It may have been that awesome 70’s culture: listening to the babies in “Free to Be You and Me” and roller skating to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman (Hear Me Roar).” I mean, who wouldn’t have been proud to be female? Growing up with two older sisters, and knowing early on that I was my dad’s final chance at a son, pushed me to fully embrace my feminine power. If I must be a girl, I would be more than tanned and toned Farrah on a beach blanket. Immersed in this era, I sought out inspiration from the two strongest women I’d ever witnessed: Sandra Dee in Grease and Ella T Grasso, our governor.
Grasso was fortunate in her timing of political ascension: she would be roundly berated today for her frumpy looks as image controls so much of the success story today. She was the first woman to be voted in as governor in her own right – without having the office passed on to her through a spouse. Watching her at various podiums announcing and declaring, everyone listening to her every word; I just kept thinking about me being the first female to — It could be anything, but I felt that if Ella could do it, I too was destined for greatness and segments on the six o’clock news.
And then, there was Sandra Dee. Sweet, studious, sexpot. JohnTravolta falling at her stilettoed feet, acing it in the classroom and then romping around the carnival in really tight pants (I once read that two people were employed to squeeze her into those lustrous black leggings): she metamorphized into whatever she wanted to be (though I didn’t realize then how shallow the goal was – becoming what she thought he wanted – it’d take a sophomore course in women’s lit to get the full picture). At ten years old, it was what I aspired to more than anything else: to walk in one day and watch everyone lose it over how awesome I’d become.
The dowdy governor and the sassy Aussie. I could be both and be a girl. Perhaps, only a girl could be both. Smart and sexy. Yes, I was free to be me and I would be it all. My plan: leading the state in red stilettoes.