Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Okay, So Sometimes I Really Am a B****, What of It?

So you think when you call me a bitch, I'm going to curl up and cry for forgiveness? Yeah, right. Think again! As far back as I can remember I've been proud to be called a bitch. I realized early on that most of the time, this "insult" is hurled to make a woman back down when she stands up for herself or otherwise exhibits her strength and/or independence. I felt this way well before someone sent me one of those email chain jokes in the 1990s that defined bitch as a Babe In Total Control of Herself though I did love that email because it fit so well with what I already believed.

There is something to that if you think about it. Women who are considered bitches are usually strong, independent, and outspoken. They are often successful or at the very least confident in their achievements. So I've never been one to shrink away from the label though that probably lead to me hearing it that much more often. I'm not encouraging people to lob the word at others by means of insulting them. I'm just saying that the moment we take away someone's power to use the word bitch to control us, we change the connotation attached to the word. In doing so, we free ourselves.

Having said that, I can remember most of the times in my life I've been called a bitch. Okay, maybe not most because there have been a lot. There were some memorable ones though.

One of the most memorable made me laugh out loud and share it will all my friends. (Sorry, J, but, on the other hand, leaving it on my answering machine wasn't your wisest decision ever.) The guy I was dating responded to a jealous rant (yes, I freely admit it was a rant and a bit on the crazy side.) I left on his answering machine with an equally long rant which he ended by calling me a "Class A Bitch" (the only words I remember from the whole message). At the time, I took that as his confession that my jealous rant had a foundation in truth. (I found out later that it didn't, but, oh, well, we all make mistakes.) And, yeah, this whole thing essentially ended the relationship, but that's not the point. The point is that as much as I adore J (we are friends now), he, essentially, called me a bitch because I stood up for myself. Albeit, I am now embarrassed by my aggressive, unfair behavior. I could've chosen assertive fairness, but I wasn't in that kind of emotional place in those days. Sometimes I wonder how my life would be different if I'd handled that one moment differently. That sure sounds like a real "Class A Bitch", now doesn't it?

Shortly after I got married, my husband's best friend called me a bitch. I'm not sure the context anymore other than that I stood up for myself during a game we were playing. That time I did get mad. I wasn't mad so much that he called me a bitch but because my husband didn't stand up to his friend on my behalf. Funny thing about that is, if I'd still been single I would've stood up for myself no matter who it angered, but, somehow, I believed I'd lost that power just because I got married. Man, that's hard for me to reconcile in my own mind, so if it confuses you, that's understandable. I am over that now, believe me!

My Mom read my first novel, All She Ever Wanted , while it was still in manuscript form. Shortly after finishing it she called me to discuss it. During the conversation, she said "Victoria (the main character) is just like you. She's a real bitch." I took this as a compliment. What I heard was that Victoria was a strong, independent, ambitious woman who didn't let anyone stand in her way, which was essentially also stated during the conversation. And, I choose to continue believing that's what she meant with her bitch comment and don't care to know if she meant anything different.

Those are three times I remember being called a bitch that made me stop and think. There are many others, but the stories are all pretty much the same. I stood up for myself or someone I cared about, I did well at something when someone else didn't, I stood my ground about something I believed strongly, or I simply didn't behave as someone else expected/wanted. I've never been called a bitch when I capitulated or presented myself as weak. It's always been when I've shown my strength.

A word is just a word. It's how we use it and perceive it that gives it meaning, so this Babe in Total Control of Herself says if you can't handle my strength then call me a bitch, baby. I'm not saying I won't respond with words to put you in your place, but I am saying I won't allow you to silence me, weaken me, or otherwise cause me to capitulate by calling me a bitch.

Just be aware of one thing. If you opt to call me a bitch, you'll likely then get to see just how much of a bitch I can really be.

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