When we say that something, or someone, is Traditional we mean, according to various dictionaries, that there is a long-established, customary and conventional history around that thing or person. It does not mean that the record is set in stone, because, throughout time we, human beings, have always adjusted and updated our traditions. Had we not done so, I, for instance, would have been betrothed before puberty, married off right around then and became a mother soon thereafter. When I look at my prepubescent granddaughter now I think to myself: Horrors at that! However, it was a different era and there were many reasons why societies did that then. We are in a different age now and we don’t marry off little girls at the age of nine, although there are, it seems, a few places on our earth where it still miserably happens! Nevertheless, we changed, updated and modernized that tradition. We have continuously been doing that on all levels during our march into the future. It is a good thing, not always bearing the envisioned outcomes, but then, in most cases, when it does not, we eventually seem to self-correct.
There are numerous men and women throughout time who have broken with traditions and who were either admired and emulated, or vilified and maliciously trashed by petty cowards because of that. One such amazing woman for me was George Sand. Her real name was Aurora Dupin. Aurora was a writer (she wrote over forty books) who lived around the mid nineteenth century, a complicated woman, as many pathfinders are, who at some point went to the extreme by deciding to change her name to George Sand, divorce her husband, smoke, wear men’s clothing and, therefore, be able to go to all the places that as a woman she would otherwise have not been allowed to. She also had numerous love affairs with women and men. (In one of her quotes she says: The mind has no sex). Her most notorious love affair though was with Chopin, the incredible musician. George Sand’s novels addressed, amongst other topics, female sexual desire at a time when such a subject was strictly taboo! Around that same period, and just to give you an illustration of the Traditional perspective, Queen Victoria was getting married to Albert in England. The concocted joke around that was that when the young Queen asked her mother what to anticipate on her wedding night, she was apparently told: Just close your eyes and think of England! Intimate topics like love-making and desire just weren’t discussed in polite society! So George Sand was highly Un-traditional. She set out, in fact, to break the rules that she thought were restricting women from being their true selves. In another one of her many famous quotes she says: “My profession is to be free.” And how beautiful is that?! She, like some who came before her, and many after her, laid the groundwork for us women to be where we are today, and to give ourselves permission to be whom we aspire to be irrelevant of society’s taboos and some of the archaic traditions. Such women are truly remarkable and courageous!
Another pathfinder who meant the world to me as I was growing up, and who was my parents’ friend, was Sally; tall and attractive, smart and witty, a bon viveur who relished food, life and a good time. She was also politically savvy and au courant with all aspects of life. Sally lived in England, and after moving to the US, I would see her almost every time I went there to visit my parents. There were a few years when I did not travel during which time Sally (in her early seventies by then) was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. As soon as she realized that her life was ending, Sally organized a big bash at her house, served food and drinks, played music and had a grand old party! “This is my wake!” She told her astounded guests. She died shortly after that. What a courageous act! What a realist! What a beautiful way to exit! Another truly remarkable woman!
Yes, there have always been trend-setters of all kinds in our world, non-traditional women who dare to go places where others don’t, and to be what others only dare fantasize about. Some leave tidal waves of controversy (like Sand), others just leave little ripples in their immediate surroundings (like Sally). Nevertheless, they are women who do not pay heed to traditional rules and norms, or to the salacious and envious gossip that seems to surround them. They are not meek; they do not follow the herd. They choose not to merely exist, but to live life to its fullest capacity in ways that only they could imagine. They create their own bold path and walk down that proudly, confidently, happily, and, oftentimes, being daring trailblazers, quite painfully and alone. Change is often started by one person, and sometimes its spark ignites a sea-change that eventually spreads across the world because, somehow or the other, we are all connected to the past, to the present, to the future and to each other. And, how would we be where we are without those untraditional human beings to link us and to show us that there are always – always and ever – other ways of living if only we give ourselves the permission to go there and to forge confidently ahead into another exciting, though untested, frontier so as to reach our full potential as women whatever that potential happens to be and irrelevant of what chronological age we are when we identify and express it?