When I was eleven years old Roger Moore retired as James Bond and there was some speculation about who should replace him. Even though this was before the internet, back when people were more sensible, this still seemed to me like an extremely important issue to be pondering.
“Maybe it will be a woman,” said my mom.
I stared at her in concern. She was standing on the coffee table in the lounge, trying to fix the overhead light. She was often saying things to annoy me, but was she now going mad?
“A woman can’t be James Bond,” I said.
“Oh?” she said.
“James Bond is a man,” I said. “Women can’t be spies. He has guns and gadgets and things.”
“Oh,” said my mom, using a nail file to tighten the screws.
“He’s always getting shot and beaten up but still has to complete his mission.”
“Oh.” She winced a little as she stepped down from the coffee table. She had been in hospital having an operation, and the doctors thought she should still be in hospital but she had come home early because she said she needed to take care of things at home. By “things”, I think she meant me.
“You have to be brave to be James Bond,” I said. I knew my mom wasn’t very brave because she was a woman and women were afraid of things like mice and going out at night without a warm jersey. Also, my father had died the year before and sometimes I could hear the sounds of her crying quietly in her bedroom in the middle of the night. I assumed she was afraid of the dark, because in the morning she always acted like nothing was bothering her.
“I suppose so,” she said. She tried the light and it didn’t work and she sat down and put her head in her hands. Then she stood up again and took a deep breath and climbed back up on the coffee table.
“Women aren’t strong enough to be James Bond,” I said, confident that I was explaining things to her satisfaction. “They can’t win fights,” I said.
I wonder if even at the time, in my dumb, scared, male, eleven-year-old head I had the distant inkling that not all fights are fought with fists, and that not all the challenges in life speak Russian and carry guns.
She stepped down from the table and tried the light again and this time it worked, and she started crying a little and I asked if something was wrong and she just smiled and shook her head and said sometimes when people are very tired they cry when little things go well.
I don’t know who the next James Bond will be, but I hope the next James Bond is a single mom raising two children all alone on a teacher’s salary, trying to figure things out in a hostile world. I hope she’ll show little boys something about courage and strength and what it really means to be a hero.
Edgars magazine, 9 August 2018