In my interview with Merry Gangemi on Woman-Stirred Radio, one of the most interesting discussions is about the character of Meghan. Merry Gangemi, an astute and fascinating interviewer, held the perspective that Meghan is irritating and doesn’t know her self. I’ve spent the week considering this, and I’d like to take a moment to talk about why Meghan is important. Why her character is valuable despite the fact that for much of the book she behaves like a shithead.
Meghan has chosen a career at odds with her values. She’s working to get into West Point, sponsored by a chaplain’s family that she admires, aware of the military’s (and the sponsoring family’s) stance on homosexuality. She knows these things and attempts to navigate what is expected of her, despite her desire. She’s young, 18, and ambitious, the ideal role model for Cole’s parents to foist on Cole, except that Meghan is a lesbian.
And this is what I like best about Meghan. She really is all these things. A role model. A person with honor. A cadet. An overachiever. But none of that matters if she’s gay. In the time of the novel — 1990-1991 — if she’s gay, she gets kicked out of the military, she gets dumped by her sponsor family, she compromises her potential because she wants a girl rather than a boy.
If you understood that, and realized how arbitrary and nonsensical that is, how would you behave?
I have such affinity for Meghan. For the honorable person of whom dishonorable things are demanded. It’s her choice though, right? Nobody is forcing her to go into the military. Right. But it’s an absurd requirement. You don’t need to be straight to sacrifice for your country. Now we admit as much; Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is dead, and the military is the better for it, as the Pentagon reported earlier this year.
Meghan is weak, which is to say human. I love her because she struggles and gets it wrong and is determined to self correct. I love her because externally she’s the golden girl for whom life should be lemon meringue pie. Except that she loves this girl. And determines to do something about her love: to make herself worthy of it. I love her because she found a way to make vocabulary lists love letters.