How To Tell If You Are In A Noel Streatfeild Novel -The Toast

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Previously in this series: How To Tell If You Are In A Haruki Murakami Novel.

1. You are young, though you find yourself growing up very quickly.

2. You are ridiculously talented at one very specific thing.

3. So are your siblings. Each of you has a separate, distinct talent, which is fortunate because it means you never have to compete with each other.

4. You’ve never taken a single lesson related to your talents until the story starts. You’re just naturally, amazingly talented.

5. Something unfortunate has happened to your family, meaning they have to pour every single one of their resources into making sure you and your siblings achieve your talents, so you can go out and earn money. Yes, you are now expected to keep your family in porridge and organdy, even though you are nine years old and have never taken a single ballet or acting or music lesson.

6. Luckily, there’s a very good school nearby, and they do their best to help families of limited means, and your means are limited almost as much as your talents are overwhelming.

7. If you are a dancer, you are the next Posy Fossil. Even if it’s barely been a year since Posy left the school. Posy was the real deal, Madame Fidolia’s first and only protégé, and yet as soon as she graduated, there you are, somehow eclipsing Posy as she turns her efforts from dancing to escaping World War II. (But be careful — as soon as you leave the school, someone’s going to surpass you.)

8. If you are an actor, you get lead parts just by showing up, just because you can feel the characters in a way that no one else can. You’re the only person in the world who can truly capture the spirit of Shakespeare’s Ariel, or Burnett’s Mary Lennox.

This will later cause young girls in America to read about you and assume acting is something different than it actually is. They will write about “feeling the part” in their diaries and staring into the mirror until they see the role they’re playing and not themselves. They will not get into theater school because of this. They will never learn that acting involves just as much technique as ballet.

9. If you are Petrova, ignore all of the above because you are Petrova, and fuck that noise. You’re going to study aeroplane books on the sly and become a pilot. You are the most awesome character.

10. You never have enough clothes, until somebody gives you a bunch of beautiful, perfect clothes. You think that makes you special, but it’s a trope. It’s a metaphor for your transition out of childhood. Google “puffed sleeves,” and ask why your younger siblings aren’t getting similar gifts.

11. You never fall in love. Do you have any idea how rare this is? You hit your teens and beyond, you go to Hollywood and star in films, without ever having a crush on the young man who supports your leg during the pas de deux, or plays the boy Babe in the Woods to your girl babe. You never fall in love, and your older, quirky female guardian never falls in love, and the fun, single jazz instructor with the masculine name never falls in love, and the shy but focused ballet teacher with the private pain never falls in love. No one falls in love, ever. Except in the movie version.

12. There is an alternate universe in which your same story is told in a much less fairy-tale way. Instead of GUM, you get a serial philanderer for a dad, and you and your bastard sisters are forced to take to the stage much in the same way that Jon Snow is forced to go to the north. (Like Jon Snow, you also have sex, but it’s complicated and emotional and messes with your sense of morality.) This story was written for adults, and only adults bother to look it up now, through a sense of nostalgia and completionism that quickly turns to depression.

13. Whenever you want a door to open for you, you just say “beaver-time.”

Nicole Dieker is a freelance writer and ghostwriter. She had to stop ballet lessons before she went en pointe, but she has been in A Midsummer Night's Dream twice. Her work has been featured in The Billfold, Yearbook Office, Unbest, and Who Are We Now, and she posts weekly Tumblr essays about earning money as a writer.

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