Tom Petty said, “The waiting is the hardest part.”
Sometimes you wait for something unknowingly. Sometimes you wait so long that you forget what you were waiting for. Sometimes you wait so long that you forget that you were waiting at all. And when it happens – the thing that you forgot you were waiting for, that you didn’t even know you were waiting for – your heart and gut join hands and pull, the motion of their union sends you reeling, and you remember.
I sat with your father in a dark theater this afternoon, sharing popcorn and soda. I leaned into him, settling in as the delicate voice of the film’s protagonist fluttered through the surround sound. Five minutes in, the film took a biting leap, cutting to a scene of warriors training for battle. The action was trenchant and intense, the scene choreographed and captured beautifully, cutting between live action and slow motion – bodies leaping and bounding, strong arms and veined hands knocking bows and wielding swords and shields, fighting hand to hand, armor glinting, faces drawn with ferocity and passion. They were warriors. And they were women.
I won’t say I’ve never cried watching a movie. I have. But I’ve never cried at the very beginning of a movie. There I was, five minutes into a summer blockbuster action movie, subtly dabbing my cheeks with my knuckles in the darkness. My tears quickly dried as I watched the plot unfold. I became engrossed in the way that moviegoers do in the midst of an action-packed plot full of harrowing circumstances and explosive special effects. My tears forgotten, I tucked it away – the feeling. The thing that stung.
The end of the movie drew near. In true super hero, blockbuster fashion, the film culminated with a dazzling, powerful show of explosions, effects, and nail-biting close calls. The last scene ended and it caught in my throat: the thing. It trickled in and squeezed as the credits rolled, and I knew what it was.
For two hours and twenty minutes I watched Diana become Wonder Woman. I saw Wonder Woman take her life into her own hands, while accepting responsibility for others. I saw Wonder Woman – flesh and hair and lips and muscle and power and strength and wit – carry an entire movie, beginning to end. I saw her maneuver uninhibited through love and pain. I saw Wonder Woman outrun, outfight, and outsmart her male counterparts without apology, without withdrawal, without begging pardon. I saw Wonder Woman dismiss cowardice while openly showing strength. She wasn’t a sidekick, an associate, or accomplice. Wonder Woman commanded the screen, the action, and the story with her cuffs, sword, shield, whip, but above all, with her brains and strength.
I left the dark theater stunned. I told your dad I would meet him in the car. I could see the blinding light of the afternoon just beyond the doors. I pushed them open and a gust of wind met my face as I stepped out into the day, a world away from what I had just seen. I got into the car and cried.
I cried for fifteen minutes as we drove around. The tears had nothing to do with the plot, acting, or effects. I cried because I felt vindicated for reasons I had no idea I’d had pent up for 30 years.
The waiting is the hardest part.
I had been waiting for this film since I was 8 years old.
I had been waiting since afternoons spent with Legos and Matchbox cars.
I had been waiting since the summer I wanted a red and black dirt bike instead of one with pink handlebar streamers and a banana seat.
I had been waiting since two boys held my hands behind my back and pushed me down on the asphalt.
I had been waiting since summer evenings when I would come inside sweaty, and sticky, and dirty.
I had been waiting since the countless times I saw surprise on the faces of adults who were shocked when I could run faster, throw harder, dribble better, or hit further than their sons.
I had been waiting since the day the woman at JC Penney told my mom, “The girls’ section is over there,” as we shopped for my school clothes in the boys’ section.
I’ve been waiting.
I’m 37 years old. It’s 2017. For the first time, a female super hero headlined – dominated – a blockbuster movie without the unintentional and unfortunate fallout of prior attempts. Wonder Woman doesn’t use sexual prowess and feminine cunning to overcome obstacles. She certainly could, but she doesn’t. She uses her head. She follows her heart. She holds others accountable. And she absolutely kicks ass doing it.
There’s a reason I shopped for my school clothes in the boy’s department. My identity as a girl – one who dug in the dirt and played with Transformers and knew how to catch a fly ball – was only reflected in the world of boys – boy’s clothing, toys, and entertainment.
There’s a scene in Wonder Woman where Diana sets her jaw and runs across a place called “No Man’s Land.” I won’t spoil it for you, other than to say that every blow she endures, fighting her way across a desolate expanse represented – for me – the struggle of women waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting.
So, my darling mighty girl, it doesn’t matter if you choose pink or blue or both. It doesn’t matter if you can bait a hook or cringe at the sight of worms. I want you to be you. What matters is that the choices are equal and unilaterally acceptable without the asterisk that follows girls wherever they go – that little sub-note that says: You think fast *for a girl. You run fast *for a girl. I hope desperately that the perception of who you and millions of little girls are and will become is portrayed with dignity and decency and respect and strength – a portrayal that has been lacking.
On your behalf, I send heartfelt thanks to Patty Jenkins for doing it right, for making us proud, and most of all, for making us remember what we’ve been waiting for since we were 8 years old.