Elizabeth Owen is an office drone and freelance writer. She lives with her husband Matt, daughter Jane, and dog Mabel in Arkansas. She blogs at Mabel’s House, and her new book, My (Not So) Storybook Life, is on sale now. One lucky commenter will win their own copy and be notified by e-mail.
Before writing about anything, I think it’s a good idea to address the definition of the topic at hand. Today our topic is being a lady.
Ladylike: Always using a handkerchief
Not Ladylike: Wiping your boogers all over the wall beside your bed. For years. Like my little sister Rachel.
Ladylike: Conducting oneself with poise in public.
Not Ladylike: Pooping your pants whilst hiding behind your great-grandmother’s coffin like my middle sister Rebecca.
Ladylike: Never making a scene.
Not Ladylike: Throwing a profanity filled fit in front of a store full of children because someone stole your parking space at a Harry Potter release party. Like I did.
And now that we’ve established what “ladylike” means, on with the story.
When we were young my parents took us camping a lot. My father, bless his heart, took on the responsibility of raising three daughters will all the gusto he would have given had we been males. We learned to pick up worms, fish, and hike in the forest. On one particular occasion we set up the tent, Mom built the fire, and Dad presented us with presents: water guns.
“Do you know what kind of gun this is?” Dad asked Rebecca.
“Uh-Uh” she gaped, already in love with the bright green piece of plastic.
“That’s a Ruger,” he explained as Mom watched, rolling her eyes.
“Wow, a Neuter,” Rebecca repeated with her endearing three year old lisp.
And so Rebecca took her ownership of a bright green plastic Ruger to new heights. She hid behind trees. She pointed her weapon and soaked the crotch of my pants while yelling, “Liz pee-peed, Liz pee-peed.” Actually, because of her lisp, it came out, “Wiz pee-peed, Wiz pee-peed.”
Finally, in a last act of violence, she took aim at Mom’s face and shot a stream of water forceful enough to detach a retina.
“REBECCA,” Mom shrieked, “Be a lady, put down the gun!”
But she didn’t put down the gun. She ran, but not before once again soaking my crotch and cackling something about “Wiz” and “pee pants.”
My sisters and I never learned to be ladies. We eat with our elbows on the table, burp, and wear cotton shirts without ironing them. We laugh whenever someone falls down or stubs their toe. We can quote John Wayne.
As I find myself raising my 7-month-old daughter, Jane, I realize being a lady probably isn’t destiny for our female family line. Jane cements this every time she grabs her feet, toots, and belly laughs at her own bodily functions. Sure, being a lady is a nice idea. They probably get farther in life, have more money and are never seen outside the home after forgetting to Nair their upper lips.
But I wouldn’t trade it. One day soon I’ll tell Jane, “Be a lady.” And then she’ll probably use a water gun to soak the crotch of my pants.