Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Lady in the Street


Saw this on the Advanced Style blog. AS is one of my favorite pick-me-ups. I love that the women in the pictures are vibrant and expressing themselves with fashion and, most important, getting out there and mixing it up in their 70s, 80, 90s, and on into the century mark. It gives me a kick in the pants to at least try, ya know?

I went to the part of the review that Ari mentions about calling him out on using the word “ladies” to describe the women he photographs. Geez Louise. Some women really look for things to get their knickers in a twist about. Who uses the word ladies anymore? Me. I also say women, chicks, girls, gals, broads, babes, bitches, hoochies, squirrels (last one I picked up from someone else – and she’s right. Call your girls your squirrel friends and you’ll laugh every time). It’s all about context. There’s a big difference between somebody jabbing a finger in my face and saying “Listen, lady!” and a smiling person walking up and saying, “Hey, lady!” The same way there’s a difference between someone muttering “bitch” under their breath and someone laughing as they say “Wassup, bitch?”

What’s the difference between lady and woman? Woman is biological. It’s a particular configuration of body parts and chemical reactions. Not insignificant, of course, but not particular either. Lady is conduct. It is behavior. Specifically, good behavior. A lady is polite, a lady dresses appropriately, a lady considers the comfort of others. It doesn’t convey moral character. There are good ladies and bad ladies. But we all know what is expected of a lady. On Friday night I was ushering at A Christmas Carol, and 2 little girls ran past me. A little excitement on a night at the big people’s theater is expected, no? But not terribly safe when it leads to running. All I had to say, in my firm, adult voice, was “Ladies.” Heads go up. Shoulders go back. Running stops. At 6, they knew exactly what was expected. That’s the thing. You know.

And I get the idea of it being retrograde and a relic of an era when a woman could be put in her place by the threat of not being a true lady. Oh, my. The tyranny of being a “good little girl” and a “lady”. But the only way to deal with the past is to pick up the things you want and leave the rest behind. There are wonderful things about being a lady. Madeleine Albright is a lady. And one tough broad too.* All in context. I have contexts too. Sometimes I’m a bitch. Sometimes I’m one of the girls. And yes, even I can be a lady. I drink my beer with a pinky firmly out.

* If you've never heard her talk about sending messages to heads of state using her broaches, go look it up. Well, played, Madame Albright. Well played.

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