Lola Dares is the title of my current work in progress. It’s a women’s fiction novel (industry term=female protagonist and plot that centers on personal growth) in which a middle-aged woman determined to make a fresh start is confronted by obstacle after obstacle from her past: a demanding daughter, an empty wallet, an interfering ex-husband, a jealous rival, and her own conflicted heart. Lola dares to start a new chapter, and when that new chapter goes awry, she dares to push through and climb over and sweep aside obstacles until her path is clear.
I admire daring people. Age is making me more daring, less concerned with others’ judgment. And why not? Plenty of younger people already find me somewhat ridiculous. I mean, here I am, walking around, enjoying life—at my age! Adorning myself, expressing opinions, dancing in public, expecting courteous treatment—who do I think I am?
There’s a world of difference, though, between working hard to get better at something you’re already pretty good at (dancing, written expression) and trying something completely new, and a bit scary. My husband, a lifelong thrill-seeker, wants me to try scuba diving, an activity he loves. As I kid, I marveled at Jacques Cousteau’s films. Somehow, I imagine the undersea world calling to me in Cousteau’s thick French accent. But I’m terrified of drowning—perhaps I did drown in a previous life. Perhaps I’m just a big old chicken pants. For me, learning to scuba dive would be daring.
White-water rafting, mountain climbing, reporting in a war zone, backpacking in the mountains among hungry predators—when I think of daring, the first images that come to mind are of thrilling physical actions that could kill me. Call me craven, but the threat of death takes much of the fun away. I guess I’m just not wired to be a daring thrill-seeker.
On the other hand, there’s a certain daring in doing something extraordinary every day, because it’s so easy to slide into boring mediocrity—and there are so many forces at work to keep us there. When it’s so easy to go to the mall and pick a standard shirt/snack/lifestyle off the rack, it’s rather daring to make a more thoughtful choice. So to those daring people who dress oddly, who cultivate unusual interests, who make a habit of trying new things, who ask probing questions about why we do the self-destructive things we do—to them, I say hats off to you for your daring. Preferably a smashing hat, with sequins and feathers.