Heather Ryan

Heather Ryan
Eugene, Oregon, US
December 20
"Imagine," says writer TK Dalton, "a knocked up Bookslut, Salam Pax with a dead beat ex instead of Raed. That's Terrible Mother." She's also a quick-thinking, smart-mouthed single mother to three kids. By day, she teaches writing to college freshmen and sophomores. By night, she cooks, cleans, parents and writes. She is, despite vehemently claiming to be one, not a hipster, but does have an MFA in Fiction from the University of Oregon, which she earned by duct-taping her children to chairs and feeding them bottles of Benadryl (not necessarily in that order). Terrible Mother still lives in Oregon, where she deals her snarky brand of parenting humor to her friends. "Another single mother blog?" says novelist Roby Connor. "Someone get this lady some Jesus."


Editor’s Pick
JULY 31, 2008 1:49PM

Two Romantic Malcontents Watch Little Women

Rate: 8 Flag

Friend One and I have spent the last 9 days secluded in a cabin nestled in the Oregon Coastal Range.  She’s a poet and is readying her manuscript for submission while writing new poems; I’m a writer working on my memoir and a slew of essays.  We’re here, nominally, to work on our various projects, and that’s what we both won spots at this writing residency for.  However, we’ve also used this time to catch up since, post-grad school, Friend One has called Missoula, Montana home while I’ve been stuck in Eugene, Oregon. 


This catch up time has included a plethora of talk on men and relationships.  Friend One recently ended things with her boyfriend of 18 months.  And me?  I’ve had the experience of dating, since my divorce, and in no particular order, a double amputee chaplain, a civil engineer from India, and a quadriplegic poet. 


I feel this makes us a good pair for drinking lots of wine and complaining about men, don’t you? 

Last night, Friend One and I watched Little Women (the Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder version).  And this was our running commentary:   

Look at Winona Ryder.  I hate her.  She’s so tiny, but still busty.

Don’t hate her, Friend One.  It’s not her fault she looks good in old-timey clothes.

Is that what they’re called?  “Old-timey clothes”?

What, you want something more specific?  Like “dresses that forced women into corsets, thereby ruining their chances at successful breathing and childbirth for the rest of their lives?”


Uhhh….are those my only options?




Look at that house.  It’s full of love, TM. 


I know.  It’s so inviting and comforting.


That’s because Father is off in the war.  There’s no man there.  That’s why it’s comforting.


Father is in the war!  That’s not comforting!


Oh Pshaw.  They don’t even miss him.  It’s because there isn’t a man around to screw things up. 


But Laurie’s always around!


Oh, he’s not a man yet.  Clearly.




Don’t get mad at Jo here, Friend One.


I hate it.  I hate it when she turns down Laurie.


She can’t help it.  It’s not in her nature.  She shouldn’t marry him.


[yelling at the screen]  YOU DUMMY!  TAKE LAURIE!


Damn it, Friend One. 


It’s not fair.  Who in their right mind would turn down Laurie? 


She doesn’t want to be a wife!  She’s not ready!


“I’ll let you win every argument, Jo?”  Who isn’t ready for that?


Maybe Winona Ryder didn’t like all of Christian Bale’s extra teeth.


That’s what’s wrong with the world.  They expect perfection!  People don’t love each other for their faults anymore!  [pause]  Can you pour me more wine?




This makes me like Claire Danes more. 


Yeah.  She dies really well in that scene.


If she died in every movie, I’d be a lot happier. 




You know what pisses me off about this movie, TM?


I can’t imagine.


That Jo ends up with the German Professor. 


Why does that piss you off?


Why?  Where is my German Professor?  WHERE IS MY GERMAN PROFESSOR?


Where’s yours?  Where’s mine?


In real life there is no German Professor waiting in the wings after you TURN DOWN CHRISTIAN BALE!


There has to be.  I need a German Professor.


Yeah?  The closest you came was the quadriplegic poet.


What about the Indian Civil Engineer? [pause]  Fuck.  Just pass me the wine.




[next morning]


I could so watch Little Women every night.


Me too, Friend One.  Me too.




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I always re-read LW hoping that this time Jo takes Laurie, instead of the old German professor. And Beth doesn't die, but Amy does. I hate Amy and her 'my Lords' and her Grecian nose obsession and getting Laurie. Grr.

For fun, I actually rewrote the section of Little Women where Jo tells Laurie by letter that she couldn't marry him. Remember that part - he writes 'could she, would she' and she says NO??? I never accepted that. I still don't.
That damn Jo never takes Laurie and it's painful, book form, movie form, whatever medium it's in. I can't help that I want Jo to marry Laurie.

Also, I hate Amy. I feel guilty admitting it, but you've made me able to face it, Sandra. Damn her and her getting to go to France instead of Jo.
fuck her dresses with their "Parisian air" too
If Amy was my sister I'd light a match and throw it under her bed while she was napping.
Oh and where's my goddamn German professor too?
At this point, I'm willing to settle for a German Shepard.
I don't care what nationality he is, if Gabriel Byrne showed up at my doorstep, my ankle would be over my ears so fast, it would be an Olympic record.
Frankly, I prefer "Eight Cousins" and "Rose in Bloom" (also by Alcott). I've always preferred books about orphans. I used to think it said something awful (and justifiably so) about my childhood...

but then I realized that being an orphan is like the child's version of finding yourself on a desert island. Logically, you probably can't survive without some adults around, but since they aren't your own parents, you still are on your own in some existential way.

I've read "Robinson Crusoe," and it was okay, but not what I was looking for, and I've successfully managed to avoid that Tom Hanks movie where he makes friends with a volley ball.

"Girl of the Limberlost" was an exception. I was actually an adult when I first read it, and Eleonora (sp?) was not really an orphan... she just had a singularly unsympathetic mother. Almost the same thing. (Really, I must have been adopted, and my real parents are going to come and get me any day now.)

I did read all of the LW series, but couldn't identify with either their "goodness" or their cozy family life. Too surreal.
Jane Eyre was my favorite orphan-type book. Poor Mr Rochester and his crazy wife in the attic bedroom. My husband must feel that way.
Christian Bale was in Little Women?

Was that the movie where he had all the business cards that were different shades of the same color?
Tequila, I married a german shepherd. Seriously. I really think my husband was a german shepherd in a previous life. My medium friend has confirmed it.
LOL... Liz, that's hilarious. My BF thinks I used to be a Golden Retriever.
If you like Jane Eyre, you should read "The Wide Sargasso Sea", the other side of the story.
"That’s what’s wrong with the world. They expect perfection! People don’t love each other for their faults anymore!"

A mouthful, Madame Terrible! What has become of the Love which once sought to transform dross into gold!
As Nicolas Cage says in "Moonstruck,"

“We aren’t here to make things perfect. We’re here to ruin ourselves, break our hearts, and love the wrong people.”
Why do we have to hate Claire Danes? I like Claire Danes. Or at least, I did back in her "My So Called Life," days.

If the two you watch Little Women again, I'm going to refuse to see you in person. I can already see the effects of all the booze, women in old timey-clothes, and clever, despairing feminist banter. You won't be fit for society by the time you leave the cabin.
This morning, in the cabin, as Friend One was climbing up to her writing cube (her studio. Yes, it's a cube perched about 2 stories high) she yelled down, "WHERE IS MY GERMAN PROFESSOR?"

To which I responded, "YOUR'S? WHERE IS MINE?"

Yeah, we are that insular at this point.

I do think I need t-shirts made. Where the fuck IS my German Professor?

I also really love Moonstruck. But let me say this: who gets an amputee baker?

Okay, I probably would (see previous dating history, Exhibit A and Exhibit B). But I'm just saying, he wouldn't be Nicholas Cage.

Though I agree people don't love each other for their faults anymore, and that's a damn shame Monsieur Chariot.
I'm changing my bio again to your precise statement, la terrible'. It is spot-on.
And I want a t-shirt that says, Where is my German Professor?" Go design it on Cafe Press; I'll buy one just as soon as I sell some sock monkey dildo holders.
I could totally knit dildo cozies. For, like, money even.
Well if you really want to hate somebody, you ladies all need to see the 1949 version with Elizabeth Taylor as Amy. June Allyson plays Jo and (blech) Peter Lawford is Laurie, the best possible reason for her to turn him down. Anyway, Laurie wasn't tough enough for her, she needed a father figure.

The 1978 version is a hoot, The Little Brady Bunch Women, Meredith Baxter as Meg, Susan Dey as Jo, Eve Plumb as Beth, William Shatner as Friedrich Bhaer (!) and some unknown guy, Richard Gilliland, as Laurie.

LW was my favorite book, along with Jane Eyre and Portrait of a Lady for most of my youth. Well, you'd have to add Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames and whatever porn I could get my sweaty little palms on too. Oh, Lady Chatterly's Lover!
P_F, try the Italian "La Terribile" (lah tare EE bee lay) - has a nice ring to it!

The casting agent for LW the movie also hated that Jo didn't end up with Laurie, b/c in the book, the German Professor SO did not come across as a Gabriel Byrne type, but some old crotchey grampy dad replacement. The casting agent was doing her part to correct Louisa May Alcott's vision, which had too much sympathy for entitled, pretty, pampered blonde brats and not nearly enough for intrepid, resourceful young women of action. By putting Laurie with Amy and Jo with a crotchety old grampy, LAM was betraying her deeply held belief that all the good things in life go the golden beautiful ones, while smart capable women end up diapering tons of kids and an old man.


(and what in the world was wrong with Jo, listening to Laurie's grandfather lecture that they were 'too much alike' ?? Like compatibility is a *bad* thing. sheesh)

I will never, ever get over my anger that Jo didn't end up with Laurie.

Nothing gets my malcontented romantic heart like the unrequited love and life of Lily Bart in "House of Mirth"
OH Lily Bart. Oh, I cried terribly at the end of the House of Mirth.
Sandra, I have to agree about Lily Bart... [sigh] I just kept hoping that somehow things were going to work out for her, but, of course, in a Wharton novel that is always highly unlikely. But I love them just the same.

Sally... I loved Cherry Ames! I know she wasn't an orphan, but she was mischievious enough to be one.
Does it help that the German Professor is Professor Gabriel Byrne? I mean, if you're going to turn down Christian Bale (maybe she didn't want to be "Mrs. Batman"?), Gabriel Byrne isn't exactly a step down.

"Little Women" always seemed to carry a mixed message to me. The good, gentle, wonderful girl that is selfless and that everyone loves . . . dies. The snotty, irritating, self-centered, superficial girl who only wanted to marry someone rich so that she wouldn't have to work and could pamper herself . . . does. What the heck kind of message is *that*?

It's based on Alcott's life, supposedly. As Tom Lehrer said, "God can't write book." (He was talking about Fiorello!, but it applies.)
Douglas, it helps in the movie, but the book makes very clear that Professor Baer is anything but a Gabriel Byrne-type.

Call it "a marriage of true minds"... but that isn't what most women (or men, for that matter) are looking for.
I know; in the illustrations in my copy of the book (Grandma gave it to me when I was 11--it was printed in 1880!), the Professor looks like Santa Claus.

But still, Gabriel Byrne!
I adore LW. Still. I couldn't tell you how many times I've read it through. It was the first real book I gave to my daughter.

I cried when Jo refused Laurie. Every single time.

I always thought that f I were Jo, I would have let Amy die in the skating accident. What she did was unforgiveable. That book was Jo's life!

Yeah, I hated her, too.

Oh, and Lily Bart; I loved the book so, so much. I loved the movie, too. Could Gillian Anderson have been any better? No, I think not!
The movie is excellent though I've only seen it once and have never read the book. However I'm a Brazilian undergraduate student of English, I know quite a bit about North-american and British writters. I've been looking for some academical studies on Laura Ingalls Wilder and haven't found anything yet. So I turned my searchs on the web to another 19th. Century writter whom I believe has many coincidences with Laura: Louisa M. Alcoot. Then I started to research on my University Library and could only find "Good Wives" avaiable. It is really a pitty! Brazilian professors of English do not study Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott. I need a subject to my Master and I've been thinking about those two writters all the time, permanently. Them and also Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë and her master piece "Jane Eyre". All those books and stories tell us about independent girls and how they became strong and intelligent women. They are all bildungsromans and I'd really like to find an interesting topic which I could do my research.

Do you think, you all intelligent, strong women could help me? Is it possible to relate all of them? Last friday I was supposed to go to my English Literature Class wich I missed cause I couldn't get up early. Lazy me. I'm gonna talk about these ideas with my professor and see if she can help me...

It was a pleasure joining you.