Monday, February 22, 2010


I'm not sure who exactly introduced me to the aphorism that "You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar," but I'd like to wax on the topic a bit. (I could make a beeswax joke there but I'll refrain from doing so.) Putting aside for the moment the question of why in God's name anyone would want to catch flies as opposed to swatting, killing or repelling them, I'd like to question the moral of this little story- that being nice is the best way to get your point across in a persuasive way.

Now, as I've stated before, being nice is not counter to being Badass and being Badass doesn't necessarily mean being nasty. I was recently involved in a conversation about some work stuff and it got, well, heated. It got really heated. It involved me and my work and my space and I got more than heated- I got pissed. I made my first "hell no" flat refusal of my professional career. I didn't want to discuss, I didn't want to explore other options, I didn't want to help solve the problem because I didn't create the problem. I was just. not. interested. And I was really vehement about it.

My colleagues in the meeting sat, slack-jawed and perplexed, listening to rant and behave in a very not-me manner and they looked, well, bumfuzzled. Finally, one man (the room contained 4 men and me) said in a sort of amused voice, "I'm sort of surprised at your energy around this." Another chimed in with a similar sentiment and a third added his reasoning for why I should welcome this difficult, inconvenient thing being proposed.

At that moment, I realized that they had expected to me to be all "honey" in this situation. I'm usually considered collaborative (which I've come to recognize as sometimes-code for "easy to convince" and "willing to give in"). I go the extra mile to support my colleagues, I don't mind doing a little more work if it's going to help someone else out. I usually am honey. I was raised to be sweet and accommodating and- above all- nice. My sudden shift to vinegar- largely the result of being tired of being kicked in the ass over and over again- shocked them. They didn't know what to do with me and their instinctive response- amusement and a hint of "Isn't this cute? Look how worked up she's getting!"- got them a snarl and a "You like it so much? You do it, then. 'Cause there's no fucking way I'm going to."

I noticed that this group of folks seemed more wary of me later. It was as though they'd discovered their cute puppy had a hint of pit bull in its pedigree. At a later meeting on the same topic, I noticed my colleagues watching me in their peripheral vision as though I were an undetonated grenade in the middle of the room. (I didn't explode, in case you were wondering, which I think was equally frightening.)

The moral of my little story, then, is that honey is nice, but it's sticky and its use for may adhere labels to its user (like "easy to roll over" and "always willing to take one for the team"). Vinegar on the other hand, tends to clean that sticky mess right off, leaving a sparkling new view in its wake.

Badass is about the freedom to be either honey or vinegar- or both- depending on the circumstances.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Dirty Little Secret

I used to be one of those moms who couldn't say no. I wanted to say no to about 3/4 of the stuff I was asked to do, but I somewhere, deep down, I really believe that my "no" would be heard as either "I don't care about you/ your kids/ my kids/ the planet/ our community/ etc." or that people would just stop liking me if I didn't chaperone the trip/ bake the cookies/ come in for the class play/ host the party.

I've made progress on this. Trust me.

But I still have one weakness. When one particular PTA mom calls, I have a devil of a time saying no because I like her. (As a friend- get your mind out of the gutter.) She's a nice person and she's taken on a giant task and I want to help her out.

So when the she asked me to bake 40 chocolate cookies for a thing at the school on Friday, I agreed. 40 cookies are no big deal. Then I got another e-mail asking if I could do 2 batches and I waffled but then...I agreed. Sure. I had time. This was a full 10 days before the event. No worries. I baked them on Tuesday and had them all ready to go with a few extras to spare. (Not being one to waste food, of course, I even went to the trouble to eat the extras. Waste not want not, you know.)

Then this morning I get an e-mail. Oops! Each batch is supposed to have 50, not 40, so everyone will be sure to get 2. Sorry! But please have your cookies at the school Friday by 11- and thanks!

Well. Hell.

So I did something I've never done. I went to Hannaford's and I bought the pre-cut, pre-made cookie dough. I baked those 20 cookies in less time than it took me to gather the ingredients for the first 100 and then I hid them on the bottom of the tray that I'm not going to label. If I'm lucky, no one will ever know that those 20 obviously pre-made, pre-cut cookies came from my house.

I'm torn between guilt and a giddy sense of "I got away with it..."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hillbilly Horoscope

So I'm not a big horoscope person. I don't put a lot of stock in predicting the future except as joke fodder ("You will meet an annoying woman today. Give her coffee and she will go away." Bonus points for anyone who recognizes that reference.) and I don't actively seek my horoscope out every day (thought it's hard to miss it since my local paper puts the most important features- Dear Abby and the comics- on the same pages as the horoscopes). I do, however, Tweet. And one of my twitter feeds is something (someone?) called OzarkGypsyArt, which I ended up following after she (they? he?) started following me. (It's a weird Twitter thing and this Missouri girl just couldn't resist the name.) And OzarkGypsyArt is an astrologer, I'm coming to realize, among his (her? its?) other interests. I couldn't resist this morning (I have a bad cold and my resistance is down, okay?)- I clicked the link. Here's what (s)he had to say:

It may seem as if you haven't been like your old self in years with dreamy Neptune in your sign for the last decade. Now it's time to look back and think about all the changes you've been through, especially the ones that elude logical understanding. You are in a gradual transition phase, and your realizations today could be instrumental in making the choices that will redefine your life in years to come. Be patient; this kind of transformation takes time.

Huh. That's all I'm saying about that. Just...huh.

Monday, February 15, 2010


I have a very good driving record. Very, very good. I got a 97 on the driver's exam (I didn't know where the defroster was in the damn borrowed car, or it would have been a perfect score). I can parallel park in downtown city traffic. I can drive a stick and, as I've mentioned before, hills don't scare me. I'm good in ice, snow and rain. I know what to do in the event of a skid (turn into the skid, in case you were wondering) and I constantly keep my eyes open for "ditch" options, in case someone else makes a bonehead move (like passing in a no passing lane or swerving into oncoming traffic) and I have to make an unconventional choice of route- like into the woods, down the embankment or into the other lane. I have never had an accident that was even ostensibly my fault.

Until the last year. In the past 6 months I've had one fender bender (which was really no one's fault- we both backed up at the same time out of slanted parking spots) and one "foot slipped off the brake and onto the gas and the car lurched forward and bumped a parked car in the parking lot." That last one? Today. This morning, actually.

Fender benders happen, though. That's why we have that cute little rhyming name for them. They are no big deal- so why am I writing about these two very minor incidents here? Simple. It isn't the little dings and dents that get me. It's my total inability to manage the situation. I am totally cool in 99% of disaster situations. Blood doesn't bother me. Storms, tornadoes, broken appliances- no big. But these two little bumps have left me frozen, crying and calling my husband so he can tell me what to do.

Quite frankly, it's embarrassing. Why this particular situation turns me into a 16 year old girl (and not even the 16 year old girl I was- I turn into some foreign creature whom I've never met) is totally beyond me. And the thing is, it's such a visceral thing that I don't even have time to divert it. The tears are welling and my chin is wobbling and the cell phone is in my hand within milliseconds. The first time, I could chalk it up to inexperience- I'd never had a real accident before, with damage and another driver scowling and trying to get me to say it was my fault. I needed guidance and my darling husband knows his way around an accident scene (though that's another story for another day). Today, though? Today I had no excuse. Sitting quietly in my living room now, thinking back on it, I knew what to do. I needed to leave a note and let the other driver know that I'd bumped her. There wasn't really even any damage, just a teeny scratch and some green paint (which confuses me 'cause my car isn't green, but I digress). So why the tears and the drama and the sense of impending doom? Why do I fall apart in that specific situation? I have no. freaking. idea.

It's so not badass. Badass would know that she knows how to handle the situation. Badass would curse, pound the steering wheel, and write the damn note. Badass wouldn't need to call on The Man of the House to fix it. Apparently, Badass took the morning off.


Friday, February 12, 2010

My Cranky Valentine

Valentine's Day is a complicated holiday for me in my journey to badass. On the one hand, it's a day devoted to having the ones we love remind us of their love for us, which is great. On the other hand, it's all frou-frou and frilly and there's a certain degree of "or else" in the air that I find sort of ooky. The high-stakes nature of the holiday has caused more headaches, heartaches and wallet-aches than just about any other. My own lovely spouse has busted his ass over the years to meet my wildly changing expectations for the day and that whole making people you love jump through hoops thing? Not at all of the good.

Other years, I've adopted a To-Hell-With-The-Whole-Thing attitude which was still unsatisfying. There's something about denying my need to be acknowledged as wildly sexy and inherently deserving of adoration (while doing the same for the Rockstar with whom I'm connected) that just feels...false, I guess. So that particular stance is off the table.

Rejecting both the full-scale buy-in and the broad-based rejection of the day leaves me with...what? Some wishy-washy, going-through-the-motions observation of the event? Candles and pizza? Tivo and sweatpants?

Maybe the secret is to stop trying so hard to be one or the other. Maybe it's okay to skip the cards and flowers and candles and just do what feels right, whether that be an evening of bill-paying and floor scrubbing or a snuggle on the sofa. Maybe Valentine's Day (a day which is historically about a 3rd Century prisoner with a bit of a romantic streak) is less about the trappings and more about the sentiment.

So here's my erstwhile Valentine to my Rock Star spouse:

You rock, my dear. Keep up the good work.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The FU Playlist

Since several people have noticed that I have an FU playlist (both referenced here and readily visible on my iPod), it seems only fitting that I share not only the list, but also the liner notes (anyone remember liner notes?) to go along with it. Without further ado, my Fuck You playlist- the soundtrack to my life.

1. Babba O'Riley- The Who

Besides the fact that the opening riff makes my grocery-store trip sound way more exciting and glamorous than it really is, there's something about the opening lyric ("Out here in the field") that makes my life feel like one giant, dangerous mission.

2. Bleed It Out- Linkin Park
Besides the fact that this lyric: "Truth is you can stop and stare, Bled myself out and no one cares, Dug the trench out, lay down there, With a shovel up out of reach somewhere" speaks to the futility and WTF-ness of so much of my life these days,the beat to this song makes me run faster.

3. Gone Daddy Gone- Gnarls Barkley

That thing up there? About running faster? This one does it too.

4. I Don't Like Mondays- The Boomtown Rats

'Cause really- is there anyone who does like Mondays?

5. I Hate You (My Friend)- John Oszajca
"I'd rather go to hell
Than shake your hand or wish you well
In case you couldn't tell"
This one makes smiling at people I don't like (while shopping for things I don't want to buy)so much more palatable.

6. Remember the Name- The Rising Tide
This song is simply Badass. It makes me swagger and strut and smile secretively. I like it a whole lot.

This isn't the whole thing, but it at least hits the high points. What songs would you add to your own Fuck You/ Shut Your Hole/ Badass playlist?

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I think that one of the things that drew me to the whole BA thing is the element of control. When I ponder the characteristics of Badassity across time and space, there are certain characteristics that run true. There are the outward signs that I've mentioned before and which I've tried (in vain) to learn for myself- fighting, shooting, flying an airplane, driving a motorcycle, etc. I've certainly spent a great deal of time on the inner qualities as well- so much time, in fact, that I couldn't possibly list them as concisely as I did for the skills I just listed. But still, all of that stuff- the inner and the outer- have to do with being able to control a situation rather than having it control me. Sometimes I think that 15 of the first 40 years of my life were someone else's. The well meaning "other" in the form of parent, sibling, teacher, advisor, friend, lover and spouse has always determined my path. No matter the situation, my choices (after the onset of the hellish reality that is "adolescence," followed closely by the fresh nightmare of "adulthood.") in any given moment were driven by a desire to please, to not disappoint, to fill in the gaps that I imagined the "other" saw in me. (Let's me clear, though. Sometimes those gaps weren't imagined by me- they were stated outright by the people I trusted most. To be clear again- that sucks ass, but it's another post for another day.) Over time, I lost the ability to be in control of anything including my own thoughts, feelings and desires. I was the cliche- the boat without a rudder, a leaf in a stream, a ship without a sail- and it was not nearly so peaceful as all those water images may lead you to believe. I don't want to spend the next 40 years waiting for the next situation to spank me- I want to make choices, for better or worse, and live with them. I need to be in control- as much as anyone can be- of what I do and think and say and the only way I can do that is by trusting my judgments and by believing that I actually do know what the hell I'm doing. I'm fairly certain that I'll discover over time that there's some larger metaphysical thing at play here- something about any control at all being an illusion- but as I've already said, that's another post for another day.

So with that...

Control doesn't have to mean stick-in-the-mud, you know. Control also means being in charge of my right to get my boogie on at 8:38 in the am.