I may like to think of myself as a bad-ass, but I know the sad truth. I’m a nice person. Even when I think I’m not being nice, I usually am. I’ll apologize to my husband for being a bitch, and he’ll scour the last few hours of conversation to figure out exactly what I’m talking about. What I’m thinking, and what I’m saying don’t often match. If I actually said half of what I’d like to say, I’d be living alone in a van down by the river.
That is not to say I can’t be a real bitch. Often, it comes out when I don’t mean for it to–a joke that falls flat, or a sarcastic quip that seems innocuous to me, but hits too close to home for someone else. I kick myself for days after those muck ups. I want to be liked. Who doesn’t? My bitchiness is generally inadvertent and falls on the undeserving, and for that, I am sorry.
A friend of mine lectured me last week about being a pushover. She suggested that I was an enabler, allowing my family to take advantage of me because I collapse like a fold-up chair whenever they need something. “You have a life,” she said. “You don’t have to do something just because someone asked you to. You need to say no.” Point well taken.
Then she suggested that I do something she wanted me to and I told her that I had to consider it. I came back to her and said that, no, I didn’t have the time that the task required. We were with a group of others, and she brought it up again–that we all should do this (the “we” being “me”). Again, I said that I didn’t have the time to commit to it, but I’d be happy to come up with an alternative. When she brought it up a third time, I said a straight and simple “no.”
And she said I didn’t have to be a bitch about it.
The good girl voice kicked in, and got ready to apologize, and I remembered her lecture. I decided not to cave, and pointed out the first two times she asked, I was really nice about it, but she didn’t seem to hear me, so the third time I had to say it in a way that cut through the noise. I thought about the original conversation and it occurred to me that I wasn’t really behaving badly, it just wasn’t how she expected me to behave. I thought about all of the qualifiers and hedges and maybes I put on my statement and decided that it really does come back to me.
So today, I embrace the bitch. If I’m less afraid of her, perhaps she’ll learn a more tempered approach. She may not be my better self, but she is a part of who I am. She exists for a reason, sort of like anti-lock brakes. You don’t want to have to use them, but when you do, they’re really handy. Only instead of stopping me, they stop someone else. And that’s nothing to bitch about.
Words by J. B. Everett
Photograph “Angry Director” by jbrowneuk © 2013 Creative Commons