I was reminded recently of a night I spent with my middle daughter, Hannah.
Hannah, you see, is the tomboy and tends to be more action-oriented and definitely not the kid you’d see as the “girly-girl.”
Where Abbi, her sister, would wear fancy dresses, flower in her hair, playing with Barbie, Hannah had leaves and twigs in her hair, knots the size of birds’ nests and refused to bathe. As she got older Hannah liked action-oriented cartoons. Where Abbi liked Strawberry Shortcake Hannah liked Scooby Doo. Abbi leaned toward Cinderella and Hannah liked Monsters, Inc.
You get the point. It’s a point that at times was lost on her mother. Try as she might, Andrea would push, pull, yell, scream, plead, beg and finally give up in frustration when trying to get Hannah to “be more of a girl.” When she would look pleadingly at me to help I would simply respond: “she’s never going to do it, so stop trying.” It was the few times that Hannah and I would be able to relate well to each other, even as a little kid. Understand, when Abbi, her sister was born, she gravitated toward me and pushed her Mom away. They loved each other, had a tremendous bond and did lots of things together, but when Abbi wanted comfort she came to me. That was Andrea for Hannah. Try as I might I couldn’t connect with her the way Andrea did and it caused a lot of problems. When Andrea passed away I was worried the most about Hannah because of that connection.
But as Hannah got older and approached puberty I could see a small change in her.
No, she didn’t suddenly get an urge to curl her hair and dance around like her sister did. In fact, more often than not she’d spend her nights with me, watching “Live Free or Die Hard” on the television and cheering louder than I do when Bruce Willis blows up a helicopter with a cop car. But I noticed that where she used to be most comfortable in basketball shorts and a t-shirt she was looking at teen magazines and noticing how cute her sister’s wardrobe was.
I noticed the conflict coming. You should see it too, I hope, that conflict between action, strength, and confidence and beauty and grace.
That’s where Steven Soderbergh and Gina Carano come in.
Last year Soderbergh decided to do a movie based solely on the fact he’d seen this amazing woman fighting in an MMA match on CBS. That’s it. Saw her fight and decided she was the subject of his next movie. No acting ability, no thought, he had to have her in the movie. It was called Haywire and Carano played a character named Mallory.
So I took Hannah to see it.
I know, you’re criticizing me. “How can he take a 13-year-old to see an R-rated movie where a woman beats the crap out of guys and people get shot?!”
Because a beautiful, graceful woman beat the crap out of guys and people got shot.
This was an opportunity, at least in my opinion, to show my tomboy daughter that a woman could be beautiful and graceful and still kick someone’s ass without breaking a sweat . . . and I didn’t even have to say a word.
No . . . it’s not a great film. I get that. No . . . Carano wasn’t the best actress in the world . . . I get that, too.
But during the film the MMA fighter literally beat the crap out of Ewan McGregor – Obi Wan Kenobi himself – and I heard Hannah cheer. She wore a cocktail dress and attended a fancy party and Hannah looked in wonder. She wore a nice pair of jeans, a sweatshirt, and a floppy hat . . . and Hannah had to have them. Not long after the movie I got her a “Mallory hat” so she could wear it. She did . . . all the time.
So this Christmas her sister took her out on a shopping spree as a gift. She got a good pair of jeans. She picked more colorful clothes, sweaters that fit a little better . . . and a pair of jeans that fit a girl better than a boy.
Then a friend of mine told us she had breast cancer and her chemo treatments were going to begin right as the Christmas season hit. Far from lamenting and wailing, she told the world she was going to fight this tooth and nail.
“We should get her a Mallory hat,” Hannah and I said together.
“Yeah, she’s strong, and she’ll kick it’s ass,” Hannah said. “I can’t think of a better person to get a Mallory hat.”
So we did. It’s a pleasure to me to see that I have this friend, who isn’t taking cancer lying down and Hannah who wants to send her a symbol of strength that Hannah herself noticed in a silly little film.
But then it’s all about life’s little lessons, isn’t it?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to watch Bruce Willis kill some terrorists.