Monday, July 21, 2014

My Misogynistic Lady

My neighbor wanted to celebrate her 50th birthday at Ravinia listening to show tunes by Lerner and Loewe at an afternoon performance. Not my ideal, but what the 50th birthday girl wants, she by god should get. About 29 people altogether were scheduled to converge on the manicured lawns of Ravinia in Highland Park, with food.

I brought a beach chair, which sits low to the ground, and we convoyed in my neighbor's vehicle. Once there I socialized, ate way too much crap and, when the program began, sat back in my chair and fell fast asleep.

I awoke shortly before intermission, and soon the twins arrived with their parents. I helped the girl (we'll call her Emma) check out the food for what she could eat (nut allergy), and she and her brother played with the other kids there.

A large blanket had been spread out, and one of the other little girls had taken The Boy's dinosaurs and was treating them somewhat roughly. Emma saw this, and I watched her face set in consternation. She sat down in front of the other girl.

"Please don't do that," she said politely. "Those are my brother's, and he likes to have them treated nicely."

The other girl just stared at her. Emma gently took the dinosaurs out of her hands and said, "Would you like me to tell you their names?"

"I know their names," the other girl said flatly.

I watched something flicker behind Emma's eyes, and saw a very subtle change in the set of her mouth that said, "So that's how you want to play it."

"So tell me their names," she said very politely, staring at the other girl. The other girl just stared back.

"I'm waiting."

I was dying but I pretended to be absorbed in something else.

Later, I took Emma for a walk over to the amphitheater where the music was being performed, We stood at the railing watching the singers. I explained that these were show tunes, and then I explained what that was, and that the song we were listening to was from a show called "My Fair Lady," and then I began to explain the plot.

And as I began, I realized it's a horrible story. So I made it about having good manners, and veered off to another topic.

Back with the group, I mentioned my dilemma to Emma's mom.

"It's a terrible premise," I said. "Two rich guys make a wager on a poor unsophisticated girl because they're better than she is. Gah."

"Oh, it's horrible," she agreed. "And then when she's made over in his ideal image, he falls in love with her and that's supposed to be a good thing."

"It was all I could do not to say to Emma, 'Don't take any crap. Don't let anyone tell you how to dress or how to act, or how to wear your hair.'"

One of the other women later mentioned something about "ladylike behavior," and I wanted to clap my hands over Emma's ears. She loves to turn cartwheels, and run, and roll on the grass, and get filthy. She loves to wear frilly dresses and synthetic flower garlands, and have her toes painted with her mom at the pedicure shop. She does whatever she likes to do without any concern for whether she should, and if you fuck with her brother's dinosaurs, she will take you down.

I want her to be this way forever.


Jester Queen said...

Ha! Read Pygmalion (the spelling of which I just mangled) in which the Eliza character (Pygmalion), after she figures out what they've done to her, leaves and doesn't come back. They changed it for MFL because the 1950s were so sexist. I took my 10 year old to see a production of it last year, and she and I had a great conversation about pretty much not taking crap. Because as dearly as I love the story - which is also about a woman who can speak the truth because she hasn't been hampered by class horrifying all these people who ARE hidebound by tradition - there is stuff that I can't let pass without commentary.

JC said...

It's cool when you see kids finding the premise just nuts. Laughable. And yes, I do love the angel of the story where the woman knows who she is. Last night, actually, the little girl and I were at a drugstore, and she asked about the false eyelashes on the wall, and we had a discussion about playing with makeup for fun vs. feeling that you needed it, and I gently mentioned that the most beautiful thing is loving who you are. I pray she remembers all oo this when she hits those difficult adolescent years. Fortunately, her parents are cool.