Note: Don’t judge me. I am a hot wired momma and that plays well and not so well, depending on the day and the circumstances. I am openly admitting my wrongs here, but this is my story. I’ve put it down as honestly and truly as possible, but as with anything, there are other sides. Let them start their own blogs! However, no ill will is intended here, all amends have been made, and everyone is fine. However, some male folks may take offense to some of this. Sorry dudes. Best advice I can give you is: don’t read it. You’ve been fairly warned… just in case the title wasn’t enough. Also, if you get to the bottom, there’s a note about the novel… but you have to read all of this first.
What is it that makes being a woman an invitation for all kinds of unreasonable labels and attitudes? Why is a woman’s righteous indignation or bad mood, labeled bitchiness, while it’s righteous and rational when displayed by a man? Why is emotion a weakness in women, but often an “ahhh” moment with men? When a man becomes tearful discussing something, I see a tendency by many to stop and take it more seriously, to feel a compassionate understanding of the man’s struggle. Yet when a woman tears up, it is more likely dismissed as weak, “emotional.” Why is that?
I don’t ask any of this from a feminist standpoint, or wondering about the state of our place in the world; I just see this happen a lot and it pisses me off.
Why is it that women are still defending themselves for behaviors that guys toss around easily and with sanctimonious abandon? Case in point: why do I still need to call in the big guns: Smart Guy (who, for the record, is no smarter than me, and not much of a gun) to make certain points? When Smart Guy tells the kids to do something, or tells them what wasn’t done correctly, they take it very seriously. In fairness, they may secretly call him names in their heads, but woe is the day that they say those things out loud. I see the annoyed expressions that Smart Guy often misses, the angry glances. Yet, rarely is a word said in debate. “Yeah, ok dad.” The tone may be snarky, but there is little argument. I get the obvious explanation: he’s not around as much, he doesn’t say it as often. Ok, fair. Yet, it irks me that when I point out that lunch box container that’s left out each day, or chores that are being done poorly, I get arguments, explanations, surly looks and comments, or worse.
If Smart Guy was, for example, telling a certain male exchange student (who may or may not be from China) and Little Man/U.S. that: They made Smart Guy’s morning much more stressful, by leaving key chores undone, forgetting items that needed to be driven to school (so that Smart Guy had to run these items to school, and do the chores, before making early morning appointments of his own– something, that would, for the record, never happen!), and not following through on things that were specifically asked of them (instead leaving a note explaining why they/China, didn’t do it), said exchange student would not (absolutely would NOT) ever say “Calm down Dad.” Keep in mind that Smart Guy would, hypothetically, already be speaking calmly. He would be driving the kids home from track practice; he’d be stating his list of “this cannot happen agains” in a firm and clear way. His voice would not be raised, and he would not be doing anything that would warrant a “calm down.” Mine was not. I was not.
If this sounds like a thinly veiled example, aren’t you smart… she said snarkily. It is. Let me be clear in stating that two witnesses will attest to the fact that I stated my issues clearly and calmly. I was not ranting, nor was I going on and on. My voice was not raised, my tone was firm but neutral. As a matter of fact, I was stating the issues for the first time, and began with “before we get home, I want to be clear about something…” I had barely gotten two sentences in, when those words were tossed my way: “Calm down mom.” The phrase was tossed my way with clear disdain and annoyance by a certain boy, while I watched in the rearview mirror, as he rolled his eyes and said it.
As far as foreign exchanges go, the next couple of seconds could go down as distinctly bad parenting and justification for then repeating the “Calm down mom.” It would be fair to say that Smart Guy would not have sent a deathly glance back in the rear view mirror and said, very strongly (but not yelling), “Whoa! Don’t f@#^*ing tell me to calm down!” In the name of full disclosure, I admit here that I actually used the full out F word. This was the first time I launched it at China, and my anger was bullet fast: right between his eyes. I felt instant anger, that was based on countless times that the attitude he had, and similar words have been used, when I’m making a point that Smart Guy, or most men for the matter, would say without such a response: “I really don’t appreciate racing up to go to an appointment and finding your messes, and a note that you didn’t walk the dog, or do the job required. In the time it took you to write the note and cook your eggs, these things could have been done.” I acknowledge that I crossed a line, and I immediately felt badly about it. But…
The rest of the ride was distinctly quieter. Later, I was surprised all over again, when I back tracked, apologized and explained why I’d gotten angry. I stated that I don’t tolerate any of my own kids telling me to “calm down,” but China saw nothing wrong with this. He felt totally righteous and entirely disgusted with me, for the initial infraction (not being calm? telling him he’d done something wrong?) and for then losing my cool and swearing. If the “calm down” were an isolated incident, I’d be pissed off and then get over it; but it’s not. I hear from friends all the time, similar scenarios, wherein their boys (not their girls) launch the “take it easy,” “calm down,” “why are you getting so upset,” response when the women involved feel they are simply being firm. Again, I accept that I launch far more requests, rules, issues than Smart Guy, who’s at work all day. However, I am generally fair; usually don’t just throw the F-bomb around (in anger) or lose my cool so easily, and I allow some wiggle room for mistakes and slow responses. But, BUT, I can’t stand when the boys respond to my reasonable requests as if I’ve been ranting and raving for hours. Rolling of eyes, the condescending tones, attitude that is rarely used with other dudes. “Okaaaaay Mom.” (Translation: Gee, take it easy; calm down; what’s wrong with you?)
For those of you who haven’t had this happen, bravo! Sincerely, I am impressed. I can turn this in on myself instantly: You must be a better mother than me. It could be true. I could use some fine tuning for sure. But seriously, I am always impressed with those of you out there who just don’t see this stuff, and whose men and boys don’t use this tone, or theses words with you. Unfortunately, I know a lot of other women who are stewing in my corner; and while my reaction may be sharper than others’, we’re all fighting the same battle. As for myself, I see a double standard that just pushes a button deep inside. The use of pejorative labeling, and condescending tones, when mothers, sisters, female employers, women/girls express themselves with any emotion, be it sadness, frustration, anger, excitement, disappointment, etc.. it is often turned on them in a judgmental way, that is not used on males as often.
The most obvious example, of course, is bitch. Bitch, the verb is even more prevalent. Seriously, it’s astounding that this word still gets tossed around, and often for things that dudes do, just as well and just as often, and frankly, often bigger and badder. Dad in a bad mood, is dad in a bad mood. Mom in a bad mood is bitchy. Female employer/employee demanding better standards, asking for something to be done right (requesting that ones dishes be done , not left sitting) is bitchy, not quality focused.Equal opportunity, should also include a man being called bitchy for snapping at someone, or being cranky after a long day. Why is it that women are still defending themselves for behaviors that guys toss around easily and with sanctimonious abandon?
Yeah, yeah, don’t even bother sending me long diatribes about why I’m generalizing or this isn’t always true. Sure, fine, ok. That’s fair: not always true. Not all males behave this way and not all females are treated this way. No doubt there are moments when I am in fact ranting, or behaving badly (my F-bomb moment was not a proud one, for instance), but I also know that this is not my issue alone. I am not on some feminist ride here. This is where I live and it bugs the shit out of me. I had a very interesting conversation about this very thing, this weekend, with a highly accomplished woman, who runs a giant firm in Seattle. I told her that I’d been writing this post for two weeks: scrapping it and starting over. Nuancing my wording. Scrapping it again. Starting over, and then posting something else. Yet, there we were having a very powerful dialogue about why this still is true, in so many walks of society.
I am my own worse critic most of the time… unless my real worst critic is sitting out there reading these, and waiting to pounce. I am very hard on myself, and often judge myself harshly for things that others wouldn’t. Case in point: this issue. I think part of the reason I kept not posting it, is that inevitably, I believe someone will read it and say: “Well, she is pretty unstable,” or “Well, she is a hot head,” or ”Man, she threw the F-bomb at some poor Chinese exchange student? I hope he doesn’t think all mothers would do that!” There are lots more examples, of what I think you could be thinking. I am ahead of you there. But, as I spoke to this woman, in her sleek, hipster outfit, in a home that made me nervous that I might do any one of 700 things wrong, she was saying exactly what I was saying: she’s tired of being labeled for her feelings or actions, differently than men are for the same things. Frankly, no one should be calling anyone bitch; it’s so passé and entirely wrong. But it’s still used, and generally only to women… in both the verb and noun forms. Whether I’m accused of being bitchy or a bitch, it’s the same thing.
So, while I hate the word, and while I don’t encourage what I’m about to suggest… I am toying with the idea of using bitch, the verb, more often. To be clear, it would be a dark, dangerous day in our home, if anyone used it as a noun when speaking to me. However, my pleas to not label my other emotions and behaviors fly over heads, while bitchy they get. So, say for instance, when a certain smart guy was having an especially bad weekend on call, and that smart guy kept calling and being really snappy and unpleasant, or when he came home and was launching orders and using a surly tone, I might in the future say: “Hey, stop being so bitchy.” When you stop telling me to “calm down,” or “take it easy,” I might accept a white flag and meet you on level fields. Something tells me that the point would become a clearer a lot faster if I stopped trying to intellectualize the issue and discuss it, and if I just sink to the lowest denominator and throw a few bitchys around. I think that the mere idea of a dude being called bitchy might make the point much clearer. But, Bitch is a Dude, just makes for a much catchier title than Bitchy is a Dude. N’est pas? (This ^^ hangs in my office, a gift from a friend… a male friend, with a wry sense of humor.)
Changing gears completely: An update: I am not ready to share all of the details, but I have gotten a lot of emails, notes, etc about the novel. After the novel was declined by Rozlyn Press, someone contacted me about publishing the novel with their assistance, guidance, and partnership of sorts. This person has been publishing magazines for nearly 3 decades. He’s written and published 3 books of his own (photography and writing) and his second book has sold 200,000 to date. He’s read several chapters of my book and thinks it’s “very good,” and would do well published. It would be “self publishing” with a big dose of help, or co-publishing, all of the details are not clear yet. I have done the writing, but he has the knowledge and experience to help make this go smoother, more successfully.
I have not agreed to anything yet, because I’m slowly letting go of my long held desire to “get published.” I always dreamed of that big publishing house who says: “Oh, we love this… when can you start your book tour?” Or something along those lines. My ego is fighting me. Some who have given me advice, point out that publishing has changed enormously in the past few years, that I would be getting in on a hot trend, that is likened to the “.com” bubble of yore. Others point out that if I could do well in independent sales, a publisher is more likely to “pick up” my novel and take it from there (a la Fifty Shades of Gray, or so many other books that started independently). This would give me complete control over my work and its distribution, its failure or success. All of that is true, but is also not the way I imagined… That said, I am leaning toward taking that leap, and beginning to wrap my head around all that means. It’s exciting, scary, daunting, exhilarating, and a few other clever “ings.”
If you have some words of wisdom, encouragement, discouragement, anything to share, please do. Post a comment here. Start a conversation, or join in one that someone else starts. I’d love some more feedback, before I make a leap. If you enjoyed it, make me feel good and hit the like button on this blog page. Oh yeah, do it… just do it.