Don't Call Me a Lady
Call me Brash. Call me Bossy. Hell, call me the other B word. Just don’t call me a Lady.
I’m a bit old school when it comes to the “L” word. In my mind, those four letters are a gilded cage, a choke collar fastened to the twin chains of “modesty” and “demureness,” ones meant to keep women in line. And they still make me flinch.
I am old enough to have been brought up in a family that schooled me (however unsuccessfully) in all things “lady”; it was part of the era. Ladies sat quietly, legs crossed; nibbled their food; kept themselves tidy and presentable; were gracefully, elegant, thin, beautiful; spoke softly with neither command, nor authority and knowledge. But I was doomed to disappoint: no beauty; my knees were always scuffed, my elbows rough and dry, my shoulders and feet too big, my hair full of knots. And I said what was on my mind. I wanted to rub up against things, but lived under an umbrella of expectation: Why wasn’t I more refined? More girly? A Lady.
When I was 16, Barbara, my petite, pearls and diamonds grandmother, gave me a black silk evening bag with a fake diamond and pearl clasp, saying, “Everyone Lady needs one.” I was shocked that this was the most important accouterments she could imagine for my soon to be adult self when what I really needed were strong women who stood up to men, role models who showed me that a girl can grow up to be just what she wants.
Instead, I learned girls were passive, pretty adornments, like the dolls I was given meant to be looked at--things I wasn’t, nor had the slightest intention of being. Their lot was to wait—for a prince, for happily ever after. No one would write their story.
I was too impatient for all that.
Please don’t tell me to get over it, that these things reside in some distant troubled past. The world we live in is still too ruled by archaic ideas of how women should behave. You have only to look at the all-out war on the national and local level on women’s reproductive rights and the now infamous comments of the Dictator-in-Chief and his mostly guy cabinet to see we have not come a long way, baby.
This International Women’s Day I’m celebrating by thumbing my nose at it all, by bearing my unruliness with pride and celebrating the bitchy, the bossy, and the badly behaved. I’ll be lighting a candle for Baubo, the most unladylike Goddess of all whose bawdy act of lifting her skirt made Demeter laugh and propelled her into resuming her quest to find her daughter. Like her, I’ll proudly act in some very unladylike ways, knowing such acts have the power to change the world.