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Modern Ladyhood: My Quest to Be It All

Posted by Nora | Tuesday January 18, 201125 comments

I like flannel shirts and big boots and the smell of Old Spice under my arms.  I like Britney Spears and skincare routines and I’ve tried every mascara on the planet.  I’m as well-versed in professional wrestling and competitive eating as I am in Katherine Heigl rom-coms and celebrity gossip.  I pride myself on being a girls' girl and one of the guys-- but one thing I’m definitely not is a lady. Yeah, I own a collection of party dresses and I know how to give myself a nearly perfect home manicure, but other than that, I’m at a loss. 

“You’re too BUSY to be a lady,” says my boss, a perfect example of modern ladyhood.  Uh no, I’m not. You know who is too busy to be such a lady but does it anyway? My BFF's wife, a girl who is getting her PhD in a science that is too complicated for my brain to even remember, yet has the time to perfectly master every skill she puts her mind to.

Like sewing.  And cooking.

And planning a picture-perfect mostly DIY wedding that would have made Martha proud.

And knitting me the perfect little pair of handwarmers (so I can text) and a neckwarmer (to keep that bird neck of mine warm when it's frigid).


I come from a long line of strong women who perfected the art of ladyhood.  My grandmother sewed clothing for all nine of her children (yes, 9. we’re Irish Catholic).  My mother makes amazing dinners on Sunday nights, created each of my childhood Halloween costumes by hand (including the year I mysteriously wanted to be the season of Autumn) and knits tiny mittens and hats for my niece and nephew while watching Masterpiece Theatre.  My cousin knows how to cook a pork shoulder (not even sure what that is), create the perfect outfit for any occasion and change her own tire. My sister raises two kids, is a very important businesswoman and nearly always looks like she’s ready for a photoshoot for hot nerds.

If these ladies aren’t too busy to get it together, then neither am I.  With that, I present to you the bizarre collection of lady goals that I’ve posted randomly on my office walls:

*Private sewing lesson: time to unlearn all the bad habits developed by years of being unable to take advice from my mother, and having a grandmother who just “let me be Nora,” even when it meant my curtains were uneven

*Write letters: send people I love real, live letters, even if they’re just a few sentences.

*Finish 1 knitting project: again with that bad habit thing

*Cooking lessons: from my amazing lady boss, who doesn’t judge me when my dinner is a handful of almonds and peanut butter M&MS (note: FANTASTIC COMBINATION)

*Ukelele: not sure how this fits into the mix, but it seems like a fun skill to have

Readers: I know most of you are true ladies of course, but who are YOUR modern lady role models?

by Nora McInerny

*all images by the BFF's wife (add self-taught photographer to the list, of course)
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on January 21, 2011  Anony Mouse  578 said:

This was so funny!

on January 21, 2011  Ali de Bold  STAFF said:

Madge, you are awesome.

Nora, I'm holding you to it!

Becky, I've met you and you are totally a lady. A classy and sweet one :)

on January 21, 2011  Midnight Cowgirl  181 said:

Love your goals! I don't have a modern lady role model, but I should find one!

on January 19, 2011  LaurenBlair  128 said:

Those paper flowers are beautiful, I would love to know how those were crafted

on January 19, 2011  Becky  13,068 said:

I echo everyone else: you have awesome writing skills! Your articles flow beautifully and are very easy to read which is what makes it so enjoyable. I can't wait 'till you come out with your own book (a chick lit romance? please?), I can read your book and show off to my friends "I know Nora" lol :) ..well I'll probably say something like "oh yea Nora and I go WAY back, we're like bff since forever" hehe just kidding! ;-)

As for being a lady, I think all of you chickies on this site are ladies. You're doing what you love and paving your own way, all the while looking so put together and fabulous. You're all inspiring!

I wish I was 12 or 13 again. My personality fits better into that age than the one I'm in, also it'd give me longer grace period in which I can 'grow up' and become the lady you speak of :)

on January 19, 2011  Nora said:

Just so everyone knows, Madge is my mother. If any of you are in the MInneapolis area on the 30th, consider yourself invited to Lady Class.

Ali--you will be the first to receive any ukelele videos, pinky swear
Oendrilla--thanks! sounds like you have awesome friends :)
Dolce-- :) :) thank you thank you
Mamaluv--just wait till you see how badly i knit!

on January 18, 2011  Madge said:

A lot of those "lady" skills were learned out of necessity. It's a whole new world now, as one of the Disney characters says. Way back when, we sewed because we could save money AND have something that no one else would have. My mom's machine was permanently set up in a corner of the dining room {horrors! I'd never allow that in my house} so I could use it whenever I wanted. As soon as clothing made overseas became the norm, sewing wasn't as economical. We cooked because we had to help our mom's throw dinner together for a table full of hungry family. Now, it's take-out, assemble meals and life on the go. Then, of course, a lot of mom's started working and didn't really have time to teach their children how to do all that neat stuff. Besides, we were too busy schlepping the young'uns to swimming lessons, soccer, hockey and school activities to squeeze in how to make an American quilt. Ah, life changes. Your lady friends might be a little jealous of your writing skills.
And The BFF's wife exhibits extraordinary time management skills. {jealous} She's practicing the domestic arts instead of the social arts. Priorities. It's all about deciding what's important and what you enjoy.
Get ready for a lady-class in the kitchen on January 30.

on January 18, 2011  LaurenBlair  128 said:

I read somewhere that the people you surround yourself with and call friends are reflections of yourself and your own personality. I love having talented inspiring friends, it pushes me to want to be great in different areas of my life but it also makes me incredibly proud of them and I feel lucky to be a part of their life.

I'm going with Ali on this one; one of my biggest female role models would have to be my mom.

on January 18, 2011  Ali de Bold  STAFF said:

Those photos are amazing. I thought they were stock!

Nora, PLEASE learn Ukelele! You can make Youtube music vids. Am adding it to your job description.

I have so many role models. My mom, younger sister and both of my Grandmothers are multi-talented in a crafty and cooking way. I can cook but I can't do anything remotely crafty including painting my own nails. My friend Julia is the perfect hostess/inventor and my friend Jackie is the ultimate networker who has this incredible knack for convincing high profile millionaires (and a few billionaires) to be her mentors.

on January 18, 2011  Oendrila  997 said:

Nora, you truly are a gifted writer, kudos :)
Hmm....my modern day role models would be my best friends. They're non-comformists, which coming from strong traditional backgrounds, is difficult to be. They live life EXACTLY the way they want to and don't feel the need to justify their non conventional attitudes/actions to anyone. They inspire me.

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