“Are you calling me a liar?” I asked the stone-faced 20-something cashier.
“No, I’m just saying that lots of customers tell us a price is cheaper than it is."
“So you are calling me a liar. The cabbage is 69 cents a pound. Check it if you don’t believe me. But don’t question my honesty.”
“I can have someone check the…”
“No. It’s frigging cabbage. I’ll live without it.”
He removes it from my tab. As I finish bagging my groceries, the raging goes on inside my head. I decide to let the words fall out of my mouth instead - and rather loudly, surprising even me:
“Seriously, in all of the years I’ve come to this grocery megahell, 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.
"This corporate system is designed to overcharge me. Hence why I know the price of the damn cabbage in the first place.”
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 ex-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 unapologetically? What if I transformed into a full-fledged, raging hot bitch?
I reflect back on the supermarket scene. It certainly did feel good to simply raise my voice. To be loud.
It also felt decadently defiant to look back into the eyes of everyone staring at me, as if to say, “Back off with your critical stares or you’re next, bitches.” I had a Clint Eastwood moment.
What if unhinged the bitch even more? What if I truly spoke my mind?
Just what we need, right? Another rude, uncaring, entitled person in this world thinking the world should accommodate them. With some thought, I began to realize that wasn’t possible. Why? Because I am a caring and sensitive person. But could I be a caring and sensitive bitch?
My gal friend is upset that her family didn’t contact her over the holidays. I ask her how she conveyed that to them. Her phonecall 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’s the holidays, afterall.”
This is how she told it to me, over a few drinks:
“Do I fucking exist or what? They couldn’t show me the goddamn respect to connect with me for once? I’m the only living daughter on my side of the family. Why do I have to do all the reaching out? I’m sick of it. I’m fucking sick of it.”
A substantial difference in tone, you'll note. Should she have opted for version 2? Not necessarily. But version 1 is much more nefarious and soul-sucking - and that’s the one “good women” often choose.
Does unleashing ever have its place?
As women, we do the opposite of unleashing. We internalize. It’s shocking how many times 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 in cement. We’re too busy yelling at ourselves to yell at others. Too busy internally debating to take a step forward.
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 their honor, I continue to unhinge the bitch. More frequently, I let her 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 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. I find it invasive."
“You’re being controlling and I’m a big girl so knock it the hell off.”
"I wasn't asking your opinion."
“You sound like a baby. It’s annoying.”
“Your constant need for attention is tiresome.”
“Your emotionally avoidant behavior leaves me utterly unfulfilled.”
“You’re interrupting us. How about you wait a second?”
Well, I have. And not just to those close to me (whom we all can unleash on – and how fair is that? Spread your bitchiness around so your loved ones get more love.)
One could argue that these utterances 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 right and 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. Sexual 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 what a whore is (other than 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. I know no other way. 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 fangs. Like ragged claws or a gutteral growl. Like a bite.