I have been called a bitch on multiple occasions, for a multitude of reasons.
It’s mostly by men, aggressively. And it’s occasionally by women, affectionately.
And they’re almost always right.
I was raised by a pair of smart assholes, who were raised by more pairs of smart assholes, and so on and so forth. Assholery is an inherited artform from a lineage much longer than I could imagine, and an art form well crafted.
Except, since I’ve embraced displays of feminity and womanhood, since I’ve always taken it further than letting something slip out of my mouth and calling it a dig, my assholery makes me a bitch.
When I was little, I found it offensive. It made me go on the defensive. Made me say that stupid and cringe “well a bitch is a dog and dogs bark and bark grows on trees, and trees are a part of nature and nature is beautiful so thanks for the compliment” bullshit.
Which is what that idea is. Bullshit.
Because being called a bitch isn’t all that deep, and it isn’t even a word of defeat unless it’s the defeat of the person from which the word came.
Someone calling you a bitch is like them saying “I know you are, but what am I?”
They’ve got nothing left to say and they’re so chronically unclever that they couldn’t think of an insult more cutting than a barking dog.
But they forget the aggression that comes with a female dog.
She barks, yes. And she bites too.
I don’t know at what point in my life that it happened, maybe when I became an older sister to two little girls or maybe when I met Em, but I started to embrace everything about myself that everyone around me seemed to hate so much.
-I have a big mouth. figuratively.
-I’m too loud and too proud. shocker.
-i teeter the line between feminine display and masculine action.
I have never once hidden myself or tucked my body and my brain into a corner. I have shouted every single thought that popped into my brain since I said my first word, and I have walked with utter confidence since the moment I stopped couch surfing.
But something happened inbetween elementary school and middle school that shook my confidence enough to turn it from water to wind.
I couldn’t even tell you what it was. Maybe it was leaving my school and all the friends I made in it, for a school of strangers that I hadn’t sat next to for assemblies and played fairies and witches with on the playground. Maybe it was becoming the older sister to those two little girls, and not knowing how to handle an ever-changing family dynamic.
Mostly, though, I think the anything-but-the-breeze confidence had to do with the immaculate conception of womanhood that middle school promised.
And the fact that I was doing it alone.
I didn’t have someone to tell me what to do. I didn’t have anyone to do it with. My mom did as much as she could, but she went to middle school in the 90’s. I was required to bring a school-provided iPad to school.
This was new territory.
I needed someone like me, but a little bit older. Someone who could give me advice about everything because they had already been there, done that.
An older sister for me, an eldest sister.
And for a bit, I had one. A cousin, that I loved and adored and idolized.
But, then, I was reminded that we are not sisters, and was back to square one of needing a sister with no one willing and able.
So I searched for one at school instead.
I figured, if I didn’t have someone who could tell me what to do, I could at least find someone to do it with.
And I found her.
She was only a few months older than me, and it was a short-lived two years of friendship, but it was what I needed to get my bark back.
Then, slowly but surely, as I entered high school without her, and relied a bit more on a sturdier reconstruction of the confidence I’d once lounged on, I got my bite back too.
And it became what I was known for. The bark, the bite, the scars.
I was a woman scorned by all the years I spent without a strong bite, and I had finally found a good trainer.
If there is one thing that Em is known for, if there is one thing that she is hated and loved and celebrated for, it is for being the strongest and sharpest bitch out there.
I passed Em for years, and she passed me for even longer. We met in seventh grade when she was running yearbook from an underclassmen position and I was doing the same but for ASB.
We only ever interacted on the bridge between the two classes, to plan events that yearbook would need to get content from and to give them the content they wanted from us. It was strictly professional.
Well, as professional as two twelve-year-olds can be.
But in our sophomore year of high school, despite the countless leadership camps and field trips, despite literally being a part of the same friend group since sixth grade, we became friends.
Do you know what happens when two bitches, both too loud, both too proud, go to a football game together with nothing but a shitty team, a great band, and a quiet group of friends around to entertain them?
A beautiful, wonderful friendship.
In a place filled with multiple grown men and juvenile boys, shouting girls and singing cheerleaders, we were the loudest people in that place.
And it was like that, every Friday.
We didn’t have to ask each other. We didn’t have to text to confirm.
After the first game, we just knew that on Fridays with home games, we were going to the game, we were shaking the cowbells she’d bring, and we were screaming our f-ing faces off. My mom would drop us off, her mom would pick us up, and we’d talk shit about the team, filled with friends and sworn enemies of ours, dance to the beat of the band, and cheer on the dance team the whole time.
We didn’t need to be drunk, we didn’t need to be high, we just needed to be together.
We’ve been the loudest bitches at every game, concert, and restaurant since. Talking shit and dancing around a wide open space we carved for ourselves.
I’ve had lots of female friendships in my life.
Most of them ended with fanfare, some of them secluded themselves quietly, like we were laying it to rest in a flower-filled meadow.
But Em was the one who helped me get my bite back. She’s the one who brought me back to me, and I can only hope that I’ve done anything near the same for her.
I’ve lost a lot of female idols in my life. I’ve felt let down and given up on, every time a motherly or sisterly figure turns their life over for a man or gives up on a dream that they used to have me in wonder about.
Our friendship gave me a place to not only release those loses, but speak about them openly. To share in that feeling, to promise and work towards not making the same mistakes and decisions.
In elementary and middle school, I was known for my bark.
I was known for speaking my mind and telling others off. For taking charge and taking control of situations gone awry.
I was hated for it, appreciated for it.
And in high school, and even now, I was known for the bite. For the action after the words, the sealing of the envelope with a hot wax stamp.
I’ve been told to be a strong woman. I’ve been told I am a strong woman.
I’ve been told that I’m a piece of shit, a selfish dick, a whore, an asshole, a pessimist, an optimist, a nuisance, a leader, a fighter, a lover.
I’ve been told I’m many things, but the one that rings the most true is a bitch.
She barks, and she bites.
Just like me.