Tuesday, September 23, 2014
A Casual Essay on the Manifestation of Badassery in A Very Mature Woman
From the Urban Dictionary and the entry for badassery : "Engaging in seemingly impossible activities and achieving success in a manner that renders all onlookers completely awestruck."
From the on-line Oxford Dictionaries: "Behavior, characteristics, or actions regarded as formidably impressive: few of us can attain her level of badassery "
Badassery. Isn't that a great word? It just rolls off the tongue and flips up a slide show on that big screen in your imagination, doesn't it? I've been playing with that word and all that it can mean for some weeks now, ever since I watched for the umpteenth time how Helen Mirren got her womanly badassery on with such elegant professionalism in the film Red 2. It wasn't the guns, truly. It was the clothes and the serious, serious attitude about the work at hand.
I am easily influenced.
We can all conjure instant images of popular culture badassery. With the young men, it's easy to come up with a quick short list of anti-heroes and super tough guys. Interesting how we've allowed a lot of these guys to continue their badass careers into late middle age and beyond; Bruce Willis in almost every film he's ever made, Samuel L Jackson in absolutely every film he's ever made, ditto for a more cerebral Morgan Freeman ... the list goes on.
There are probably fewer on the women's list, but I'll bet if you are reading this post, you are already pulling up your own. From film and fiction I think of the characters Scout Finch, Ripley, Lara Croft, Hermoine Granger, Lisbeth Salander, both Carries (Stephen King's and Homeland's) and lots more, but all of them had that kind of toughness of mind, body and/or spirit that is most often exhibited by the young and fit.
Happily, because we are all living longer and more productively, we are allowing a few of our cinematic heroines to rock on into seniordom. My friends across the Big Pond really have a handle on how to do this with style; Dame Helen Mirren, of course, and Dame Judy Dench. Was anyone more badass as M to Daniel Craig's James Bond? And there never was a more terrifying Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
But my all time favorite Lady Badass is Dame Maggie Smith. Whether she was wielding her lethally badass wand as Professor McGonagall at the Battle of Hogwarts or upstaging the entire cast of Downton Abbey as the adorably cynical Dowager Countess of Grantham, Dame Maggie is indisputably badass in dove gray lace. When we add all of Shakespeare's women to the mix, the tradition is set for us. All three of these women have portrayed the extremely badass Elizabeth I, and one of them Elizabeth II (who has had her own moments of real-life badassery.)
It's easier to reference pop culture badassery icons than it is real world women. There are plenty, but it is the nature of the real badass woman that she'll offend someone because that's sometimes what she does. Often she manifests her badassery by telling her understanding of Truth to power, and since there has never been a greater divide in opinion regarding the great Truths, at least in this country, I'll leave it to you, Dear Reader, to choose your favorites. Love them or hate them, we have powerful women on both sides of the political aisle. In only nominally more neutral territory, our three Women Supremes among the old boys on the Big Court, Associate Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, clearly exhibit judicial badassery in their professional doings. The three branches of our government are chockablock with women who put out a singularly powerful kind of badassery. And not just in this country, as we see. There are women leaders worldwide, badassing all over the planet these days.
So many ... nay, most ... of them are mature, or very mature, and some are perfectly mature. I'm just very mature at 64, so I still have some badassery to aspire to, or at least appreciate and try to emulate, even if it only works a little. And that brings me to why I'm contemplating this notion at all.
As you read this, fall will have just become official, and that time of year brings out the deeper, darker, richer colors, more substantial fabrics, and leathers and furs, faux and real. We are heading toward the dark of the year, and as Ned Stark noted, "Winter is coming." I take my fall wardrobe fantasies very seriously. I've been looking back at my blog photos from the last year or so, thinking about what works and what doesn't. I tend to be an aspirational dresser. I take on new and old ideas, shapes and silhouettes that I especially like and try (successfully and NOT) to make them work for me.
The pieces that work I love and go back to, again and again ... the pieces that make me feel the best when I walk out of the house ... the pieces that feel the most authentically my own, and pieces that might well belong to some other woman I like better than myself ... all of them have at least a touch of the badass.
And I've learned that there is no particular genre of dress that lends badassery. It's not only found in biker chic, or punk, or grundge, or boho, ladylike, vintage, retro, minimalist, menswear or architectural. But it can be found in all of them. (I don't think you can find it in Normcore. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure I'm not.)
Badassry is found and on display when what you are wearing makes you feel badass. Simple. Who knew it is all about confidence and serendipity? Some days it all works; hair, clothes, makeup, accessories, and you walk out the door with the complete confidence that you can demolish whatever dragon is on your day-planner, slated for slaying. And that you'll smell really good while doing it.
The items that make me feel particularly badass are often the most obvious; leather anything, including boots and booties, moto jackets and dressy leather pumps with a satisfyingly high stiletto heel, Also a perfectly fitting pencil skirt, an ear cuff, a minimalist silhouette. But I guarantee that I will feel completely badass when I wear my pink wool coat for the first time this winter.
My most often used pieces that lend a classic badass finishing touch to my outfit are my Ray-Bans. Dan and I spend considerable time in the car, driving sunward coming and going, as it always seems. I've saved up for my little collection of Wayfarers (black and tortoise-shell, larger frame) and classic Aviators (an all black pair and a pair of gold frame ones that are from Dan) and Dan's properly sized black Wayfarers for his huge head. We get in the car, fasten our seat belts and put on the sunglasses. He looks at me, I look at him. We grin. Yup, we're cool. This is our badass.
Go forth. Find and embrace your badassery.
I just know you have it in you, and its manifestation is already in your possession.
Just a little badassery from the leather-ish top. A favorite work outfit for this still-warm time of year.
This post is dedicated to the Wonderful and Ruffly Patti, who hosts Visible Monday for us all. Thank you, Patti. Are you sure you aren't just a little Badass?