We recently published Sarah Priscus’s powerful “Mary-Ann Shoemaker.”
Here, we ask her two questions about her story:
1) This story reads so real to me — that the girls see Mary-Ann Shoemaker and focus on her eccentric behaviors instead of feeling sympathy for her. Do you think they will ever come to an understanding of Mary-Ann, or are these the kind of girls that all their lives will say “remember that weird girl from high school?”
To me, Mary-Ann Shoemaker represents the “weird other,” a person we fixate on in an attempt to make ourselves feel more normal by comparison. Because of that, the girls view her as an inside joke, a thing to gossip about, a freak to gawk at — never as a real person. The girls might grow more empathetic as they get older, just maybe not necessarily to Mary-Ann. I imagine it would be easier emotionally for them to keep her dissociated from “realness” within their minds. That way, they never have to think about what harm they might have done by othering her.
Still, I tend to think that the girls do have some sort of sympathy for Mary-Ann, especially in the last scene. I just don’t think they’re capable of making the leap of actually reaching out to her. Parts of them want to reach out to Mary-Ann and ask if she’s okay, but her volatility and eccentricity makes them afraid of what might happen if they do.
2) And Mary-Ann herself, she’s such an interesting character. Her behavior seems both a cry for help and a warning to stay away, both at once. Do you think she might ever be able to reach out to someone without simultaneously pushing them away?
I want to believe that if Mary-Ann were in a better environment, she might find healthier, less destructive ways of expressing her pained internality. Maybe by the time she leaves school and moves away from home, she’ll feel safe and unthreatened enough to open up. I don’t imagine she’d ever be as “normal” as the girls who watch her, but maybe she could become less self-destructive.