Fans of my writing call me a “badass.” But that word, tinged with profanity, is often sanitized by prudent editors into “rebel.”

I am flattered by either description — I’m an 83-year-old, 4’9”, 97-pound woman — but I fear my fans are off base.

If I were a true rebel, say a Joan of Arc type, I would let my valor be heralded by others.

Alas, if I can’t trumpet my rebellious ways, if I can’t publish it on a blog, if I can’t share on Facebook, does it still have the veneer of defiance, or does it become a publicity stunt?

For example, for my 80th birthday, I got a tattoo on my right biceps. (My left was decorated at age 60.) I wrote an essay, “Why I Got a Tattoo Instead of a Facelift For My 80th Birthday.” Along with nixing facelifts, I called for women my age to let their hair go gray, and to never lie about their age.

Rebel or bully?

I pride myself on my tattoos because they have become a spark for elevator chat in my highrise where the majority of residents are 30-year-olds. When I expose my arms to prove fellowship with the fellow sporting a linear lineup on one arm, does he consider me a rebel, or bonkers?

One reason that friends think me a rebel is that I am bolstered by the belief I have agency. I am an Apple addict – watch, phone, iPad, and MacBook Air – thus I am an aberration for someone of my vintage. My comfort and adoration of technology allows me to follow my whims, which some may call “rebellious.”

As an example, I — a white woman — host a Zoom book group that discusses memoirs, novels, and nonfiction by Black authors. My rebellion, or dictator side, surfaces because I select the book and date and time for our meeting. A sort of good works tinged with tyrant.

Another of my efforts — admirable and a bit rebellious — is my habit of curating articles from daily newspapers and posting three paragraphs, just three, on my Facebook feed.

I always include the journalist’s name, and a suggestion to “Click below for all.” But I decide what my Friends will read with their morning coffee. Subjects typically include Black achievement, exposés of misogyny, LGBTQ+ issues, and anything about dogs.

One reason I’m having so much fun with my reputation is that it came late in life. When I graduated college in the ’50s, as a Jewish woman I was ordained to be a schoolteacher, marry a soon-to-be-doctor or lawyer, and live in a suburban home surrounded by neighbors just like me.

I fulfilled all.

But in 1969, I forced my family to chuck all that and return to the city to be urban pioneers in a complex that integrated races, ages, and incomes in rental and for-sale housing.

Good little Jewish wife disappeared, rebel showed up in her place.

Soloway, 83, is the author of The Division Street Princess, Green Nails and Other Acts of Rebellion: Life After Loss, Bad Grandma and Other Chapters in a Life Lived Out Loud, and She’s Not The Type.  Her articles have appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Huff Post, Next Avenue, Forward, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, and Kveller. The Emmy Award-winning television series Transparent was created by Elaine Soloway’s child Joey and inspired by their family.

Elaine Soloway

Soloway, 83, is the author of The Division Street Princess, Green Nails and Other Acts of Rebellion: Life After Loss, Bad Grandma and Other Chapters in a Life Lived Out Loud, and She's Not The Type. Her...