Wednesday, March 22, 2017
"She's a B*tch!" (Warning! Explicit Language!)
I have a colorful vocabulary. Always have. But, the more I mature, I am making a conscious effort to watch the words that I speak. Words have power. The Bible says that the power of life and death are in the tongue. So I'm doing my best to keep my potty mouth in check. Especially during this season
when many of us are praying and fasting as we approach the holy days. But I'm not perfect. Never have been, never will be. And a few recent scenarios have me embracing one taboo word in particular. The word is "bitch".
Truth be told, I've always had an affinity for the word. I grew up in a household where curse words were as common as words like "the", "it", and "you". My parents used curse words as adjectives and nouns.
"Put the f*%$ing bag down!"
"Go ask your father what to do with that $#*t!"
"Mother#@&*%$! never learn!"
These were not unusual phrases during my upbringing, and depending on the inflection of the speaker's voice they may not have even been uttered angrily. Needless to say, I seldom cringe when I encounter people who use curse words in their everyday lingo. Still, I have learned that such language doesn't always have a place in society.
On an episode of "Iyanla Fix My Life", I watched as she admonished a group of women, insisting that they would not use the word "bitch" to address each other in her presence.
"NOT ON MY WATCH!" she bellowed!
I felt convicted. "Bitch" was a word I have often used as a term of endearment for the women I love! I've been known to walk into a room full of my girlfriends and say, "Heyyyy, bitches!" Not in a negative way. But out of love and affection. So I listened closely as Iyanla gave her reasons for not allowing the word in her presence. She reminded the women that our mothers, grandmothers, and ancestors were often referred to as "bitches", "wenches", "niggers", and the like by their employers and neighbors, and that they were powerless to do anything about it. She insisted that these women - and women in general - not repeat that pathology. I took note. Clearly, what I had seen as a term of affection was quite the opposite.
So, I started to check myself. Then I ran into someone I know and the whole situation reared its head again.
I had taken the express bus home from Manhattan one evening, and was walking down the block heading towards my house. I ran into a guy I know. He's someone I know fairly well. But, we have never been particularly close. One of those "hi" and "bye" people we all have in our lives. I had my headphones on listening to A Tribe Called Quest.
(Their latest album "We Got It From Here" is FIRE, by the way.)
I was in my zone. Anyone who knows me is aware that when I walk down the street with my headphones in, I'm in my imagination ALL THE WAY! The sidewalk becomes my runway. In my head, there are paparazzi everywhere and they want a show. I strut when I'm in that zone. That evening was no exception.
As I got closer to this guy I know fairly well, I lowered the volume in my headphones somewhat - just enough to hear over the music. I said, "hi", and gave a wave as I walked past him. Then all hell broke loose!
As I passed him, I could hear a commotion so loud that it drowned out the music playing directly into my ears via my headphones. I slowed down and turned around to see that this guy was exhibiting quite demonstrative body language. I stopped, pulled my earbuds out of my ears, and asked, "What happened?"
"I'm saying!" (He was clearly PISSED and his body language displayed that.) "You didn't know who I was or...something!" He was being really demonstrative and...extra!
I frowned. I said his name. "XXXXXXX, right?" Maybe I was bugging and thought he was someone else.
He was still puffed up. "Yeah!"
Now I was really confused. "Okay," I said. "I said hi to you."
"Yeah! 'Hi!' and kept walking like you don't know who I am. Like I didn't grow up with your kids!"
Now, I could sense that he was angry because he felt that my greeting hadn't been enough. "Hi" wasn't suitable all by itself. I stood speechless for a moment. I looked at the guy he was standing with, hoping that he would look as confused as I was so that I would know that I wasn't crazy. The guy looked like he wanted to stay out of it.
"But, XXXXXXX," I said. "I spoke to you. You're acting like I walked by without speaking at all. What's the matter? You want a hug?"
He shrugged, still clearly miffed. "Yeah! I'm saying..."
I hugged him. Then I walked away. As I did, I thought back on all of the years I've known him. To be fair, he did grow up in the same general areas as my kids. They never played together. Never went to each other's houses or anything like that. I thought about the last time I saw him. It hadn't been that long ago. And my "hi" had sufficed then. I wondered what was different now. In fact, as I thought about it, in all the years that I had known him, "hi" and "bye" had always been the extent of our relationship. I could not recall one conversation between us that ever went beyond that. I was perplexed as I entered my house. My sons were home. I told them what happened. Their reactions mirrored my own shock. My oldest son said this.
"Ma, why did you hug that clown? You have to learn to be a BITCH!"
My eyes flew wide. There was that word again. Seeing my reaction, my son clarified his statement.
"You're too nice. People are gonna start testing you with stuff like that. You're all the way up! They see that. You gotta learn to shut them down when they act like that. You should have looked at that fool, and said, "N*gga, I said hi! Now bye!"
I let that marinate, as I went upstairs and continued to think about it. Am I supposed to stop in the middle of my travels and hug every person that ever grew up with one of my kids. I have three children, and each one has countless friends. Is a grand overture required every time I encounter one of them? I pushed it to the back of my mind and carried on.
Then I went to brunch this past weekend with a dear friend. She has been incredibly successful and has achieved quite a lot for herself. She has also guided her son into a remarkable career of his own.
We discussed the art of saying "no" to people who feel entitled to you once you become successful. I told her that I have a fear of people thinking I'm arrogant or that I forgot where I came from. Her response made me nearly spit out my Bellini.
"I don't give a f*&#!" she said. "I used to. But then I stopped caring. People are going to think what they want. You can bend over backwards and they'll still have their opinions. So now I don't care. I say no, I mean no, and that's that."
I nodded. That was the attitude my son had been alluding to. Being a "bitch" not just for the sake of being mean. But instead adopting an attitude of not caring whether or not the person I'm dealing with likes my stance. I felt liberated. Here was a woman who had long been on a road that I am just beginning to travel. And she was giving me permission to pull out my inner bitch when necessary.
No. Not THAT kind.
That's definitely not the description I'm going for. Finally, I went to the urban dictionary.
A woman that doesn't give a flying f*ck anymore
BAM! There it is! Sorry, Iyanla!
(Cue Missy Elliot song! )