Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates

Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates in a scene from “Fried Green Tomatoes”

On My Towanda Moment

One of my favorite movies of all-time is “Fried Green Tomatoes”.  It tells the tale of a timid and unhappy Birmingham housewife back in the 80’s befriending an elderly woman in a nursing home who regales stories of her childhood in a tiny Alabama crossroads in the era between WWI and WWII.  Evelyn Couch, the housewife, played by Kathy Bates, becomes enthralled with the masterful storytelling of the elderly Ninny Threadgood, played by the late Jessica Tandy She finds strength in the central character of Ninny’s tales, “Idgie Threadgood”, who was to become Ninny’s sister-in-law.  Evelyn finds strength and ultimately, her own voice through Idgie and we watch throughout the film, as Evelyn finds herself no longer able to be life’s doormat.  In the flashbacks to the depressed little town of Whistle Stop, when Idgie would lash out against society, “TOWANDA!” became her battle cry.  The first time Evelyn finds her voice in the parking lot of the Winn Dixie, we are permitted to witness her “Towanda Moment”:

For my regular readers, you may find this hard to ladiesbelieve, but once upon a time, not that long ago, I was Evelyn Couch.  I was a fat, timid soul who used to sit back quietly while life used me as its toilet paper.  I thought speaking up for myself was impolite until one day, the pressure became too much and I found my voice.  That’s been the singular gift I’ve been given by Kay VanHoesen and Here Women Talk.  Her “no topic is taboo” policy is like nothing I’ve ever seen anywhere.  The sisterhood I formed with Vicki Childs during our stint on “Broadsided” created some of the finest teaching moments I’ve ever had in my life and she helped me to find my voice too.  The funny thing is, once you turn on the faucet, it’s tough to turn off, as Evelyn Couch learned.  It takes a good friend to help you temper the voice that sometimes comes with no filters.  My Aunt Jean, in her 80’s, doesn’t have any filters either and she sometimes has to be reminded that there is such a thing as too much truthiness.  The hate mail I receive on a regular basis is my truth meter.  Some folks have valid points and I always publicly acknowledge them.  Some are hopelessly full of shit and I leave them there because nothing I can say will change their narrow minds.  Thank goodness I always have great friends and my sister Barbie to ask, “How many ‘o them hormones you takin’, Honey?”

But I digress. I came here to share with you my most recent “Towanda Moment” and it happened just yesterday.  Now, ordinarily I wouldn’t brag or even talk about bodily functions – but…
I’d been putting off a jaunt “to town” for several days.  As I opened the last can of cat food and scooped the last of the dog food, knew there was no more milk or eggs or fabric softener, I accepted that the trip couldn’t be put off any longer.  A shower and a selection of my least unacceptable clothing later, I motivated myself right to the local and only grocery store in town.  This should have been a boring and uneventful trip, as forgettable as all the rest, but a young woman changed all that for me in an instant.

Now, I’m not a dawdler and I’m not one to stand in front of a display blocking an entire aisle like I’m taking fricken inventory, but it was a Monday in the middle of the day, the store was nearly empty and I was in no particular hurry.  Twice up a single aisle, a very young, very thin and outwardly pretty woman had hit me in the bum with her cart.  I said nothing, either time, just as Evelyn Couch would have said nothing.  Finally, in a moment of exasperation, she and her cart pulled around me like a Porche on a packed freeway and she stopped dead in front of my cart.  Acting like I was invisible, she shoved my cart into my midsection, reached in front of me and snatched an item off the shelf.  I chuckled inwardly at her oh-so-self-important-in-a-hurry attitude and was getting ready to make her as unforgettable as this excursion when she just had to go and do it.  The unthinkable.  She couldn’t just hit me three times with a cart and walk away, she just had to say it and juuuuust loud enough and not so under her breath I heard…

“Fat-assed bitch!”

Mary Stuart

Mary Stuart Masterson as Idgie Threadgood. We all need to find a bit of our “inner Idgie”

Hmmm.  Really?  Did she really say that?  Did she just… and then I had an “OH NO SHE DI’NT!” moment, complete with the two snap circle.  Now understand, it takes a lot to change me from a laid back middle aged white woman to the “angry black woman”, but Miss “I-Want-That-Can-Of-Sweetened-Condensed-Milk-And-You-Too-Slow-You-Fat-Assed-Bitch” flipped my bitch switch in .03 seconds. Since they don’t allow us to drive our vans through the market, I had to figure out just the right way to express my displeasure while not going for a tour of the Hooterville jail.

Just then, it hit me – literally. The corned-beef and cabbage dinner I’d enjoyed the night before was attempting to “express” itself in what I would normally consider unacceptable in polite company.  So, clenching my butt-cheeks together through three aisles I didn’t need to shop, I waited for just the right moment, pulled my cart up along-side Miss Thing and you guessed it – I crop-dusted her.  The look on her face as the 12-hour old, well-processed cabbage assaulted her olfactory senses was enough for me as I smiled warmly at her and moved casually to the checkout.

It was only when I got in the van, turned the old girl over and put her in drive, that I permitted myself the utter satisfaction of throwing my head back and shouting a self-satisfying, “TOWANDA!” of which even Idgie Threadgood would have been proud.

I guess the moral of the story is for each of us to tap into the Idgie that truly lies within each and every one of us, to find our voice and yes, find a way to express yourself.

I raise a glass to every woman who has experienced her own special “Towanda Moment”.


Carol Baker is a free-lance political writer and sometimes satirist.  She is a regular contributor to Here Women Talk.

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