OPINION: By Lola Shaw
At the tender age of 17, your priorities are in different places.
It's all about the dress you're going to wear to formal, the lie you're telling your parents so you can go to that party on Friday (where you'll awkwardly hang around your crush until you kiss behind the garage after four Vodka Cruisers), stress over pimples, and of course, panic about the future.
When I was 17, I knew my formal dress was black with diamantes. I passed out after three Cruisers (missing out on a liquid courage kiss), I never had a lot of pimples - and I had scored myself a job at a transport company.
I was winning in pretty much everything.
Except I wasn't.
In my time on earth, I had lived a sheltered life. I wasn't prepared for my new job in the hugely male-dominated transport industry. Instead of being sassy and fierce, I possessed the dancing queen trifecta - young and sweet, only 17.
The only thing protecting me from being eaten alive was my dad and the respect he commanded in the industry.
And then there was her - the real-life Elle Woods. You know who I mean. Legally Blonde's infamous Elle Woods. The badass movie character who went from high school to Harvard and smashed the patriarchy.
I fell in love with IRL Elle Woods the first time I met her. She was the sales rep who had this aura of desire surrounding her. You either wanted to date her or whispered, "I want to be like you when I grow up".
In the first few weeks of knowing my "Elle Woods", my crush on her was 10 times bigger than the one I had on the guy who ignored me at school but would text me until 3am.
I told everyone about our conversations, even though it was mainly her talking and me over-enthusiastically nodding like a puppy. I told them how she made me feel like her best friend, and I looked forward to 4pm when she would waltz through the office door with a beautiful grin on her face, five-inch heels and an immaculate, yet sassy outfit.
For months my admiration and love grew for Elle, until one day it hit its peak.
Elle strutted into the office and instantly I could tell something was off - she was missing her smile. Then the branch manager - aka Humpty Dumpty - started yelling. Everyone put their heads down pretending the war between Humpty Dumpty and Elle Woods wasn't happening, but I watched with eyes wide open waiting for her reaction.
She didn't disappoint. Elle put her hand on her hip, raised her eyebrow, and took a deep breath.
"Humpty Dumpty, if you want to have a conversation, we will have a conversation, but I will not be spoken to like this."
The figurative mic hit the floor.
Seventeen-year-old me was stunned. I wondered how did she have the confidence to stand her ground?
Elle Woods looked at me and laughed before realising her young, naïve, shadow wasn't joking.
"Babe, men might have loud voices, but so do you. Use it to fight for yourself. Especially when you're right."
She changed my whole life with those words. She made it clear that it was not confidence that made her speak up, but the right to be respected.
While I might not love Elle the same way I love men, before her, I would have thought saying such a thing to your superior was disrespectful. I now understand it isn't. It's simply asking to be treated in a decent manner.
For that lesson, and the many others she taught me, I love her.