Naked Lobster centers around the lives of three women: Tiffany, Lauren and Jennifer. Each of them faces difficulties around their careers.
At the start of the novel, Tiffany is working as a massage therapist at The Kundalini Spa. This aspect of the novel is probably the most autobiographical. I have been a massage therapist for the past nine years, and for seven of those years I worked part time for two different spas. Tiffany shares many of my frustrations with my jobs, such as the often boring and repetitive nature of giving relaxation massages to tourists who don’t want to talk about themselves and just want to lie down and get their massage without making a connection with the therapist. Don’t get me wrong: most of my fellow therapists loved this, but it bugged me and it bugs Tiffany.
Part of the reason it bothers Tiffany is that massage was not her first career choice. She was an artist. Soon after the novel opens, she realizes that she wants to reclaim that aspect of herself. She decides to become a fashion designer. I am not sure really why I chose this path for her. As she is the most autobiographical character in the novel, I suppose it was a parallel track to deciding to write. I know one fashion designer pretty well, but she has gone about her career very differently from the way my character decides to do it. This choice is more modeled on a friend who is a graphic designer, and what I knew about her schooling.
Lauren’s career issues take a back seat to those of her marriage, but they crop up a little. She is an art dealer (modeled on someone I know here in Bend), with a degree in museum studies (don’t we all know people who have settled?) who is asked to put together a museum exhibit and decides to stretch herself and make it happen despite self-doubts that creep up along the way.
Jennifer’s career choices are the rockiest of the three, because they are intertwined with her marriage. This allowed me to explore a common thread in women’s lives: how to balance the two and when to give up on one or the other of them. So often, at least before this recession, it is the woman who gives up her dreams in order to have a family. My own mother did this. Of course, she was from a different generation, but it still happens all of the time.
And just a quick comment on Jennifer’s husband, Dave. He’s a talented musician. I know a lot of musicians, but he isn’t like any of them. There is a little of me in him, because I have written songs that I would love to have someone else sing because my own voice is weak and not very pretty. Dave is not a particularly likeable character. This has nothing to do with his being a musician, or the fact that he is from Kansas. He just, like all of the characters, took over and decided to be who he is.