Posted by: Hannah | 09/24/2012

of mackerel & little women

My west coast bestie Nicole started a fun little discussion on Facebook today; to wit, which of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women are you? FUN! Because I used to play “little women” endlessly, as a kid. I went through a brief spell of wanting to be poor, tragic Beth with her kittens and her piano and her scarlet fever. Then I toyed with the notion of Amy, who may have been a spoiled brat at the beginning of the novel but eventually became beautiful, accomplished, and rich – not to mention she married Laurie, which COME ON.

I never wanted to be Meg – and as the eldest in my family you’d think that would have been a natural fit. And while I had some sympathy for her sense of responsibility to her siblings, not to mention her world-weary “oh, to be so young and carefree” thing, I just couldn’t warm up to her. Such a ditherer, always. Meg, if you want nice things and handsome gentleman callers and to get tiddly on champagne, own your choices, for heaven’s sake. Meg was constantly throwing caution to the wind and having some fun, then flagellating herself with guilt afterwards until she confessed to Marmee, was counselled to stop desiring rich food, new clothes, and nice things, and then instructed to read her Bible until the urge to scream passed.

Then she married nice-but-dull John Brooke to spite her aunt, had twins, ruined a gigantic batch of cranberry jelly, and eventually lost all sense of herself in the search for a peaceful household. UGH.

No, I most often played at being Jo, and I still think it’s the best fit. Like Jo, I feel awkward in social situations, have no clue how to dress myself in stylish clothing (and usually manage to ruin them somehow when I try), and spent much of my adolescence getting along better with guys than girls. I’m a writer, I lose myself in books, I have a strong sense of duty but sometimes I chafe at it.

So! Jo. I would wander through the woods around my house, pretending Laurie was just around the bend, imagining what life was like for them and wishing such gallantry was still commonplace.


Today Harry’s bus driver whistled me over and passed me a heavy plastic bag out through the window. “Mackerel,” he yelled, “all filleted and cleaned”. This was apropos of nothing, and was also a very nice gesture, because fresh fish is the best stuff ever and even on the east coast it’s not always easy to come by. I was tickled – still am – and I don’t know what prompted it, but I will eat it happily.

Then when I saw Nicole’s status update I thought huh, a bag of fish in ‘Little Women’ – that’s probably a betrothal present, or something. And I got the giggles, and immediately decided that Harry’s bus driver must be sweet on me.

Apparently the way to my heart is via plastic bags of fish.




  1. I’m 90% Jo, 10% Amy. I’m not a girly-girl (more a womanly-woman), I have always had male friends, I love to read and write, I’m strong-willed and often think outside society’s boxes. However, I do like to look pretty and I have Amy’s love of ease and creature comforts. (Huh. Where’s *my* rich man??)

    And OF COURSE the bus driver is sweet on you!

  2. I never read that book. Never wanted to. I preferred jane Eyre with all the gothic corners and the long suffering Jane just taking shit with a downcast face…must say something about me. And fish! I don’t eat it but I know my BF would LOVE that!

  3. He is trying to court you! Does he know about Michael? He’s a wife stealer, that one.

    I want to be Jo so badly – she’s a writer, she’s quite possibly my favourite fictional character of all time. But I know I’m not.

    Poor Meg. The jelly won’t jell! And then John brings home a friend for dinner? With all the ruined jelly! Ahhhhhhhh. She was not being a good homemaker.

    I need to watch that movie again. Gabriel Byrne! You get him. I’ll have to settle for Christian Bale. Rawr.

  4. I think I’m a Beth. Quiet and long-suffering and never asking for anything and then dying young. EEEK. I think I need a Little Women intervention!

  5. I’m Jo. This isn’t even something I have to think about. Just like I know that I’m Natalie (Facts of Life), Miranda (Sex and the City), Dorothy (Golden Girls), and Julia (Designing Women).

  6. I was a Jo. I had a serious crush on Laurie and was (and still am) pissed that he ended up with Amy, and that JO went and married some bearded old man for no apparent reason instead.

    • But Professor Bhaer! As played by Gabriel Byrne! RAWR.

      • Never saw the movie. Maybe it would help me come to turns. Stodgy German chubby guy seemed like such a weird ending for JO

        • Oh, see it. You will be reconciled, I promise. 🙂

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