Sunday, August 1, 2010

What is it That Makes a Woman a Lady?

Last night I watched the DVD of Julie and Julia, which is based on the true story of Julie Powell, a struggling New York writer, (I can relate), who decides to post a blog chronicling her culinary journey to create all 524 recipes in the 1961 edition of Julia Child's book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in 365 days.

The film depicts Mrs. Powell as a young, all-American wife with a fresh-faced girl-next-door quality about her. How can we not like her as we watch her struggle to balance her day job and marriage while trying to complete the monumental task she has laid out for herself? Throughout the film the audience goes back and forth between the lives of Julie Powell and Julia Child, and while they are indeed two very different individuals they do share some similar life experiences. We also see Julie develop a close, personal kinship with Julia as her project continues, but her bubble is burst near the end of the film when someone close to Julia Child informs her that Mrs. Child didn't like Julie's blog.  We're told that she in fact, hated it. Julie is crushed, but goes on to complete the project. Assuming this actually happened, (and remember, movies "based on a true story" contain a lot of fiction), I couldn't help but wonder why. 

After I put the DVD in the return envelope I went on-line and looked up Julie Powell. Was I ever surprised. While a very brief mention of her using the "f-word" in her blog is noted in the film, her current blog is a real eye-opener. The subtitle says it all, and it's hardly what one would have expected from the sweet girl-next-door that we saw in the movie. Now I'm not going to knock Mrs. Powell or call her a bad person. She and I probably have a lot in common since we're both writers and authors, but upon reading some of her writing I think I can make an educated guess as to why Julia Child wouldn't have liked her blog, assuming that she had read it.

Julia Child was a lady. Her husband was a diplomat, and she associated herself with people in high places. Now in order to do successfully that one must have a certain special quality that is sadly missing in our culture today -- class. And class is what makes a woman a lady.

A lady doesn't use any of George Carlin's seven words that you can't say on television or radio. At least not in any kind of a public setting, or in print, be it a printed page or cyberspace, nor would she ever use that kind of language in mixed company. A lady is gracious. She says, "please" and "thank you," and she doesn't swear at a man if he opens a door for her. A lady also dresses appropriately for the occasion. Now I'm not against casual wear, if it's worn in the proper setting, however a lady doesn't wear bare-midriffs and flip-flops in a business office, nor would she ever be seen anywhere in public dressed like a whore. A lady also follows other social protocol, such as not chewing or cracking gum in public or sitting in a chair in a spread-eagle position. You get my drift.  It's not about having a lot of money or lavish clothes or jewelry. It's all about having dignity and a little bit of pride in oneself.  That is what makes a lady a lady.

I'm not saying that it's easy being a lady, especially in a society that wants to rob women of their femininity and turn them into second-class men. I sometimes struggle with it myself, but when you're a children's book author acting like a lady comes with the job. Julia Child was most certainly a lady, and she was a good, positive role model. The world needs more like her.

My thought for the day,


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