Lately, it seems like I’ve been bombarded with a lot of anti-lady propaganda and media messages. Why is it that society tells us that it’s wrong for a guy to hold a door open for a girl? And why is it that some women are offended when a man offers to give up their seat when the waiting room is full? Nothing irks me more than to see women shun acts of gentlemanliness (if that’s even a word) in the name of gender equality. Because being a lady and being treated like one has nothing to do with equal rights. It has everything to do with upholding human dignity and embracing the gift of womanhood that God has blessed us with.
I have about a zillion lady-like role models (most of whom are either dead or fictional). And, one of my favorites of all time would have to be Anne Shirley. (Oh, I do feel sorry for those of you who have never read Anne of Green Gables. You are missing out on life.)
What I love about Anne is that she is as real as they come. She doesn’t carry a pink parasol and go to bed with mud smeared all over her face every night. No, Anne’s the kind of girl who goes tromping through muddy pastures to chase the renegade cow. The kind of girl who can nurse a dying infant back to health and recite a poem better than Elizabeth Barrett Browning. She can make a pudding, host a tea party, and bake a cake, but she always messes up…you know, just like real people do. She shows that being a lady isn’t so much about what you wear or how you talk, but who you are. And that’s what I like about Anne. To all my lady readers and Anne-enthusiasts, here are the top 5 lessons on being a lady that Anne Shirley can teach us.
1. Be Yourself – Embrace the carrot hair, especially when the peddler double-crosses you and sells you green (instead of black) hair dye. Quote Tennyson like a romantic, even if all your friends look at you like you’ve lost your mind. Spell your name with an “e” on the end – That’s Anne with an e.
2. You don’t have to have a man to make you feel important, but men are not (always) your enemies. When you’re skiff has sunk and you – the Lily Maid – are in a pickle and hanging soaking wet onto the support of the bridge over the Lake of Shining Waters, don’t turn away Gilbert Blythe when he comes rowing along. On the other hand, when he pulls your braids and calls you “Carrots,” go ahead and smash your slate over his head. He deserves it.
3. Be your best – Whether you’re hosting a tea party for your bosom friend, studying to whip your rival in the next round of exams, or reciting “The Highwayman” for a captivated audience, give it your best shot. You’re not cheating anyone but yourself if you skimp.
4. Embrace and learn from your mistakes – If you accidentally set your best friend drunk on currant wine, remember to read the labels on the beverage bottles more carefully next time. When you fall off the roof after Josie Pye dares you to walk the ridge pole, hobble home on your one good ankle, howl in pain, and vow to yourself never to do that again. As Anne herself says, “I never make the same mistake twice.” Of course, don’t beat yourself up either. It’s not breaking any rules of the female gender to have a good laugh at your own expense.
5. Love – Love Marilla and Matthew so much it hurts. Love the white blooms that decorate the White Way of Delight. Love the name Cordelia and staying all night in a guest room (as long as Aunt Josephine isn’t there). Love poetry and raspberry cordial and good teachers and bosom friends. Love yourself.