A lady (n.) could be a polite, refined and well-spoken woman, a woman of high social distinction or nobility, or any woman at all. When we hear the word “lady,” we recognize that the person described by it is performing a certain kind of role. But do we know exactly what she’s doing? Is a lady defined by the trappings of gentility she possesses, or by the performance itself? Is a lady not really a “lady,” but instead a highly adept liar? Or, more kindly: an actress? More kindly, still: discreet? Or, finally, is a lady only what you what you want her to be, nothing more and nothing less? If so, then what does it mean when a woman self-identifies as a lady?

I’d like to create a litmus test for ladyhood. That way, I can always know if my decisions further or hinder my attainment of this badge of honor. For instance: would a lady keep underwear in her purse?

A British survey found that 43% of single women do. I’d like to know if the women unanimously decided on the precise statement “carry an extra pair of sexy underwear in their handbags, in case a date is successful” or if the survey makers injected this logic. I wonder if another option was “…in case of a menstrual mishap” or “carry pocket scrabble in their handbags, in case a date is not successful.”

Why do scientists expend resources to study the mysteries of women’s handbags? I bet it has something to do with wanting to sell us stuff to make us feel more like ladies.