Ever have one of those aha moments that start with déjà vu and end with “Oh, I get it”? Something like that happened to me on Saturday night when I walked into the family room to find my husband watching “Adventures of Superman” on MeTV, our favored reruns channel.
As I settled down to watch Clark, Lois and Jimmy Olson get themselves out of outlandish scrapes—with Superman’s help, of course—I suddenly realized that Lois Lane was an important, if unacknowledged, figure in my life story.
Lois Lane was the reason I studied journalism and went to work as a reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper not unlike the Daily Planet. Lois Lane was my feminist role model.
In the 1950s, when “Adventures of Superman” debuted, there were not many role models out there for little girls. The career track was severely restricted.
You were going to be a housewife. If you were to work for a couple of years before getting married, then teacher, nurse and secretary were acceptable occupations. In the real world, I suppose factory work and retail were options too, but those were not the jobs little girls daydreamed about. Meanwhile, no one spoke of what would happen if you were divorced or widowed, or—heaven forbid—stayed single by choice.
I always loved to read and write, and from an early age I knew I wanted to “be a writer,” whatever that meant to me at the time. One of my most-loved Christmas presents, at age 5 or 6, was a child’s version of a rolltop desk modeled along the lines of the oak desk in my father’s office at work. A writer needs a desk.
I never gave nursing a thought; can’t handle blood and guts. And while my dad felt I should teach, wisely pointing out how nice it would be to have summers off, I knew even then I was too impatient to deal with obnoxious kids like myself all day.
Lois opened the door to another possibility.
Lois Lane was chic and professional. She wore wonderful little tailored suits and smart hats. She interacted as an equal with the chief, who assigned her to big, important stories, not the women’s pages.
She wasn’t a “girl reporter.” She was a reporter. She got to travel and have adventures. She mooned over Superman and mocked Clark Kent. I could do all that!
I was pretty young when “Adventures of Superman” was on, and I didn’t connect the dots at the time—didn’t see that Lois was pointing the way. Nor did I think of her later, when it came time to choose a college major.
But she was in there somehow as I settled on journalism, a practical way, I reasoned, to both write and pay the bills. And I’ve never looked back. I’ve enjoyed my many jobs in newspapers, magazines and books.
At long last, let me publicly thank the lady who inspired me. She may be fictional, but her example was real enough.