Saturday, November 13, 2010

I Am Woman?

As I was falling asleep last night, Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman" started playing in my head.

WTF?! Was it the wine and chocolate chips? Whatevs, it brought me back to little girl-hood and thinking that being a woman meant you were some sort of predator in a peach jumpsuit who sounded like Flo from Mel’s Diner.

I saw no connection between myself, a chubby kid cloaked in anxiety and dark green polyester pants, and an adult female. No way would I get there.

Honestly—and I held this belief way up into my college years—my definition of a woman encompassed 3 criteria: A woman carried a purse, wore pantyhose and accepted with complacence being strapped/trapped in a bullet-cupped brazeer.

The words purse and pantyhose were/are both squirm-inducing for me, so no, you can’t really substitute stockings, which sounds cute and has Christmas connotations, or pocketbook, which makes me think of Charlie’s Angels, who were tough and cool and pretty. You know, like you might find a shiny tube of red lipstick and a gun inside a pocketbook.

Geesh. I know this all reveals something very sad and twisted-up all wrong. And maybe if I’d seen that performance by Helen Reddy, who is like flying on estrogen or something in that clip, I’d have gotten that being a woman is not such a bad thing after all.

Well, since I adored animals I could at least relate to the ‘hear me roaring’ bit. Born Free was one of my favorite stories, and Elsa the lioness is to this day one of my heroes. Joy Adamson called her “a lion of two worlds”—she lived in the wild and raised a family but had a human family, too—whom she’d visit regularly and of her own choosing. A beautiful, bad-a** cat who breaks the rules in the best way possible.

So no, Elsa didn’t carry no dang purse, but she was both strong and gentle. And able to stand on her own two—er, four—feet.

You kick butt, Elsa. So yeah, thanks for helping me revise my definition.

What is/was yours? And dudes, I wanna hear from you, too!


  1. Lovin' Helen's macrame outfit. SO seventies.

    Meanwhile, in my book it's LADIES who wear pantyhose, carry purses, and wear girdles, and I never wanted to be one. I cringe even now when someone refers to me as a lady. (I've met a couple of people (men) who think it's their highest compliment. Ugh.)

    I didn't want to be no stinkin laydee. I wanted to be like Joy Adamson, living close to the natural world and a natural with the animals. Not sure how well I've succeeded in not being a lady or with being J.A., but let the record show that cats seem to like me.

  2. Even now, I never really refer to myself as a "woman." I know I'm way too old to be a girl, and I've never attained the status of being a "lady." I think I'm much more of a "broad," "dame," or "female." Perhaps I shouldn't have watched all that film noir when I was growing up! I love how you linked Helen Reddy with Elsa the lioness. It's intriguing that in the cat kingdom, the male has the long tresses and the female is close-cropped to the skull. I guess they're divided into "Fabios" and "Sineads." This blog really entertained me (plus who can resist Petula Clark?)