Who are the dames?
We are a group of friends who have known one another for a long time. We’ve seen each other through childhood, teenage torment, work, play, marriage, motherhood, divorce, good times and bad times.
This is for women in their own right – not wives, not mums, not grans, not sex objects, not clothes horses.
What better term to conjure up the grit, humour, subtlety and warmth of women as a breed than ‘dames’?
As we know, there is nothing like them, and you have to admit that Dame Julian of Norwich, Dame Judi Dench and Dame Helena Kennedy, to name but a few, are one-offs. Yet while these dames may be the officially recognised Great and Good, there are also thousands out there that are quietly achieving the heights of damehood, without a gong to show for it. (OK, I’m not sure Dame J of N had a gong either, but you know what I mean.)
Then there are the pantomime dames, who really know how to enjoy themselves. Loud in voice and dress, they usually run a successful business of some sort, deploying a robust management style. They don’t let age and their low life status inhibit their romantic and social interactions, and are only too happy to laugh at themselves along with everybody else (which in itself raises a debate for another day). It’s a bit disappointing that most of the time they are played by men!
And finally we come to the dame, a.k.a., broad, who once dominated Broadway (no relation) and Hollywood. As role models these are more problematic. Damon Runyon’s Miss Adelaide may function as the dame in Guys and Dolls, but her obsessive desire to be Mrs Nathan Detroit (‘just from waiting around for that plain little band of gold, a person can develop a cold’) disqualifies her. What about, then, those massive dame figures Joan Crawford and Bette Davis? A bit scary and Gothic perhaps, but definitely preferable to languishing like Adelaide. For my money, on stage and on screen, Mame is the dame (with apologies to Busby Berkeley’s Dames). Anyone who can unilaterally declare Christmas a month early has my vote.
So to dames in the 21st century: one look at some of the stuff that comes up if you search for ‘dame’ shows that it’s high time we reclaimed the dame.