Novelist Colleen McCullough died this week. I was a pre-teen when THE THORN BIRDS came out, and I remember being captivated, carried on a romantic tide by the stunning lead character and the priest she loved. When it came time, years later, to pick out the color for my prom dress I chose ashes-of-roses. (If you've read the book, you know why.)
I have no idea whether her writing would appeal to me now, or whether she'll have the literary longevity of, say, Virginia Woolf. But I do know she sold 30 million books.
Thirty. Million. Books.
And The Thorn Birds television production still ranks as the second-highest rated miniseries of all time. Whatever you think of the writing, the subject, or the genre, you have to give Ms. McCullough credit for building an amazing career.
And when she dies, you'd think that career would be the focus of the first paragraph of her obituary.
Instead, the Australian reporter said this: "Plain of feature, and certainly overweight, she was nevertheless a woman of wit and warmth."
Great. But what was she wearing when she died? Could she cook? Was she married?
If, like me, crap like this makes you want to curse/roll-your-eyes/buy another black pantsuit, you're not alone. Twitter had a little fun with the writer, matching the obituary's absurdity with its own, using the hashtag #MyOzObituary. Media outlets finally noticed--and called bullshit.
They say the first step is recognizing you have a problem.
We have a long history of focusing on women's looks, of judging their worth through their roles as wives and mothers. But men have families, too. My husband cooks better than I do. He fills out his jeans quite nicely, has an engaging smile, and is handy with a wrench--or a vacuum. And when our kids were babies, he probably changed as many diapers as I did. Yet, strangely, those attributes aren't listed on his curriculum vitae.
Fifty years from now, I doubt they'll be on his obituary, either.
Here's to taking the first step.