Wednesday, June 16, 2010

She's a Lady!

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 Littlefield

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


  1. What makes me feel most like a lady - just time to myself to soak in a bubble bath listening to music sipping on a glass of wine. My time to unwind and let me mind wander.

    The book sound very intriguing. Best of luck.

    Thoughts in Progress

  2. Sophie, what a wonderful post! Thanks for joining us today! I do the jammies/sweats/T-shirts/braless thing, too, when I'm home writing. Then I can just focus on the words and not on things that pinch. But, girl, I always do the lip gloss (Origins Really Rosy is my fave!)! Whether I'm in jammies or dressed to kill.

  3. I have to admit being a jeans and tee-shirt girl. However, as a performer, I often have reason to dress up. I never feel more lady like than when I am a floor length recital gown with my fabulous heels on....I'm 5' 10" so I understand the towering over everyone else thing, too. But when I'm on stage, I feel like a lday - no matter how many unladylike moments I've had that day, month or year.

    Congrats on the new book. Stella rocks!!

  4. Hey Mason - that sounds so delightful I might have to go give it a try right now. Except it's, uh, not even 8am out here on the west coast. :0

  5. Ha Susan, now we're getting down to it! Thanks for the tip - I routinely steal the Sephora gift cards my daughter receives as gifts, so I'm good to go over there. My current favorites are Burts Bees in Watermelon (but who doesn't love that - ) and also philosophy gloss in Spicy Pear.

    God, we're fantastic, aren't we? All this talent, *and* we know our consumer products...

  6. ooooh, did someone say "recital gown"?

    This takes me back to the very first time I think I ever felt womanly. I played cello, and in junior high I had to get a floor length black dress. It was a silky thing, some sort of late-70's synthetic fiber, and probably rather disco-y, but I adored that dress. yowza.

  7. One cannot live in Dansko clogs alone--believe me, there have been periods where I've tested the theory. To that end, because I work at home in jeans and tee shirts, I often throw on a pair of high heels and red lipstick to go grocery shopping. (Yes, I'm THAT lady. Don't stare. It's impolite.) I generally pull out the leopard-print pumps and troll the aisles at Shoprite. Another way to rock is out is wear the tee shirt and jeans and a little splash of Chanel No. 5. That usually results in the kids asking, "Are we having company tonight?"

    You can't win. Maggie

  8. The one thing that makes me feel most feminine is my underwear. I buy really girly underwear, with bows and everything. My workplace is a university library and the dress code is office casual so I don't often wear skirts or dresses, but I always feel like a lady because of what I've got on under those office casual clothes.

  9. Okay, this is going to sound weird, but remember I lived in Las Vegas from 1968-1975, where "lady" was anyone who was female & had the confidence to turn down a date with Frank Sinatra. I can't explain it. Your church lady was wearing gold lame and a cancer tan in my old town...

    Anyway, I grew up on horses, then motorcycles, and eschew a lot of girlie stuff out of sheer laziness & habit (makeup attracts dirt and bugs on horseback/motorcycle).

    I felt most like a lady one night, in the Fortunes of War pub on St. George Street in Sydney Australia in 1988. It had been a wild night, full of unemployed surfers, creepy rich guys from the Czech Republic (before the Velvet revolution), and women who can be described charitably as semi-pros.

    Did I mention there was also more beer than I'd seen in my life to that point?

    After watching the semi-pros evaluate men and establish territories around the local guys with military precision, I chatted with the Czechs mostly because they were as tall as me.

    But I got bored and headed out -- the Czechs called after me, so I waved, thinking "in your dreams, bucko." Then one of them stood up and shouted "I can buy you!"

    I just smiled and kept on going, pleased that at least one person in the bar would understand the difference between a semi-pro and a free agent. My idea of a lady is usually a single one -- the one gal in the crowd who tells Frank Sinatra thanks but no thanks. Is that totally weird?
    (p.s. don't put me in drawing, I have my copies of Pretty!!!!)

  10. maggie, you really own leopard print pumps? WOW. Junior and I were shopping at marshalls last night and I found this zebra print skirt and she hollers out "You are NOT wearing animal prints, Mom" and snatches it back from me. She is getting unmanageable! Now we are watching how-to makeup videos on YouTube over breakfast...

  11. ah, zita, you are *one of those*. my sister is too - she gets really scandalous stuff, and you'd never know it from her clothes. Very funny when she does her laundry over here - next to my workaday unmentionables, her things are way more exciting!!

  12. Lipstick! I always feel like a lady when I have my face done up and and my lipsticks on. I especially feel lady like when the color is red!

  13. For me it is perfume, earrings & lip gloss. I've always been too big of a klutz for the heels. No one has to trip me, I can do it all by myself, thank you very much ;-) I'm not & never have been into the real 'girly' stuff nor do I wear make-up. Too many years of drama productions & all that stage make-up. Seeing the consequences of what that did to my skin was more than enough for me.

  14. I'm an unapologetic feminist in part because I'm old enough to remember at least a little of the bad old days. If "lady" is supposed to signify class, manners, dress, etc., then I would say the word's irrelevant. I'm a feminist and a woman and like lipstick and nice clothes and the pleasure of being courteous as much as anyone. (I love high heels but my feet don't.) But I don't bristle at the term "lady" any more. I bristle, like you, Sophie, at the notion our fundamental rights may still / again / as always be under attack. Keep your eyes on the prize, as they say...

  15. Hi there, Sophie, loved your book and have passed it on to more than one lady I know...

    Love your name, too--it is my daughter's!

    What makes me feel lady-like (is that the same as being a lady)? This has changed since having children. Before Kids it might've been a pedicure, a short skirt, or sexy lingerie.

    But for the past seven years it's been the things that made me think of my mom and others like her as ladies. Being asked to wipe a nose or two. Pouring glasses of juice. Someone with sweet, sticky hands climbing up into my lap--and not caring, not even having the thought, that my cropped pants might get stained.

  16. Wendy, absolutely on the lipstick. I have fair coloring - pale skin, eyelashes etc. - so on me, a little bit of red lipstick goes a LONG way. I kind of like it - and I make sure to leave lip prints on every coffee cup, wine glass, and passing child I see!

  17. kay, i love perfume, but it's my daughter who really has a collection. when we moved last year my husband put up a shelf in her room with a little gilded mirror above, and she keeps all her perfumes there. Whenever I'm headed out, I stop by her room and just borrow whatever I feel like. And I've discovered my favorite, something I never would have tried on my own - Hollister!

  18. jenny, i miss those days with the little ones. I loved it when they would climb up on me, tracking mud and cookie crumbs and whatever, and go to sleep in my lap.

    probably shouldn't admit this, but they both still come and sit in my lap from time to time. And one's six feet tal...

  19. Oh, I'm so glad you admitted it, Sophie! Now I know what to tell my four year old when he says, "Mommy, will I still snuggle you when I'm a grown up?"

  20. Very fun post, LADY.

    As my entry I'll say politeness that is heavily tinged with feminine wiles and charm. I think nothing says lady (or gentleman) like manners and being polite in any situation no matter how I'm dressed or coifed or if I remembered to swap my coffee breath for minty freshness.

    As a close second, I'd say I feel very lady-like when I'm having a good hair day. I just got mine cut shorter and it has nearly pulled me out of my normal tramp status by inspiring me to still be hungry for dinner at 8 and has me loving California, even when it's cold and damp! I don't think I could further give the push-back to Frank Sinatra by coming late to the theater, but I'm close when I've got a good hairstyle working and I remember my p's and q's.

  21. What makes me feel the most like a lady...dressing up for any special event that requires a beautiful dress, stockings, heels, hair and make up done.

  22. vicky, you have nailed my favorite tool in my arsenal - politeness in the face of even dauntingly rude people. it just KILLS them when you remain calm and sweet. Enjoy your sassy new 'do, darlin!

  23. Thank you to everyone who commented! I drew randomly and came up with Zita. Zita, can you please email me your mailing address to:

  24. Late to the party again!
    I feel most like a lady when I'm wearing mascara; something I hardly ever do!