Friday, February 20, 2009

Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned from Scarlett O’Hara

Seriously, y’all.

My daughters, raised on semi-militant feminism, have no idea what it was like growing up in the sixties and seventies. Female role models, at least for Southern girls who came from “good people”, tended to run along the lines of Homecoming Queen, Cheerleader, President of the Home Ec Club, Miss Snellville Beach, or for the truly big dreamers among us, Miss America. My own gentle Southern mother, a former Miss Crisp County, watching once as I, in a fit of sullen adolescent rage beat a long line of boys for the church table tennis championship, remarked in despair, “Can’t you ever let the boys win?”

No, mother, I cannot.

Part of my adolescent angst was due to the fact that I couldn’t find any female role models out there who I thought were remotely like me. I was an outcast, an anomaly. Raised on Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Marcia Brady I was taught that girls should be (a) pretty, (b) sweet, (c) self-sacrificing, and (d) smart, but not too smart. Certainly my own mother was a shining example of these virtues (except for the last one, she was smart as a whip but kept it to herself.) I, on the other hand, could not manage any of them. I had a bad temper and a tendency to curse like a mafia don when crossed. I was competitive at sports. I spent very little time in front of my Miss Clairol Lighted Make-up Mirror (a gift from my hopeful mother), preferring a pair of faded jeans and one of my father’s old shirts to the tailored pantsuits that were popular in those days. A voracious reader, I had a tendency to be overbearing and opinionated in a classroom setting. I couldn’t have been more miserable or insecure.

And then a wondrous thing happened. I picked up a copy of Gone with the Wind, and my life changed forever.

A true feminist would perhaps find little in Katie Scarlett to admire but to a girl like me she was a godsend. Yes, she was vain and deceitful and selfish, but those traits made her real. She wasn’t some lace and sugar confection meant to be put up on a pedestal and admired from afar; she was down and dirty and cunning as any male.

When I announced my new-found literary ideal that night at dinner my father, an old-school Southern gentleman who never cursed around my mother and I, looked up from his plate and said, “Scarlett O’Hara! Scarlett O’Hara was a ...bitch!”

My mother looked at my father in shocked dismay and said, “Lamar!”
My two brothers snorted and elbowed each other like a couple of frat boys.
“Melanie Hamilton is the true heroine of that novel,” my father said.
“Melanie Hamilton is an insipid milk-toast,” I replied.
“Leave the table!” my father roared.

I knew then that I was on the right track.

Here are the things I learned from Scarlett O’Hara that I have tried to pass on to my own daughters.

1. If you truly want something, go out and get it.
2. Don’t expect a man to make you happy.
3. Be self-sufficient.
4. Don’t waste your time worrying about what small-minded people think.
5. Don’t fear challenges in life; they build character.
6. Don’t be afraid to show people who you really are.
7. Embrace your true nature; your faults as well as your virtues.
8. Never give up on love.
9. Always be hopeful for the future.

So go ahead, label me. Call me a smartass, tell me I’m foul-mouthed, bad-tempered, poorly-dressed. Call me a bitch.

Frankly, sir, I don’t give a damn.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful read. Found you via David McMahon.

CJ xx

Anonymous said...

What a great post! I love your style!

Daddy's Girl, Defined by HIM =) said...

I'm smiling and laughing right now. It's great to get to know you Aunt Cathy....

Sharon said...

I love your blog! I found you via Sybil Baker.