Friday, January 06, 2012

Unhinging the Bitch

“The cabbage is 69 cents a pound.”

“Well, I’ll have to have someone check it…”

“You can’t just trust me on it, huh? I don’t tend to lie about cruciferous vegetables…just a rule.

“Well if I took your word for it, I’d have to...”

“Oh fuck it. Just take it off my bill.”

As I bag my groceries, the raging goes on inside my head. I decide to let the words fall out of my mouth instead:

“Seriously…in all of the years I’ve come to this damn megastore, do you think I’ve ever been undercharged for anything?

At this point, other cashiers and shoppers are staring at me. My face reddens but instead of looking down, I look back at them. Everyone quickly looks away, one at a time.

"Your system is designed to overcharge me. Hence why I know the price of the damn cabbage in the first place. So you don’t overcharge me.”

I walk out, head up. But in my car, it’s a different story. My hands are shaking and I’m on the verge of tears. I begin to feel badly for the cashier, who was a clueless recipient of my ire.

Apologize. I should apologize.

Ah, that tired, old mantra. As a woman and recovering Catholic, I’ve apologized well beyond my fair share. And if I didn’t apologize, I experienced the wrath of its ugly stepsister: guilt.

What if I lived without doling out apologies? What if I just allowed myself to be a full-fledged bitch?

I reflect back on the supermarket scene. It did feel good to simply raise my voice. To be loud and express.

It also felt decadently defiant to look back into the eyes of everyone staring at me as if to say, “What are you looking at bitches?” My personal Clint Eastwood moment.

What if unhinged the bitch even more? What if I truly spoke my mind?

Just what we need, right? Another rude and entitled person thinking the world should accommodate them. But I don’t think the world should accommodate me. Frankly I’m shocked when it does. My natural state is caring and sensitive. So why not be a caring and sensitive bitch? Can those two live together?

My gal friend is upset that her family didn’t contact her over the holidays. I asked her if she relayed how she felt. Her conversation with them went something like this:

“Wow, you guys must have been really busy over Christmas. I didn’t hear from you and I thought something might be wrong. Then I figured, you just must have been busy. It is the holidays, afterall.”

But this is how she told it to me, over a few drinks:

“Do I fucking exist or what? They couldn’t show me the respect to even call me? I’m the only living daughter on my side of the family. Why do I have to do all the reaching out? I’m fucking sick of it.”

A substantial difference in the two versions, you'll note. Should she have opted for the latter version? Not necessarily. But the first version is much more nefarious and soul-sucking--and that’s the one we “good women” often choose.

As “good women”, we often do the opposite of unleashing. We internalize. We question and admonish ourselves over the slightest infractions. Many feminist theories postulate that those socially-induced insecurities are meant to keep our mouths shut and our feet fixed in one spot. We’re too busy yelling at ourselves to make demands of others. Too busy internally debating to take a step forward and make a change.

Like many others, several people close to me have died of cancer. I have no damn clue whether internalized anger manifests itself in the form of cancer. But I’ll take my stab in the dark and say that it sure doesn’t help in the health department either.

In their honor, I continue to unhinge the bitch. She is allowed to roam free, express herself and breathe a little easier. She gets to laugh in the face of a difficult situation instead of caving in on herself like a flimsy house of cards.

Could I ever utter the following?

“I don’t like talking to you. I wish you’d go away.”

“Don’t ignore me. I don’t appreciate it.”

“Stop interrupting. I’m speaking right now.”

“I think you’re lying.”

"Stop staring at me. It’s invasive and annoying."

“Don’t tell me what to do.”

"I wasn't asking your opinion."

One could argue that these statements are cruel or could be delivered in a better fashion. And one would be right! But what if I don’t feel like being right? I’ve been right for decades now and still feel wrong entirely too much of the time. Being “good” is a never-ending battle which women are predetermined losers.

A bitch is a female dog, right? A dog is an animal. And when I become a bitch, I'm closer to my animal self. And I like it. It feels impulsive, raw and primal. Fight-ready and messy. And dare I say (oh yes, I dare), sexy and unbridled.

Two of the biggest insults that can be hurled at women? "You're a whore" or "You're a crazy bitch." I've yet to figure out why being called a whore is so horrible, since it seems like a perfectly reasonable profession where women get paid more than men for once.

You're a crazy bitch then! The underlying message: Stay tame. Shut up. Don't act wild. You might be a force to be reckoned with. You might get somewhere.

The last time it was hurled my way, I responded, "You ain't see nothing yet." And they hadn't. Because I haven't. She's evolving. She's new.

At heart, I will always be a kind person. It’s my nature. But there’s more to me than kindness. And this seemingly backward path to transformation fits me well, like a coat of fur or a set of bloodied fangs. Like ragged claws or a gutteral growl. Like a bite on warm skin.

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