When I was young, Wonder Woman came to save me.
We had recently moved, and I was struggling to adjust, make new friends, subtract fractions, and distance myself from the discord in our house. There was no refuge from home at school, nor from school at home. Most days, I wanted to slough off my own skin and start again.
When Wonder Woman, in the person of Lynda Carter landed on our television screen, I saw a ray of hope. She and I both had thick black tresses, though our similarities ended there. Wearing a fabulous outfit I’d never have been allowed out of the house in, she was the whole package – courage, power, beauty – all attributes I doubted I’d ever possess. What I wanted most, though, were her chic metallic cuffs, which deflected whatever pesky business life fired her way.
For the duration of an episode, Wonder Woman would speak to me in a way so few did in my real life. Her every heroic act was a promise, helping me see through the fog of my insecurities to my own worth. Between weekly shows, however, I was powerless. I’d attempt to flee whatever was going on around me by reading or racing down the bike path on my two-wheeler, but my escape never lasted long. It was all there, waiting for me when I got back.
And yet, thank God, I survived adolescence with my soul intact, no small feat for anyone under any circumstances. I learned the complicated syntax of womanhood. I discovered that strength and beauty and worth come in assorted packages. And I finally came to understand that, while our narratives may not always be superhero plot material, we all have stories worth telling.
Still, as I carry on with the business of everyday living now, so many decades after watching “Wonder Woman” on the television in our den, my mind occasionally wanders and self-doubt creeps its way in. I stand amid the piles of laundry and question whether I’m building a meaningful life, whether I’m giving enough to my family, the community, and to the world.
Seeing the new “Wonder Woman” film this week was like a booster shot. It reminded me of everything Wonder Woman taught me all those years ago and everything I’ve figured out since. A few of those lessons — Some days, it takes superpowers just to get out of bed in the morning. Our acts of kindness have more power than we’ll ever know. There’s strength, too, in the wisdom of our experience, in motherhood, in the failures and successes of our careers, in our friendships and marriages, and in the Herculean tasks of managing a family and a home.
I am now the middle-aged mother of sons, but I was once a young girl in search of a role model. I’m disheartened that so many years after I was growing up, you still don’t find a wealth of positive role models in popular culture for young women. I am so grateful that I found the one I needed, the one who still looks me in the eye and says, “You are enough. You always were.”
Merri Ukraincik is a writer, blogger, artist, wife, and mother who talks to G-d all the time. Her essays have appeared in Tablet, Hevria, Kveller, and elsewhere. She is the author of I Live. Send Help., a history of the Joint Distribution Committee. Find her on her personal website.