Thank you so much for the chance to visit with the Stiletto Gang! I have to admit I’m very partial to the title of this blog. I’m a high heel fanatic. I wear them whenever I get the chance, which is rare indeed, since I spend 95% of my time sitting right here in my chair wearing my pajamas, a pair of sweatpants, slippers and a sweatshirt. When it’s time to pick up the kids from school, I switch it up a bit and take the pajamas off and even put on a bra from time to time. But when I do venture out of the cave, I like to go a little nuts, with the skirts and the earrings and the makeup and the heels.
It kind of bothered me for a while that high heels make me taller than nearly everyone around, but then I realized I was doing it mostly for me, as a reminder that there is a lady hidden deep down inside this fiction-churning machine. I don’t use that word – “lady” – lightly. As a not-too-closeted feminist, I’ve had an uncomfortable relationship with the word and its throwback overtones.
A lady carries a satchel purse to church containing pink lipstick and enough tissues for the entire congregation; she’s already put the bread on to rise and cleaned up from breakfast and ironed everyone’s shirts before the rest of the house gets their teeth brushed. A lady doesn’t have much say over anything, her politics are considered unimportant, and when she gets to be a certain age she’s expected to fade quietly from view. This word used to give me such fits, in fact, that I wouldn’t let my kids use it when they were little. I know this sounds a little deranged, but if they uttered the word in public – say in reference to the clerk ringing up their little bitty Boy Scout shirt – I would say “No, sweetie, that is not a ‘lady’ – that is a woman.”
Woman woman woman. I drilled that word into them, despite their sweet juvenile confusion; I’m sure it led to some interesting conversations at school. (“Miss Pringle? My mom says that’s a bad word….”) What changed my thinking? Why, Stella, of course.
Stella is the 50-year-old heroine of my mystery series. A BAD DAY FOR SORRY introduced her last year, a small-town woman who killed her husband with a wrench after 30 years of abuse, and then started up a business helping other women take care of their own abusers. You could say that Stella’s business is “pro-woman” to a fault. But to my surprise, as I wrote this character into life, I discovered that she was also enthusiastically, defiantly, unrepentantly a LADY. She likes her girly stuff and woe to anyone who suggests that isn’t seemly. In fact, Stella goes way past me on the girly continuum and looking back, I think I created her in my subconscious idea of what an extreme example of femininity would be (not counting the, uh, beating the crap out of men part). She is very curvy, uses a lot of perfume for special nights out, and treats every child with buckets of maternal attention. I love Stella. I do! I adore her, everything about her, including her flaws and contradictions. And while I may be heading into split-personality territory here, I think she has freed my long-buried softer side to come up to the surface a little.
I now think there’s a little bit of “lady” in every woman. I can still get a little political about it (uh, hey, idiots who are terrified of women in positions of power and have to accuse every female Supreme Court candidate of being gay to make your little limp selves feel manly, I’m sendin’ Stella after YOU) but most of the time I can celebrate it in spirited good fun. I’ve also been delighted to discover lots of kindred souls among my fellow women authors.
So tell me, what makes you feel most like a lady – in the best sense of the word? I’ll choose one commenter to receive a signed copy of A BAD DAY FOR PRETTY.
Sophie’s first novel (A BAD DAY FOR SORRY, St. Martin’s Minotaur) features a rural Missouri housewife-turned-vigilante. It was nominated for the 2010 Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best First Novel and won the Reviewers Choice Award for Best First Mystery of 2009 by RT BookReviews Magazine, and appeared on the San Francisco Chronicle and IMBA bestseller lists. Her young adult novel, BANISHED, will be released by Delacorte in October 2010. Sophie lives in Northern California with her family. Visit her at http://www.sophielittlefield.com/.