As an adolescent my mother took to calling me “nebby”, in Pittsburghese it’s the equivalent to nosy. Indeed, I remember intentionally listening to my mother’s phone conversations and gossip sessions she and our neighbor would have over coffee and cigarettes a few times per week. Now, I know it’s not because I cared about what was happening on “One Life to Live” or what our neighbors daughter had got on her report card, I know it’s because I fiercely wanted to be a grown up. In particular a grown up woman. I wanted to put on makeup, use big words and wear my mothers long flowy dresses with big wide belts. I wanted to look as my mother did when she went out, perfect makeup, every hair in place and airing a sense of grace as she walked. At the time she was my own personal definition of a lady and for as long as I can remember that’s exactly what i wanted to be. Now as an adult i recognize the good instincts I had as a child. I do love being a woman and i LOVE being a lady even more. The two words may seem interchangeable, but they can be worlds apart.
Webster’s dictionary defines the word woman as an adult female person, while Lady is defined as a woman of refinement and gentle manners. Refined, mannered both characteristics I evoke and attempt to exude on a daily bases. The problem is that in the era of the twice over underage baby boom, many of us haven’t been taught how to be ladies. Most often, in situations involving character building, if we can’t turn to our mothers, aunts or cousins we turn to the most obvious influences in pop culture. There are a whole slew of reasons in 2013 that this is not the correct forethought. We live in an era that promotes over-sexuality and vulgarness, neither of which have ever been traits of becoming a lady. I am not suggesting that every woman alive should desire to act “prim and proper” or that any woman declare themselves prude for the sake of ladylikeness, however I am asserting that we should model ourselves modestly and more discreet than our favorite pop culture princess of the moment.
In addition to cleanliness, street smarts and education, acquiring ladylikeness seems to be the last and least important on a long list of skill sets to prepare for success in life. As women overall, we must lead each other by example since it has become blatantly clear that the most obvious role models our nieces, mentees and daughters are exposed to aren’t those of which exude qualities that are useful in a functioning society.