'I 'm no model lady. A model's just an imitation of the real thing." -- Mae West
The other night while sitting on the couch in my underwear eating Indian food, I thought about what it means to "be a lady." Earlier that evening I'd been told I wasn't much of a girlie-girl.
"You're not all...I dunno. You're just...Fritz."
What did that mean, exactly? Was it true? And was that a bad thing?
I thought back to last Christmas, when my aunt told me she was thrilled I was so "free." At the time, I thought this was a terrific compliment, but now I wondered if maybe she was just referring to the fact I'd come upstairs to breakfast that day in boots, reindeer tights and a T-shirt. (I promise I thought they were leggings.)
A gander at my bathing suit areas confirms womanhood, but being a lady was clearly a whole other sack of muffins. I went to the bookstore.
"How to Be a Lady -- Revised and Expanded," by Candace Simpson-Giles seemed like a good place to start, so I flopped to the ground and began flipping through pages.
"A lady never eats her lunch while she is behind the wheel of a car." Hmmm. That's one of the only places I eat lunch.
"A lady is never the last to leave a party. Neither, if she can avoid it, is she the first to arrive." I'm late everywhere I go so no worries on being the first to arrive, but the last dregs of an evening are when all the awesome happens. The whole reason you suffer through the beginning of a party is so you can get to the end of it, right?
This "being a lady" thing was not going well.
"If a lady is concerned that she will be the only 'uncoupled' person at a party, she informs the host of the party ahead of time." This Candace woman had to be kidding. There was no way in hell I was going to start calling friends, warning them their soiree was ruined because I didn't have a boyfriend. Maybe instead the call could go something like, "Howdy, it's Jeanine. I called to say your party tonight is going to be more epic than normal since I'll be showing up with a man I just met in the liquor store, named Jack Daniel's. You're welcome. Oh! Also I expect to be 45 minutes late. I'm hanging up now; good talk."
What other bon mots did Candace have?
"A lady never sexts." So yes, this book was definitely revised recently.
"A lady does not miss deadlines." Done. Now can I be a lady?
"A lady knows that her bar is never complete without sliced limes and lemons, a jigger, a stirrer, and a tall stack of hand-ironed, starched cotton cocktail napkins." But what if the evening calls for drinking straight out of the bottle and wiping your mouth with your sleeve, Candace? That happens. Sometimes that's the MOST appropriate way to drink. Haven't any of your friends ever had trouble at work, or suffered heartbreak, or lost someone? I am ready to host my friends in those situations, Candace. I suspect you and your cocktail napkins are not.
"A lady never curses in front of others." Dammit, Candace!
After smiling an apology to the woman next to me in the aisle, I tossed the book back on the shelf and stomped out of the store. Two days later, I went back and bought it. I intend to check-mark everything I do that would make Candace weep and then watch several Mae West movies while eating chicken masala with no pants on.
Maybe I'm not much of a lady. But I'm a lot of other things that matter more than unchipped polish, starched cotton cocktail napkins, or knowing how I look best while being photographed.
I hope to be too busy having a good time to worry about any of that.