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(Not the) All American Girl

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Betty scoffed at the large posters hanging throughout the factory. They were everywhere; in the lunchroom, hanging on the fences outside and even on the walls on the munitions floor. Some of the girls in her dorm had even requested her signature on their copies, like she was a celebrity.

She should be flattered by all the attention and she was, it wasn’t every day that a gal got to be a model. And she was pleased to think that maybe her posters and movie might be able to make a contribution to the war effort. If more people bought bonds because of her than she was all the more happy to be part of it.

But it was the hypocrisy that bothered her. She felt like a liar. That wasn’t her on those posters, she wasn’t this ‘all American girl’ the director said he saw in her; that despite the obvious that she wasn’t even American. Damn Yankees weren’t even in the war.

He said he loved her spirit; that she had this gumption and fierceness that reflected the women’s effort on the homefront mixed with this pure innocent sweetness that all young women should have. He said she would be a role model for the ladies at home as well as men on the front lines.

She had no doubt that if they knew what she really was they’d never want her in the campaign and they’d probably throw her in jail. She was a freak. Abnormal. The secret of her German heritage was enough to have her thrown into Camp X in Whitby where she’d never be heard from again. But it was more than that; she wasn’t pure or innocent or an example of ‘refined femininity made tough in the face of hardship’ or however it was said to her.

They should have gone with Gladys like they were going to. There was a woman who was all those things; tough, beautiful, inspiring…….straight. Betty tried really hard to blend in, to be ‘normal’; she had posters of Gary Cooper and Robert Taylor on her room walls like all the other girls, though they were dispersed amongst photos of Rita Hayworth and Jane Wyman. She dated boys, tried to wear dresses on occasion, but she never felt herself.

“Betty? What’s wrong?” she heard Gladys say as the woman came up next to her. Betty had zoned out, staring for so long at the large poster display in the lunchroom. She sighed, “nothing really. Just…. this” waving a casual hand at the seven-foot high placard.

“It’s a lovely photo of you. Very inspiring. I feel ready to work harder the more I look at it”

Betty chuckled, “thanks”

“But what?” she pushed

“Its just not me. I feel like a fraud.”

Gladys raised her arm around Betty’s shoulders and pulled her into a sort of side hug, “sure it is. Your tough and beautiful and you know this factory better than anyone aside from Lorna”

“Ya, but…. I’m not that girl. I’m not the right kind of role model they say I am” Betty confessed. This was the closest they’d ever come to even talking about it, even though they were really talking about it; her comment could easily be read in a non-threatening way. Betty figured Gladys knew, you just know when someone knows your deepest secret; they act different. And Betty figured Gladys knew that Betty knew that she knew, there was a silent sort of companionship between them that went deeper than it had reason to. To her credit, Gladys had been ridiculously nonplussed by the information, she was far more open minded and caring than people assumed her to be.

Gladys sighed and looked back at the large poster, “I think you are. A Victory Girl is supposed to be strong and beautiful. She’s confidant in who she is and wants to support the war effort. She’s a symbol, a rallying call for everyone. I think that accurately describes you. The rest is just details… and details….well, they are just details right.”

“Betty shrugged and leaned against Gladys, “yeah, I suppose”

“Good. Now lets get back to work before Mrs Corbett has us cleaning the galley” she said, poking Betty in the arm.

“Alright.”

As they turned away from the poster and towards the assembly room, Betty took one more look at the large poster. Maybe it was her, maybe it wasn’t, and maybe it didn’t really matter that much. She wanted to help the war effort and like Gladys said, the rest was just details.