Dame On!

So, why a website about dames? What are dames, who are dames, and why should you give a dame?

First of all, this is not about dames with a capital D like Dame Judy Dench or Dame Helen Mirren, though they are certainly dames. This is dame in its slang sense, a woman who uses her assets – brains, ingenuity, wit, compassion, style, strength, sharp objects – to get along in life. She isn’t full of shit, nor does she take any either. A dame values kindness, intelligence, and a good pair of jeans. She says yes to life, and doesn’t take no for an answer.

I’ve always been inspired by dames. Partly because all my life I’ve been obsessed with women. As a girl, I only wanted to read about books about women. I only wanted to watch movies and TV shows featuring women. In history class I was way more interested in the few women’s names that came up – Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Phyllis Wheatley. (You can see this primarily happened when they ushered in Black History Month. I guess the curriculum figured they’d kill two birds with one stone by giving a few paltry shout-outs to minority women, and then get back to “real history”. You know, the kind that only includes white guys.)

Through no fault of my own, I was not born a white guy. But despite all the messages telling me how incidental I was to past and current events — and political, artistic, and scientific pursuits —  I just couldn’t shake this stubborn interest in my own life. Destined to live it as a woman, I was fascinated by how. How does one successfully negotiate life as a woman? I looked everywhere for information and tactics. But I’m a product of the last generation when girls were still expected to be sugar, not too-too much spice, and everything nice. And nice was defined by men. Barbie has a dream house, some groovy outfits, but back then her only career was looking good for Ken.

I turned to popular culture for clues – comic books, magazines, movies, music and TV. Inhaling lessons from Ginger Grant, Ellie May Clampett, Burke’s Law and Charlie’s Angels, I learned your only chance for potency or potential was your looks. If you were pretty you could be popular, be heard, even catch crooks (under the watchful eye of men with names while you and your glossy lips toiled under the generic rubric “angels”). If you were pretty you could make people stammer, or distractedly stumble into the cement pond. If you weren’t pretty, well…you weren’t. You were invisible. Looks were the only way you had of mattering, of being effective.*

According to my parents, and magazines, and everywhere, I wasn’t pretty. I didn’t matter and I wasn’t going to matter. A future being unloved, unheard, unseen and monumentally not-mattering stretched out before me.

Then came old movies. When I was a girl they still played black-and-white movies from the 30s and 40s on TV in the afternoons and on “The Late, Late Show”. I may not have had long straight hair like the uniformly lovely girls in Seventeen magazine, but old movies offered hope. Sure, there were leading women of unattainable beauty, but all of the heroines didn’t look alike. In fact, some almost looked like me. (Shout-out o Claudette Colbert!) Their personalities were these dames’ distinguishing feature.

Here, for the first time, I saw reel life Elizabeth Bennetts winning over their celluloid Darcys with wit, kindness and brains. Claudette Colbert, Rosalind Russell, Irene Dunne, Katharine Hepburn, Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow…the dames of classic cinema were everything – smart, funny, tough, classy, hard-boiled, soft-hearted, honest, sometimes devious. They weren’t background, ancillary plot devices – they were protagonists (or villains) of all kinds. They were stars in their own narratives, not interchangeable beings who fit into a narrow range of acceptable age, physiometry and cup size. These dames gave as good as they got, and I wanted what they had.

While I still studied how to excel, or even be adequate, at this whole woman thing, in my finer hours I’d always ask myself, “What would a dame do?” #WWDD

A decade ago I messed up a book deal by not having the confidence to finish the manuscript, “The Lost Art of Being a Dame”. (Still ashamed to look my agent in the eye.) I half-heartedly made a blog with the same name. But recently something happened. I dame-ed up.

I hit menopause, or rather, it hit me, like a ton of bricks. My ripe middle age made me invisible for real this time, but this time, miraculously, IDGAF.   I have the experience, wisdom and perspective to see myself now. And that’s what matters. And what matters even MORE is that I see other women, like me, who need and deserve to be egged on, cherished, supported and fired up. As 2017’s Women’s March on Washington and the recent #metoo campaign illustrated, we’re not so up for being invisible anymore.

I want this website to look to the past, present and future for information and inspiration to help us be our most visible, vital and valiant. I want to help myself, and help you, get in touch with our inner dames.

Like the song says, “There’s nothing like a dame.” But even more awesome than a dame is lots and lots of dames. So welcome to Dametown! I am soooo glad you’re here.

Oh, and patriarchy, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. And world, watch out.

–Dame out.

 

* Hell, even a beautiful witch like Samantha was expected to ignore her superpowers and just make dinner for that easily-rattled, pig-faced husband of hers. Jeannie was beautiful and magical, but was expected to remain imprisoned in her bottle until her “master” called.

 

28 Comments

  1. Jasmine

    Love it? Keep writing, this is definitely my kinds of read

    Reply
    • Dixie Laite

      Wow, thank you Jasmine! I really appreciate it!!

      Reply
  2. Superkitty

    LOVE IT!! ??? You’ve been EMPOWERING WOMEN for YEARS!!! ? Keep slaying! Love you too, Dixie!!!?

    Reply
    • Dixie Laite

      Superkitty (Catherine), this means so much to me. THANK YOU! LOVE!! xoxox

      Reply
  3. trash

    Love it. Reading and following with interest.

    Reply
    • Dixie Laite

      Thank you! I really appreciate it, “Trash”!

      Reply
  4. Maggie

    Oh yes! Thank you for a fabulous perspective.

    Reply
    • Dixie Laite

      Maggie, thank YOU so much! xoxo

      Reply
  5. Ruth

    I really enjoyed reading this! I can identify with similar values I learned about what a woman was “supposed to be”. Looking forward to reading more.?

    Reply
    • Dixie Laite

      Ruth, thank you so much! I’m sad/glad you can relate. Any topics I should cover?

      Reply
  6. Warren Sheay

    You go girl! Beautifully written and you,’ve already enlarged my white-male-perspective.

    Good luck! Warren Sheay

    Reply
    • Dixie Laite

      Thank you so much, Warren Sheay! You are one of my top favorite-est white males! (Always glad to enlarge a white male something!) 🙂

      Reply
  7. Lisa G.

    So good!

    Reply
    • Dixie Laite

      Thank you Lisa G! YOU are the dame-iest!

      Reply
  8. Jean

    Loving this, Dixie! Great articles and a welcome point of view.

    Reply
    • Dixie Laite

      jean, thank you so much! I really appreciate it!

      Reply
  9. Julie Cooper

    Nice! Really enjoyed reading this post. Nice layout. What’s the difference between a “dame” and a “damsel”? Damsel always seems to come with the words “in distress” behind it. Yet “dames” seem to have things under control. I think I vacillate back and forth between the two. Keep writing!

    Reply
    • Dixie Laite

      Thanks Julie! For em, damsel is co-joined with the word “distress”. It connotes beauty and frailty. Dame connotes strength, wit, and self-reliance. xo

      Reply
  10. Elizabeth Tritsch

    Beyond brilliant, Dixie.

    Reply
    • Dixie Laite

      Elizabeth, how much do I adore thee? I can’t even count the ways! Thank yoU!!

      Reply
  11. Terry Silva

    Love Mae West. Her attitude was everything.

    Reply
    • Dixie Laite

      Terry, you’re so right! Mae West is the ULTIMATE dame!

      Reply
  12. Joanna

    Oprah led me to you, as she has to so many of the blessings in my life. Check out Joan Blondell. One minute a kewpie doll and the next a pseudo-tough galwith a heart of gold and a backbone of steel. She was amazing in Goodbye Again with Warren William, who typically stole every scene he was ever in.

    Reply
    • Dixie Laite

      Joanna — I am already a HUGE Joan Blondell fan! I love her! (I think that’s her picture in my pre-code article.) I agree with you 100% — you obviously really know your dames!

      Reply
  13. nance

    Hey dixie, where do I sign up for your newsletter babe?

    Reply
    • Dixie Laite

      Darling! Look at this page, above, on the right, where its says SUBSCRIBE, don’t miss a thing, etc. Just pop your lil email in there! And THANK YOU!!

      P.S DOn’t worry, you will NOT be inundated with emails. Just maybe one a month.

      Reply
  14. Sherri

    I love and appreciate what you’re doing here, Dixie. Thank you.

    Reply
  15. Karma Lee Nash

    Found this town of dames from O and so dang happy you founded it for all of us! Moving in so keep writing please.

    Reply

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