I've been attempting to get some of my things published in the
real world, sort of. To be honest, I've been doing little
fiction-writing at all; I've been reduced to outright
word-prosititution..."I'll write something I don't believe
in, so that you'll give me money, I can further my
education." That hasn't actually worked well, either.
This is something I wrote a year ago as a quick little thing, dusted off and rewrote a couple of months ago, and then was refound by me today. I think it's still a couple of rewrites away from whatever final form it will take.
The Lady or the Woman
When writing, it's extremely important to choose each word with care. Although words may seem similar in meaning, each words has many shades of interpretation. If one describes a sweatshirt as "green," it's too vague to be accurate -- there are dozens of shades of green, after all: dark green, light green, lime-green, blue-green, yellow-green, green-yellow . . . the list goes on and on. In that case, accuracy is important to contemplate. Aesthetics and viewpoint are also important things to consider. A plant which grows in the middle of a vacant lot may be a beautiful wildflower to a young child, but to an adult casually passing through, it's just some ratty weed. The person who is doing the describing must pick his or her words with care and devotion to what is being described. Finally, of course, there is the whim of the person and his or her personal beliefs. This, of course, is the horn of the dilemma concerning the terms "woman" and the "lady."
My father, being a second-and-third generation Kentuckian, has always prevailed upon me, the only daughter, to "be a little lady." I should cross my legs while wearing a skirt, use my best manners while I eat, and to eliminate all traces of vulgarities, even slang like "sucks". A lady always acts high-class. At any restaurant intended for the somewhere above the bourgeois, the female bathroom is always marked "ladies." Even a "lady of the night" is a higher-prestige term than a courtesan or a prostitute. A lady will wipe her mouth daintily and embroider little sayings on pillows. She'll never get dirty, or burp, or swear, or run around, or be noisy, or, it seems, have any fun at all.
My mother, on the other hand, is a northern liberal Democrat rarin' to go. No one can ever tell her to "be a little lady." Like all women, she wears pants -- jeans, even -- as she holds a full-time job and demands a woman's right to choice and equality for all. Like Lilith, the first woman (who, legend states, was kicked out of the Garden of Eden before Eve was created because she demanded to be equal to Adam in all things, including sex), women the world over relish the chance to wear men's clothes, to watch football and drink beer, to order people around, to swagger, to earn (and to spend!) money and to be free and liberated and to be that true equal to men that all feminists -- "We Are Women, Hear Us ROAR!" -- know women to truly be and to forget, somehow, some (or much) of the delicacy and grace and femininity that separated females from males in the first place.
As I grew up, somewhere between these two endpoints, a whole new expectation emerged -- that of my peers. As a kid, I wore my brother's hand-me-downs and climbed trees to read books without letting anyone else inside my own little world. As my body changed, I suddenly found myself scouring Teen magazine and experimenting with makeup as I watched MTV. I never wanted to be a fashion plate or ever really cared about which Backstreet Boy was the hottest, yet suddenly this was the world which was important to me. I had to care about whether Joey hooked up with Jessica and know the difference between lip gloss and lip liner.
Adolescents get so many new words that are ignored by the younger set, especially words for women. My vocabulary expanded beyond my wildest expectations, and so did my imagery No longer was I constrained to merely "lady" or "woman" -- I could be practically anything I wanted! . . . provided I wanted to be a slut, flirt, tease, dummy, twit, wench, termagant, chick, baby, honey, prep, or the ever-popular bitch. I could be easy or an ice-queen; sissy or spoiled was my choice alone. I could have jugs, tits, or boobs -- we won't even mention the words for the only important bit of my lower half.
These are the words which box me in; these are the words which even women use to describe themselves, their friends, their enemies, people they don't even know. This is the language which shapes all pictures of us. This is only the smallest portion of the labels used to describe me; you can only imagine the words people use to describe me because I'm Jewish, too, and young, and intelligent.
I wasted years expecting to be as flat as these labels. Every cheerleader is dumb, ever jock is a meathead, every brainiac is a geek, every rich kid is spoiled. There are worlds which no one sees because of all these fabricated words.
If I am to pick a term for myself, I pick female, liberal yet moderate in my protests, ready for equality yet refusing to be completely "in your face" about it. I am, too, a writer. Whenever I write, I try to use the best sort of words to fit the writing, depending on the situation, accuracy, and viewpoint of the story and the emotions and memories I want to evoke. I try not to waste my words, nor do I try to package everyone up neatly in a few glib phrases and file them away. .
Unlike Humpty Dumpty, we can't simply pay words to cover what meanings we want. We need to select and spend our words carefully, or else find them all entirely worthless.