure and naturally innocent woman, a creature morally inferior to men but capable of spiritual perfection -- in short, a childlike vessel for the projection of masculine ideals. Wordsworth’s Lucy, dying in romantic perfection; Byron’s muse walking in beauty, like the night –
“And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,

So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,

The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
15
But tell of days in goodness spent,

A mind at peace with all below,

A heart whose love is innocent!”

Goethe is a particular offender in this regard, draping the unremarkable Charlotte in laurels such that, “... - When I have been with her for two or three hours, entranced by her ways and the divine expressiveness of her words, and my senses gradually become excited, my sight grows dim.”
Of course, the poets of our own age are just as bad – from Bob Dylan’s vacant muses, wearing their sparkling Egyptian rings and breaking just like little girls, to the free spirits who masquerade as “ruby-throated sparrows” and go around dancing in the sand.
Mystery is the Amazing Girl’s musical hallmark. “She would never say where she came from …who can pin a name on you?” warble the entranced Rolling Stones.
“Who can know the thoughts of Mary Jane?” wonders Nick Drake.
Literature gives us Murakami’s mysteriously vanishing muses, empty vessel Griet of the pearl earring, and the particularly infuriating Theodore Roethke poem: “I knew a woman, lovely in her bones.”
Of course, they’re movie staples, Amazing Girls -- changing people’s lives, teaching the uptight to live, spreading sunshine. Penny Lane, Almost Famous’s luminous groupie; Natasha Wagner’s wide-eyed rock critic in High Fidelity, or Natalie Portman’s grotesquely adorable “Sam” in Garden State (“This song will change your life, I swear.”)
By the time the latter film made its appearance, Amazing Girls had become an obsession with me. I was not sure how, but I was certain the Amazing Girl was a very important cultural phenomenon. I talked about it endlessly. I discussed it in my thesis (title: “Amazing Girls: Or, on the frustrations of not being a muse.”) When asked to contribute a short story to a friend’s literary magazine, I discussed Joyce Carol Oates’s (admittedly speculative) hatred of Amazing Girls. (“ What she had termed ‘Amazing Girls’ had become something of an obsession with her. In her organized fashion, she had long since started a file on them. Oh, how she hated those blank-eyed children!”) The story was deemed autobiographical.
After a few years, there was some feeling that my interest had gotten out of hand. Fewer and fewer of my friends were willing to share in my indignation, to attend my film festivals, to discuss the Amazing Girl’s cultural significance in the Renaissance. I made a conscious effort to talk about it less, to avoid Young Woman with a Pitcher, to sit though Harold and Maude with a placid smile and keep my mouth shut when my brother showed up one Thanksgiving with Sascha, an ethereal vegan from San Francisco.
Then, not long ago, at the Whole Foods in Union Square, I ran into the original Amazing Girl, Anne Weinstock. She looked just the same – scarf on hair, several layers of ragged sweaters, a faraway look in her eye. She was, she told me vaguely, “an artist.” She was living with a sculptor. She pronounced the mediocre specifics of my own life “amazing” and hugged me before we parted.
Watching her walk away, I felt suffused with guilt. She was so nice, so sincere, so nonjudgmental! I had spent so many years resenting someone completely innocuous. I made a spontaneous resolve to change my ways – to approach my life with the openness and enthusiasm of an Amazing Girl. Then, as Anne’s slender frame disappeared down the Grains aisle, I saw several young men look after her yearningly. My heart hardened. I held a film festival that night.

399 comments:

1 – 200 of 399   Newer›   Newest»
Terri said...

Have you ever discovered the dark underbelly of this creature? It will frighten and shock you.

Michelle said...

OMG. I never realized it... I finally get it. I am an AG! Here's something to make you feel better - men have a habit of falling madly in love with me and then freaking. AGs intoxicate lovers, but we can't seem to keep them. They seem to disbelieve our reality and clam up, preventively.

I have had FIVE MEN fall madly in love with me, head over heels giddy, in the last eight months... only to freak out and back away when they realized that they couldn't maintain the connection. It takes a lot of energy (and balls) to dance on hilltops with AGs. You envy the burn rate, how fast we move from sexy, soulful artist to sexy, soulful artist, blah blah blah... I guess it's because anyone who's not an AG (are there AMs?) can't keep the "gates of experience" open indefinitely and bear what comes in. We are constantly disappointed. We are always hoping. And we refuse to become jaded. So, sure, the jaded envy that - but they by definition aren't ready to deal with the pain of each successive disappointment. Wah wah wah. Yeah. Anyway, it's a philosophical choice, we all make them.

Thanks for painting the picture so clearly. Sorry we bum you out. We bum ourselves out, too, sometimes.

Leti said...

Wow, you just articulated the teenage rage I felt when reading every Tom Robbins novel. At UC Santa Cruz we used to call AGs "scarfys".
Although I would argue that although Joan Didion is critical and has opinions she has AG tendencies (her love of greenhouses, descriptions of flowers, etc) to temper them, and the softening of her acerbic wit by her AG tendencies are what make her the favorite WOMAN writer of so many men.

Allison said...

I'm reading this on the heels of the Jezebel post on Manic Pixie Dream Girls, and suddenly realizing what infuriated me all those years. While I was swooning after the wanna-be poets and artists, they were chasing waify, big-eyed girls with philosophy minors. They certainly didn't want to discuss political economy with me. I had this idea that I could be the down-to-earth person who completed one of these soulful lads. But nope, they wanted the no-makeup, scarf-draped, granny boot girl who hung on their every word.

Captain said...

Thank you so much for this well researched essay. Upon encountering this type in fiction or reality (and those in reality are really part-fiction) I can now exchange my feelings of envy and despair for rage and disdain.

Meghan said...

I have been pathetically trying to articulate this particular rage within me for years.

(Being best friends with an AG for 5 years of high school can do so much damage to the brassy ones like me.)

But yes, I have often subjected others to my confused ramblings about females muses in music. Remember "Meet Virginia?" Godamn.

Jennifer said...

I don't think anyone is dissing what's beneath the AG's surface. They're dissing the surface, because it's so perfectly calculated to get attention.

Of course it's nice to have a sunny and unjaded disposition that is all about art and soulfulness, but it is the calculated Anthropologie-catalog styling of that disposition that makes AGs so irresistible to men and so maddening to non-AG women. One can be sweet and unjaded without the styling, but without the styling it just comes across as frumpy/cheesy and isn't intoxicating or seductive. (Think Ann on Arrested Development.)

Michelle said...

@Jennifer - That's a really well-put response. And I have to admit that I am probably not a true AG, in that I am tall, strong, opinionated and wear makeup (sometimes lots of it!). I was even blonde for a time - I understand they are required to be brunettes? ;>

I can certainly agree that the pose of enlightenment is profoundly irritating (as is ANY pose for the pose's sake, and that one adds sanctimony to its offense)... but I give any human props for trying, however they can muster it. Perhaps sunny unjaded disposition compels me to give more credit than is due.

Thanks for not being a knee-jerk hater.

sdelezen said...
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Adam said...

As a dude who resembles, or used to resemble, the "wandering soulster" you mention, I must confess I've fallen more than once head over heels for these AG's--scarves and all. Damn it's good to have someone listen to your crap for that long. That nonthreatening-but-magical presence tells you she's a prize to be won but she'll still make you feel like a stud. Invariably, though, it wasn't enough. I felt guilty, like I knew I ought to be with someone with more opinions, more baggage, more real inspiration. After all, a "muse" may help you write a few songs, but only a girl who can and does kick your ass from time to time is going to be one you want to keep around for good--at least for me. That's my girl now, and she blows the other girls out of the water.

I read the Jezebel post too (awesome). And there's one thing I'll say in defense of the AG's: Some non-AG's like to ascribe a deviousness/cattiness to these girls that just isn't there. They do really find all that stuff "amazing." That unassuming/nice way of being isn't just a tool to dupe young artists. It's nice to be around.

Clong Way From Home said...

Sadie, thanks for this piece. Really beautifully reasoned and written.

@ meghan--Meet Virginia! The WORST!

@ jennifer-- totally agree about the calculation being the most offending aspect of the AG. Nicely put.

I know plenty of genuinely weird people, but mostly even if they DO know how weird they are (most do not, which is what makes them charming), they don't capitalize on it/exaggerate it. That would be embarrassing.

I do have to admit bias, though. Being the stereotypical angry girl--it's really hard to compete with the AG!

Adam said...

I forgot to say in my comment: Really, really great essay.

Mahotma in Herre said...

I hate amazing girls too. I also hate the guys who like them. There's a similar antipathy toward the "inspired, care-free souls with no self-consciousness," also known as the Man of Action, from Notes From Underground, in the male community.

I say we build a coalition of losers, male and female, who unite against Amazing Girls and Men of Action, a coalition of underground(wo)men who refuse to envy wiry vegans from Minneapolis who quote Foucoult and bearded French dudes with "an apartment in the city" who direct music videos on occasion.

Eh, who am I kidding. The cause is lost. Everyone's always going to fall for the Amazing girl. Especially dudes who are white. Or named Common.

Steven said...

I think you might have had a muse yourself.

http://www.avclub.com/content/feature/wild_things_16_films_featuring

Jan said...

I think what men ultimately find so appealing in an AG is the prospect of a disciple, someone who will worship them in turn for their (usually mediocre) talents and epiphanies. And a true AG is satisfied in fulfilling the role of worshipper, content to make her own accomplishments mere second-rate tributes.

While it's easy to envy someone so seemingly carefree and effortless, at the end of the day I'm happy to be in a relationship where I'm an equal and not just a new-age, hippie housewife.

Jessica McLeod said...

This is a fantastic essay.

TWOS said...

I would posit that the phenomenon you describe so well actually occurs with many breeds of Amazing Girls. The loving, scarf-wearing, wide-eyed ones may be scooping up all the artists and smoke-filled, coffee-shop poets. Throughout life I've seen these types, and it rarely bothered me since they were usually operating in a parallel market of competing for affections.

Yet there is at least one other breed of Amazing Girl (and, for the sake of argument, I suppose there's at least one for each subculture of traits and personalities): it's the amazingly brilliant, gorgeous-without-trying, worldly sophisticate who appears to effortlessly be the best at everything, and who is strong and opinionated, but somehow does it in such a nice, approachable way that both men and women find themselves helpless, feeling inferior to that mysterious greatness, and compelled to try and be near it beyond reason.

Same phenomenon, different traits. Some are chaste, some are wildly adventurous, some kind, some sharp-tongued. But for any breed of an Amazing Girl--damnable, unstoppable jealousy aside--I can ultimately only find fault with those who are irresponsible with the affections of those who chase after them. At the end of the day, though, it's the _mystery_ that sustains the aura of the Amazing Girl. Once you really, really get to know them, they can still be amazing, but they're no longer Amazing.

april said...

Thank you for articulating what's been troubling me for years now. My first encounter with an AG was not in film or fiction (that I know of), but a girl I met in college... a girl that I believed changed my life. Her AG-hood was astounding to me and I knew exactly why: because she made everyone feel good about themselves when she was around. So naturally, men fell for her, though she wasn't "hot". And then I, sadly, tried to make myself into an AG. And when it failed... when I returned to being a girl-friday, I felt like *I* had failed.... that I really was this miserable woman that men wouldn't naturally pine for. But that was who I was the whole time. And I'm glad for it. Because now I don't have such a facade of being so fucking interested in everyone's g-damn banality.

Yvonne said...

i am skinny and wear scarves, but i'm not an Amazing Girl... it's a real bummer.

Joy said...
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pizza! said...

I think you've tapped into the core of the matter here. AG's main characteristic and "virtue" is her eternal sense of awe to her loved one's work. You see, I could be perceived as and AG myself. Im a mediocre graphic designer, Im petite, long flowing hair and I wear scarfs in the middle of the summer. So why havent I be able to snatch any of the oh so handsome aspiring artists? Because Im very critic and lack all kind of gentleness and diplomatic skills. They'd show me their new sculpture and my comments would be many variations of "its a piece of crap". The oh so handsome aspiring artist would be disappointed in my lack of support and walk away.

An AG NEVER does that. She is a muse because she has an uncompromising devotion to her artist (or to all artists in general, explaining why she's so popular in such circles). She'll never give you a suggestion, criticism or an honest opinion. She's loved because she tells you exactly what you want to hear. And because she's just so darn pretty.

Jenny said...

For me, the defining characteristic of an AG is that she really does not like other women very much. Remember Kate Hudson's character in "Almost Famous"; at one point she pretends to wave at a bunch of girls running track along side the bus, and then flips them the bird -- and then at another point she gives the stare of death at another groupie trying to enter her conversational group. The AG HAS to be the center of MEN's attention, and cannot really handle comfortably being around other women, especially any who might take the men's attention of of her.

Odelette said...

Harq al-Ada said, "Are shallow and sweet or authentic and bitter young women's only choices?" Um, yeah, kind of. Because authentic young women see what's going on in the world, especially as it relates to being a young woman in the world, and it's ugly, and that makes them bitter. See the book Reviving Ophelia--the author, a counselor of young women, said it's the smart and perceptive girls who start cutting themselves and attempting suicide and all. I think AGs find a way to go around all that difficult reality.

Tessa said...

wow this post made me feel great. In college (art school... yeah.) I was filled with that hopeless envy when the cute boys wearing their moth-eaten sweaters and victorian boots would come in with a drawing of a waif of a girlfriend, usually languishing in rumpled sheets smoking a cigarette, and wish so much to be her. Any boy I did snag usually was still somewhat aching from the loss of vanessa or stella or caitlyn, all about 5'1", 97 lbs, pixie cuts, abstract photographers who sewed their own clothes. I was loud, tall, often drunk, and worked in the woodshop. Now that I'm in the professional world, I've come to realize that deep, interesting, hot guys who's jeans I can actually fit into think its hot when a girl can use a table saw or pound pbrs or yell at people on the street. So go us. Pretty sure guys in bands totally wanna fuck angry, loud girls, too. AND have breakfast the next morning while talking about art. Loudly.

marie said...

right. as many people have said, there is a great variety of amazing girls. there are those who truly are amazing, intelligent, free spirited, open and caring - like you, apparently, dl. there is the kind with no real ambition or critical bone in their bird-like body - (the true amazing girl) the author's anne. and there is the false amazing girl, or play-acting amazing girl, a stereotype with a dark, cruel underbelly. she is the kind of girl many high schoolers pretend to be.

adoration of women like this can be fetishistic. a lot of asian women are set up against this stereotype. what do you do when you are frail and beautiful? use it to your advantage? take the special treatment you receive and reflect it back to the world, in the process shining more beatific light on yourself? reject it by dyeing your hair purple and swearing a lot? it's all about realizing the effect you have on other people and choosing your own adventure. amazing girls with integrity will understand they receive special treatment and accept it with grace, not pretend they deserve it.

to recap: the infuriating thing about a true amazing girl is that she believes if everyone was as kind and open as she, they would get the same smiles and helpful hands. if i slip and fall, i have to get my own ass out of the dirt. just know that.

Krista said...
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Mike Pfeiffer said...

Linked here by The Onion.
This is a gorgeous essay, I love the quotes and examples you chose. Like every hopeful ar-teest kicking around the quad with hunched shoulders and a cardigan wrapped around his lanky, faux-weary frame- I've fallen for more than one Amazing Girl. They're an uncurable, pixie-haired disease! I just can't believe that I didn't notice this trend before...

timoni said...

I'm not an AM--in fact, I'm pretty much the opposite--but I know the type well. I think the concept of Amazing Girls is interesting for a lot of reasons, particularly because I've noticed many men come to relationships expecting to be inspired and (and even improved!) by the women they're dating. I have no such expectations of my boyfriends, of course. Kind of the opposite: I feel a general pressure to better myself when I'm single, and feel an overwhelming obligation to make sure I'm in emotional tip-top shape should I stumble across my future life partner (see Salon's "Looking for the perfect stranger" for an example of what I mean: http://www.salon.com/mwt/excerpt/2008/08/12/marrying_anita/index1.html).

An earlier commenter asked if there were any AMs. I've certainly never met one. To be honest, I'm not sure what I'd do with him if I found one.

Sedgwick Coleus said...

The "Amazing Girl" sounds a lot like the "Ingénue" character. Granted, one cannot be an ingenue forever, but one may still maintain such a facade. Do you want to be around people who give off positive energy, or be around people who give off negative energy?

me said...

I have theory. 'Amazing girls' are merely the equivalent of the annoying 'Ladies man', their names attest to their adoration by the opposite sex. 'Ladies men' have now been proven to be superficial and more importantly, one can with enough dedication learn to become a sort of 'Ladies man'.

The difference is that whereas 'Ladies men' make a killing, they are not idolized to a great degree by women in the manner that 'Amazing girls' are by men. The reason for this is since we live in patriarchial societies the concepts and symbols we use are masculine and the feminine is hidden, obcured and feared. Hence women are unaware that one can learn to become an 'Amazing girl' too, its manifestation is merely instinctual and unconcious. (And so almost impossible to articulate into words) Since men live in a feminine desert philosophically 'Amazing girls' are that much more 'amazing' in being the only flower. While a 'Ladies man' is a rose in a flower shop, women are attracted to this hyper masculine performance, usually only in the sexual/romantic sense and not in the much greater symbolic, conceptual and sexual sense of attraction an 'Amazing girl' is by men.

One of the things I like about 'Amazing girls' and 'Ladies men' is that it is such a great example of real intelligence, to instinctively assume the persona that is adored subconciously by the opposite sex. Adoration is what people do to idols, hence an 'Amazing girl' is limited or limiting herself if she chooses to remain just that. I talk myself out of 'Amazing girl' infatuations or reality says 'hi', either way you learn things when in the presence of the hyper feminine.

Ps (I use male and female terms loosely)

me said...

I have theory. 'Amazing girls' are merely the equivalent of the annoying 'Ladies man', their names attest to their adoration by the opposite sex. 'Ladies men' have now been proven to be superficial and more importantly, one can with enough dedication learn to become a sort of 'Ladies man'.

The difference is that whereas 'Ladies men' make a killing, they are not idolized to a great degree by women in the manner that 'Amazing girls' are by men. The reason for this is since we live in patriarchial societies the concepts and symbols we use are masculine and the feminine is hidden, obcured and feared. Hence women are unaware that one can learn to become an 'Amazing girl' too, its manifestation is merely instinctual and unconcious. (And so almost impossible to articulate into words) Since men live in a feminine desert philosophically 'Amazing girls' are that much more 'amazing' in being the only flower. While a 'Ladies man' is a rose in a flower shop, women are attracted to this hyper masculine performance, usually only in the sexual/romantic sense and not in the much greater symbolic, conceptual and sexual sense of attraction an 'Amazing girl' is by men.

One of the things I like about 'Amazing girls' and 'Ladies men' is that it is such a great example of real intelligence, to instinctively assume the persona that is adored subconciously by the opposite sex. Adoration is what people do to idols, hence an 'Amazing girl' is limited or limiting herself if she chooses to remain just that. I talk myself out of 'Amazing girl' infatuations or reality says 'hi', either way you learn things when in the presence of the hyper feminine.

Ps (I use male and female terms loosely)

Cornelius Anatole said...

I (almost) hate to say it - but this post is .... amazing. Fortunately throughout my life "amazing girls" have never deigned to give me the time of day - so I have been forced to have relationships with real (as opposed to "amazing") girls. I cannot claim any credit for this, though - like I said it has just been my good luck.

Angelika HausFrauSki said...
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Liz said...

I'm a variation of an AG (reformed now, thank god), and you guys are way over-thinking this. We work to be "amazing" and sweet and non-judgmental and enthusiastic and really really happy about everything because we are expected to. That's what women are.

Personally, I got tired of all the guys who adored my "essence," but then seemed so bored. Or worse, freaked out if I ever actually had a real need.

It's not fun. We're as much the product of cultural expectations gone haywire as anorexics. Your real beef is with the guys who think vague goodness is all they want in a woman. I bet it does suck to see the guys stumble all over themselves to stand next to someone who will never, ever criticize. But trust me, it also sucks to realize that you are valued most the non-threatening irrelevance of your pinions. Instead of contributing to even more girl-on-girl hate, maybe try to save some anger for the society that expects this bs from women.

Nicola said...

This was so great. The first Amazing Girl I knew was influenced heavily in fifth or sixth grade by "Stargirl" and by 7th grade the teachers were having a conference on HOW TO GET HER TO WEAR SHOES IN SCHOOL. God, so annoying and, yes, the boys loved her.

Anonymous said...

I think Liz's comment gave a good perspective on the AG phenomenon, BUT, all the people that say "I am AG, but..." really AREN'T. There actually are women that fit the AG bill described in the essay 100%, and if you don't, you're not, so try not to be offended.

And if you think the writer of the essay and anti-AG league are jealous, does that mean it's a problem? Jealousy is a human emotion and there's nothing wrong with it. However, I think the AG thing goes further b/c they seem to a lot of women to be utterly false. For instance, if a guy you like chooses a smart, intelligent, kind woman over you, that's one thing, and might produce jealousy, but is more acceptable. An AG seems entirely without substance, and may actually be, or is pretending to be.

I don't think anyone can be jealous OF an AG, b/c at the end of the day, who would want to put themselves and their feelings and ambitions behind some man's? To be in a relationship only to inspire and support, and have to spend so much energy being quirky and a free spirit? Rather, I think non-AGs are jealous of the attention and results AGs get, because they don't seem to deserve it.

(Not that AGs are unintelligent, but the complete lack of critical thought and loving everything, and everyone, and referring to it ALL as "amazing" seems to point that way.)

Lorie K said...

My god this is an amazing essay.

You've uncovered why I've always felt so disappointed with myself - I've always dreamt of being an "Amazing Girl".
She's in films, in television, in my classes in high school, all over the place.

Thank you for making me realise this. You're a saviour ha

Alisa said...

The comments saying 'Oh I'm totally an AG' are stupid and full of self love, you're not an AG if you have to say you are.

That said I call myself an artist, yea I wear scarves and boots sometimes but honestly who doesn't these days. That alone doesn't make me this happy, bubbly, Amazing Girl. The essay mostly refers to AGs as 'muses' who generally just inspire people to do great things but never do so themselves, that's what it is to be an AG, at least that's what I got out of it. Just wearing scarves and liking indie music and maybe being spontaneous doesn't fit the bill.

So yea, you aren't an AG and neither am I.

Xan said...

This is it! This is why I have always hated my old boss's amazing, wonderful, thin, casually chic, roomed-with-famous-person's-neice but is so REAL daughter all my life. Jeez. She's an AG. I feel so much better now.

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um, yeah. this blog post is absolutely awesome. thank you for posting it, and all you commenters who traded gems of wisdom as well.

I'm only in college now, but I've already encountered a few AGs already- and I can't help it. I AM jealous. I'm jealous that she plays guitar, that she can smoke with the best of them, that she went to boarding school, that she can knit a scarf and quote the 1960s batman sitcom. I'm jealous that no matter what happens she always gets the guy. I've known girls like that in the past, too- they've always been the girlfriends of the guys I wanted, the favorites of the teachers I worked so hard to impress.

I try not to hate them, but in a way I kind of do- why the hell can't I be that way? but this one time I was talking to one of them and she told me that she was jealous of ME. and I was like... what? and she said that she was jealous that I was so funny and quirky and creative in the way I acted/spoke/dressed.

I know now that I'm not an AMAZING Girl like her, and I never will be. but apparently I'm creative and apparently I'm funny, and all I can do at this point is swallow my boundless bitterness and hope that some day, those traits will be enough.

Rachel said...

One thing for you Angry Girls to consider is that Amazing Girls are complex people, too. Boys write screenplays and novels about girls like us, and they turn us into secondary characters: their quirky keys to happiness and fulfillment. But not all of us can or want to maintain the mystery of the AG. We're real people, not means to an end.

As Clementine says in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, "I'm not a concept. Too many guys think I'm a concept or I complete them or I'm going to make them alive, but I'm just a fucked up girl who is looking for my own peace of mind. Don't assign me yours."

As someone who has been mistaken for an AG too many times, I can tell you that it's hard to have relationships with boys who see you this way. They don't allow you to be a complete person. They become disillusioned. It sucks.

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This is an amazing article. Woops. I said it. No, but truly it is. I don't know if I'm an AG, yes guys fall for me hard all the time. I don't do things on purpose to be different. I've been a quirky kid all my life and always wanted to be friends with a "normal" crowd. I didn't want people who thought like me. I wanted the challenge of being validated by others who found me weird. That feeling still hasn't left me. Most of my friends are pretty down to earth with real everyday issues, which I love. And then I have the freaks, weirdos and lovable AGs. I'm a pretty open book except when I'm trying to impress a guy. I'm very politically opinionated. I'm a performer who loves the mainstream and some indie. I love experimenting with my looks, as long as it's tasteful and classy. I always stand by my morals, no matter which crowd I'm with. I do catch myself saying stuff like "It's amazing" or "That's dope" because 1, I'll really believe it is 2, the guy is hot and I want to show that support, or 3 I would like the support back for my own work. Does it get me the down to earth young, normal guy I want? Not yet. I'm an artist but I don't like over the top artsy fellas. (Amazing Guys) I like a rough and tumble man. My father was a musician but also a cop making him a regular guy with common sense. That's how I like my men but they freak when they get a load of my quirks or nativity to certain cultural aspects of their world. I'm trying not to be that girl who lingers onto every one of my guy friend's words cause that doesn't mean shit to them. Looking at this post helped me realize what I can tone down and to stop acting compulsively by adding more positive ad nauseam feedback.

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K Wilson said...

So late to the party on this, but I just saw this post linked from Jezebel and I'm really, really concerned by it. I'll echo many of the comments above and say that I'm someone who could be identified as an AG--I date mainly of artistic men whose work I admire, I'm waifish and look a little like Audrey Hepburn when you see me out of the corner of your eye, I'm spontaneous and I dance at parties, I'm pretty nerdy about music and art and books and I have some silly, girlish devotions to certain artists, 500-days-of-summer style. okay, fine, owned; a lot of the women who have commented here have said the same things about themselves.

What troubles me, though, is how many people haven responded to these comments from women with the statement that if you recognize that you're an AG, you *clearly* cannot be one, as if there really exists some totally clueless female creature out there who has no sense of self beyond spriting about as a delightful muse to brooding men everywhere and being vaguely warm to other, lesser, "normal" women. I'm troubled by the assertion that AG's sleep with artists but aren't really artists themselves--and that you name the fabulous and talented Edna St. Vincent Millay as an AG!--that these women exist, in all their complexity, as indicators of some vague sense of artisticness and (totally safe, totally sexy) moral ambiguity, that they make no demands of the men they're with and never upset or challenge the people around them, that they make the real live "normal girls" seem undesirable in comparison, because they actually have personalities and aren't just empty vessels for fantasy.

I've been perceived that way, definitely. I've also been really deeply hurt by men who have objectified me, who have assumed that I only exist to delight them and resent me when they realize I have my own problems and ambitions and might ask something of them occasionally. I've also been REALLY hurt by other girls who assumed that my personality was calculated, that any kindness or feeling or spontaneity I showed was done in an effort to get attention and court approval, as opposed to just being ME. I do get attention, and I try to accept it with grace; I do want people to like me, and maybe that's a great sin or insecurity, but I don't know any other human beings who don't, on some level, want the same. I try to be myself, and maybe I come off as naive or eager to please, but that's not my intention.

I know that AG is my typecast, and honestly, I hate the movies that you mention--the women look like me, they have similar opinions and quirks and pencil skirts and short stories and what have you. But AG's in movies are always, without fail, seen through the eyes of a male protagonist who treats them as the adorably hairbowed panacea for all the worlds ills. because the perspective never shifts, you could assume, sure, that's all Natalie or Zooey or whatever is, and you could hate her for it; I certainly do. But I know, for me, in my real live, non-movie life, that I'm more than that, and I know that no one who's ever pigeonholed me so harshly has ever asked me, sincerely, who I am.

K Wilson said...

So late to the party on this, but I just saw this post linked from Jezebel and I'm really, really concerned by it. I'll echo many of the comments above and say that I'm someone who could be identified as an AG--I date mainly of artistic men whose work I admire, I'm waifish and look a little like Audrey Hepburn when you see me out of the corner of your eye, I'm spontaneous and I dance at parties, I'm pretty nerdy about music and art and books and I have some silly, girlish devotions to certain artists, 500-days-of-summer style. okay, fine, owned; a lot of the women who have commented here have said the same things about themselves.

What troubles me, though, is how many people haven responded to these comments from women with the statement that if you recognize that you're an AG, you *clearly* cannot be one, as if there really exists some totally clueless female creature out there who has no sense of self beyond spriting about as a delightful muse to brooding men everywhere and being vaguely warm to other, lesser, "normal" women. I'm troubled by the assertion that AG's sleep with artists but aren't really artists themselves--and that you name the fabulous and talented Edna St. Vincent Millay as an AG!--that these women exist, in all their complexity, as indicators of some vague sense of artisticness and (totally safe, totally sexy) moral ambiguity, that they make no demands of the men they're with and never upset or challenge the people around them, that they make the real live "normal girls" seem undesirable in comparison, because they actually have personalities and aren't just empty vessels for fantasy.

I've been perceived that way, definitely. I've also been really deeply hurt by men who have objectified me, who have assumed that I only exist to delight them and resent me when they realize I have my own problems and ambitions and might ask something of them occasionally. I've also been REALLY hurt by other girls who assumed that my personality was calculated, that any kindness or feeling or spontaneity I showed was done in an effort to get attention and court approval, as opposed to just being ME. I do get attention, and I try to accept it with grace; I do want people to like me, and maybe that's a great sin or insecurity, but I don't know any other human beings who don't, on some level, want the same. I try to be myself, and maybe I come off as naive or eager to please, but that's not my intention.

I know that AG is my typecast, and honestly, I hate the movies that you mention--the women look like me, they have similar opinions and quirks and pencil skirts and short stories and what have you. But AG's in movies are always, without fail, seen through the eyes of a male protagonist who treats them as the adorably hairbowed panacea for all the worlds ills. because the perspective never shifts, you could assume, sure, that's all Natalie or Zooey or whatever is, and you could hate her for it; I certainly do. But I know, for me, in my real live, non-movie life, that I'm more than that, and I know that no one who's ever pigeonholed me so harshly has ever asked me, sincerely, who I am.

K Wilson said...

So late to the party on this, but I just saw this post linked from Jezebel and I'm really, really concerned by it. I'll echo many of the comments above and say that I'm someone who could be identified as an AG--I date mainly of artistic men whose work I admire, I'm waifish and look a little like Audrey Hepburn when you see me out of the corner of your eye, I'm spontaneous and I dance at parties, I'm pretty nerdy about music and art and books and I have some silly, girlish devotions to certain artists, 500-days-of-summer style. okay, fine, owned; a lot of the women who have commented here have said the same things about themselves.

What troubles me, though, is how many people haven responded to these comments from women with the statement that if you recognize that you're an AG, you *clearly* cannot be one, as if there really exists some totally clueless female creature out there who has no sense of self beyond spriting about as a delightful muse to brooding men everywhere and being vaguely warm to other, lesser, "normal" women. I'm troubled by the assertion that AG's sleep with artists but aren't really artists themselves--and that you name the fabulous and talented Edna St. Vincent Millay as an AG!--that these women exist, in all their complexity, as indicators of some vague sense of artisticness and (totally safe, totally sexy) moral ambiguity, that they make no demands of the men they're with and never upset or challenge the people around them, that they make the real live "normal girls" seem undesirable in comparison, because they actually have personalities and aren't just empty vessels for fantasy.

I've been perceived that way, definitely. I've also been really deeply hurt by men who have objectified me, who have assumed that I only exist to delight them and resent me when they realize I have my own problems and ambitions and might ask something of them occasionally. I've also been REALLY hurt by other girls who assumed that my personality was calculated, that any kindness or feeling or spontaneity I showed was done in an effort to get attention and court approval, as opposed to just being ME. I do get attention, and I try to accept it with grace; I do want people to like me, and maybe that's a great sin or insecurity, but I don't know any other human beings who don't, on some level, want the same. I try to be myself, and maybe I come off as naive or eager to please, but that's not my intention.

I know that AG is my typecast, and honestly, I hate the movies that you mention--the women look like me, they have similar opinions and quirks and pencil skirts and short stories and what have you. But AG's in movies are always, without fail, seen through the eyes of a male protagonist who treats them as the adorably hairbowed panacea for all the worlds ills. because the perspective never shifts, you could assume, sure, that's all Natalie or Zooey or whatever is, and you could hate her for it; I certainly do. But I know, for me, in my real live, non-movie life, that I'm more than that, and I know that no one who's ever pigeonholed me so harshly has ever asked me, sincerely, who I am.

Anonymous said...

So late to the party on this, but I just saw this post linked from Jezebel and I'm really, really concerned by it. I'll echo many of the comments above and say that I'm someone who could be identified as an AG--I date mainly of artistic men whose work I admire, I'm waifish and look a little like Audrey Hepburn when you see me out of the corner of your eye, I'm spontaneous and I dance at parties, I'm pretty nerdy about music and art and books and I have some silly, girlish devotions to certain artists, 500-days-of-summer style. okay, fine, owned; a lot of the women who have commented here have said the same things about themselves.

What troubles me, though, is how many people haven responded to these comments from women with the statement that if you recognize that you're an AG, you *clearly* cannot be one, as if there really exists some totally clueless female creature out there who has no sense of self beyond spriting about as a delightful muse to brooding men everywhere and being vaguely warm to other, lesser, "normal" women. I'm troubled by the assertion that AG's sleep with artists but aren't really artists themselves--and that you name the fabulous and talented Edna St. Vincent Millay as an AG!--that these women exist, in all their complexity, as indicators of some vague sense of artisticness and (totally safe, totally sexy) moral ambiguity, that they make no demands of the men they're with and never upset or challenge the people around them, that they make the real live "normal girls" seem undesirable in comparison, because they actually have personalities and aren't just empty vessels for fantasy.

I've been perceived that way, definitely. I've also been really deeply hurt by men who have objectified me, who have assumed that I only exist to delight them and resent me when they realize I have my own problems and ambitions and might ask something of them occasionally. I've also been REALLY hurt by other girls who assumed that my personality was calculated, that any kindness or feeling or spontaneity I showed was done in an effort to get attention and court approval, as opposed to just being ME. I do get attention, and I try to accept it with grace; I do want people to like me, and maybe that's a great sin or insecurity, but I don't know any other human beings who don't, on some level, want the same. I try to be myself, and maybe I come off as naive or eager to please, but that's not my intention.

I know that AG is my typecast, and honestly, I hate the movies that you mention--the women look like me, they have similar opinions and quirks and pencil skirts and short stories and what have you. But AG's in movies are always, without fail, seen through the eyes of a male protagonist who treats them as the adorably hairbowed panacea for all the worlds ills. because the perspective never shifts, you could assume, sure, that's all Natalie or Zooey or whatever is, and you could hate her for it; I certainly do. But I know, for me, in my real live, non-movie life, that I'm more than that, and I know that no one who's ever pigeonholed me so harshly has ever asked me, sincerely, who I am.

Anonymous said...

So late to the party on this, but I just saw this post linked from Jezebel and I'm really, really concerned by it. I'll echo many of the comments above and say that I'm someone who could be identified as an AG--I date mainly of artistic men whose work I admire, I'm waifish and look a little like Audrey Hepburn when you see me out of the corner of your eye, I'm spontaneous and I dance at parties, I'm pretty nerdy about music and art and books and I have some silly, girlish devotions to certain artists, 500-days-of-summer style. okay, fine, owned; a lot of the women who have commented here have said the same things about themselves.

What troubles me, though, is how many people haven responded to these comments from women with the statement that if you recognize that you're an AG, you *clearly* cannot be one, as if there really exists some totally clueless female creature out there who has no sense of self beyond spriting about as a delightful muse to brooding men everywhere and being vaguely warm to other, lesser, "normal" women. I'm troubled by the assertion that AG's sleep with artists but aren't really artists themselves--and that you name the fabulous and talented Edna St. Vincent Millay as an AG!--that these women exist, in all their complexity, as indicators of some vague sense of artisticness and (totally safe, totally sexy) moral ambiguity, that they make no demands of the men they're with and never upset or challenge the people around them, that they make the real live "normal girls" seem undesirable in comparison, because they actually have personalities and aren't just empty vessels for fantasy.

I've been perceived that way, definitely. I've also been really deeply hurt by men who have objectified me, who have assumed that I only exist to delight them and resent me when they realize I have my own problems and ambitions and might ask something of them occasionally. I've also been REALLY hurt by other girls who assumed that my personality was calculated, that any kindness or feeling or spontaneity I showed was done in an effort to get attention and court approval, as opposed to just being ME. I do get attention, and I try to accept it with grace; I do want people to like me, and maybe that's a great sin or insecurity, but I don't know any other human beings who don't, on some level, want the same. I try to be myself, and maybe I come off as naive or eager to please, but that's not my intention.

I know that AG is my typecast, and honestly, I hate the movies that you mention--the women look like me, they have similar opinions and quirks and pencil skirts and short stories and what have you. But AG's in movies are always, without fail, seen through the eyes of a male protagonist who treats them as the adorably hairbowed panacea for all the worlds ills. because the perspective never shifts, you could assume, sure, that's all Natalie or Zooey or whatever is, and you could hate her for it; I certainly do. But I know, for me, in my real live, non-movie life, that I'm more than that, and I know that no one who's ever pigeonholed me so harshly has ever asked me, sincerely, who I am.

Anonymous said...

I love this article and I also love what the Anonymous AG has to say above my comment. Really made me think.

Thank-you to the both of you.

I myself am seen as the level headed, strong, articulate, "good at everything" AG who has the essence of the hippy,earth loving child. Hence I am hated by a lot of women, but I myself hate the ethereal AG. Hating on my own type whilst getting the same treatment from 'normal' women.

I sometimes wish women would stop hating one another, we tend to be our own worst enemies.

Christopher said...

Great essay has me laughing. Acting mysterious is a fake sort of profoundness whereas real profoundness is wearing ones heart on one's sleeve and effortfully communicating feelings.

Also, reminds me of the slits song "typical girls" many amazing girls are rather mediocre artists but I guess they are preferable to typical girls

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I don't think anyone is dissing what's beneath the AG's surface. They're dissing the surface, because it's so perfectly calculated to get attention.

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was linked to this article so apologies for how late it is -- i am aware of the phenomenon you describe, and find natalie portman's Sam character in garden state similarly grating.

however, i take real issue with your lumping edna st. vincent millay and miranda july (two incredibly influential women in their fields) with dilettantes like edie sedgwick. in my opinion, perhaps the worst thing about these "amazing girls" is that they contribute nothing to the world beyond their presence -- miranda july is filmmaker, writer, and artist who has done an incredible job of making art-making accessible, and edna st. vincent millay wrote incredible poetry about her station as a woman in a time when it was difficult for women to be heard.

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This article is pretty misogynist.

The comments are even more so.

And I have no idea of I'm an ~Amazing Girl or not because, although I'm opinionated and practical...apparantly doing something as benign as gardening is enough to get you condemned.

My favorite part was when you decided to still hate on the "nemisis" of your childhood...because men were LOOKING AT HER. Almost as bad as those sluts who run around in short skirts...amiright?

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Oh dear. I am ashamed to say that I am an AG. Whether I knew it or not, I realize I've always tried to keep up that image of being a perky plastic little golden girl, spreading joy and inspiration to all I meet. I don't know why and I am ashamed to admit this. :(

It's true that being an AG, or portraying that AG persona, makes you a lot of friends and gets you a lot of people who appreciate you. But the incredibly depressing thing is that NO ONE knows the real you, unless you let your facade down. So all this 'love' and 'admiration' you get from people is all Fake, because they're loving their idea of perfection, not YOU.

In the end you become so frustrated because you give so much to other people and yet no one seems to give you the emotional fulfillment you want & need deep down. And then I suppose as other AGs before me have done, you resolve to quit.

You get tired of the plastic.

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I'm another one of these AGs. If it's any consolation, we are miserable. We are also at least as jealous of you as you are of us. Liz above has it nailed, when she said that it comes from the same kind of place as anorexia. This desperation to be people-pleasing, and the crippling feeling that we won't be good enough if we don't embody the AG. Many AGs actually are anorexic. There is a reason why we are so often "waifish."

Guys "fall in love" with us (though it's not actually us they are falling in love with, is it?), but then what do you think they do as soon as we actually express an opinion, or exhibit a human desire or need? What do you think they do once they realize that we failed to turn their life into a magical care-free wonderland, free from bills and deadlines and stress and conflict?

We go through one relationship after another, believing initially that we finally got some love. That love we are so desperate for that we have molded our entire life and personality and identity into something that might win it, and we think we finally got it. Then he becomes furious with us when we realize we can't give him what he expects from us.

Your article was just what I needed to wake up. Thank you so much, and I'm so sorry that we have caused you non-AGs so much trouble. You non-AGs are the movers and shakers, the creators, the inventors, the ones who fight for our rights. We owe you the world. Now I am going to try to reform, as Liz says she has.

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Pretty much all I really got out of that was:

1. I am mean, unhappy, and hate people who have done nothing but be nice and make people around them happy simply because I believe/posture that I am more intelligent and authentic than they are.

2. I feel it is logical to expect that people should be happier with me because I am mean, unhappy, hateful, smarter and more authentic than people that make them happy for reasons I do not agree with or condone.

3. I still have the ethical high ground despite actually expecting people to place a higher subjective value on the intelligent/authentic/mean-as-fuck package than the sweet/flighty/not-too-bright package.

4. "Why doesn't anyone love me?"

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