November 14, 2007

The Story of a Lady

The littlest ballerinas were gathered in the hall waiting for their class to start. A few of the more rambunctious ones were giggling loudly and spinning in circles, falling to the ground now and then with loud thumps. Other classes were in session, so one of the waiting parents, a father, called the girls to order, "Ladies! Settle down!" The girls calmed themselves to a dull roar and waited with quieter wiggles until their teacher called them into the studio.

My five year old wasn't one of the rowdies that time, but I was sitting close by and the thought crossed through my mind as he spoke, "How lovely. Call them ladies and they respond -- actually beginning to act like little ladies." That was my impression.

As the girls trailed in to their classroom, cute as buttons in their little pink leotards and ballet slippers, one mom came over to the father who had settled the loud group and said, "No offense..." One must pause here to note that the words "No offense" like that Southern phrase "Bless your heart" mean "I'm about to tear into you and say something nasty." So to continue, the mom said, "No offense, but don't ever call my daughter a lady again! I hate that word."

She turned around in a huff and I said under my breath that I'd rather appreciated his phrasing and it was much better than calling them wild hyenas, although they had at first more resembled those.

To hate the word lady? To insist your daughter not be called one? It seems another death knell in the coffin of civilized culture. I'm hardly a model of refinement and I hated every minute of the torture my parents called "Junior Cotillion," but I still hope to teach my children from a young age to be ladies and gentlemen. I don't want just men and women some day. I want them to be polite, kind, thoughtful, generous, quiet when its called for and all those things that separate one who is merely grown from one who has grown up.


Jordana, this is such a fine story that confirms that children do respond to offerings of respect. It's heartbreaking to hear another 'death knell in the coffin of civilized culture', as you so aptly put it.

And so, get out the china, pour us a fine cup of tea and here's a heartfelt toast to the little ladies within your keeping.

Posted by: Roberta S at November 14, 2007 01:27 PM

How sad for that child. We're raising little ladies here.

Posted by: Amy at November 14, 2007 04:18 PM

I wrote a post about the forbidden term lady in January 04, because I was shocked by several incidents from college "women" to matrons. I ended the post with this anecdote:
"When I was very young (before seat belts), I leaned over the front seat of the car and asked, "Daddy, what's the difference between women and ladies?" He glanced at my mother and replied, "All females are women, but your mother..." pregnant pause, then "Your mother, she's a lady." Mom glowed. I glowed. And you can call me lady whether I'm acting like one or not."

Posted by: Earth Girl at November 15, 2007 09:00 AM

Amen, sistah! What the heck is wrong with that woman? (Notice, I did NOT refer to her as a lady. ;-))

Posted by: dcrmom at November 17, 2007 10:13 PM

I call the women down here ladies nearly all the time.

Let them correct me individually.

As for the father, next time let him call the girls ladies, then single out mother's little darling -- "Except for you, Joanie."

Posted by: Janis Gore at November 18, 2007 04:05 PM