Elevator Bitch — or Why I Started This Blog
People often ask what started me thinking about creating this blog about the "lost art of being a dame". I think it all started in an elevator... Years ago I was riding an elevator at work with a couple of (very) young female co-workers and an older gentleman I’d seen from time to time around the building. It was a short ride, but ample time for said gentleman to sneak peeks down our various blouses to assess our various bosoms. If I gave it much thought at all, it was probably “The old guy needs to get out more,” or “The sly shirt-look-down: how quaintly old school.” We all disembarked and after the gent was out of earshot my fellow bosom-possessors pounced. “We should go to HR right now!” said rattled bosom buddy #1. “Isn’t there some number or something we can call?” asked # 2, stifling angry tears. “Um, what the hell are you talking about?” I gently inquired. “Well, I’m a feminist. I’m not going to put up with that,” #1 explained, implying that I must be some kind of nymphomaniacal doormat to take this assault on our collective bosoms’ air space lying down. I asked why they didn't just call him on it, with a "Which one do you prefer?" or a "Do you think President Coolidge would have liked these?" or just a bemused, "What big eyes you have, Grandpa!" Hell, they were so furious, if they'd had the balls they could have kneed him in his. Anyway, they tearfully marched off in a huff to HR, leaving me behind to actually feel kinda sorry for the ole horndog. I don’t know what ever became of Operation Geezer Gazer. I demurred and went about my way, feeling vaguely sorry for both the voyeur and voyettes. Is this what feminism and our P.C. culture had wrought? These young women only saw two options before them: 1) Run and tell HR on the big, bad perv, or 2) Slink meekly away, silently cursing the heavy burden of amplitude. Have women forgotten that they can, in fact, take care of themselves quite nicely? Have we lost sight of the fact that we’re simultaneously strong, self-reliant, sassy, and sexy as all get out? Whatever happened to snappy remarks? Whatever happened to the well-placed zinger? Whatever happened to the slapped face, the drink in the face? (Hell, I can dream, can’t I?) The point is, these young women were behaving like fragile glass figures that couldn’t withstand a man’s male-gaze, much less utter a scathing, or charmingly tolerant, bon mot. Under the banner of strength and self-esteem my elevator compatriots weren’t acting like women, they were acting like frazzled little girls.
“When the going gets tough, the tough re-apply their lipstick.” -- Dixie LaiteWhat, I wondered, would Barbara Stanwyck do in this situation? What would Myrna Loy or Rosalind Russell or one of the good ole days’ good ole dames do? I was sure it wouldn’t be tramping off in a huff to go file a formal complaint. For one thing, dames don’t do anything in a huff. (I was going to say they don’t do anything huff way, but I spared you. Well, sorta.) In fact, was this really a situation that called for action? I mean, last time I looked men liked looking at bosoms, and that’s probably not gonna change any time soon.) This got me thinking about how much we’ve lost since the dame’s heyday. Time was they were everywhere. We encountered them in detective novels, plays, beauty parlors and at the movies – always at the movies. Some were lucky enough to have dames at close range: grandmothers, great great-aunts, that woman down at the coffee shop who rocked the beauty mark. But today, much like dinosaurs, dames no longer roam the earth. What happened to those funny, feisty, glam dames of the 30’s and 40’s? Today the 21st century serves up vacuous tabloid heroines, Girls Gone Wild, girls gone stupid, and girls gone stark-staring-batshit-crazy. Seemingly, an entire generation of females confuses belly tees emblazoned with the word “Hottie” with actual hotness. (By the way, rule #1 of Hot: if you have to let people know, you’re not.) This dearth of dames makes me sad. I miss dames; I want to see more dames. And I want to see more dame-ness in myself. I’d love to have been born a dame. I wasn’t. But I could watch and learn and study the core principles that shape the dame’s perception of the world, of herself. Whenever I’m in a situation (and I frequently do find myself in situations) I think, "What would Myrna do?" When I find myself acting coy, self-abnegating, or smaller than I really am, I confront myself with, "Is this how Barbara Stanwyck would do it?" Having studied dames in movies, I use their example to help cultivate stylish and substantive aspects of womanhood in myself. And I want to do it for you, too. The dame’s legacy of confident charm, sexy self-possession, and light-hearted brawn is applicable, and accessible, to every woman (and a few men too). THE LOST ART OF BEING A DAME is a celebration of yesterday’s dames, and a guide to helping women find their inner dame today.