I’ve always imagined I was the kindest person in the history of time. It has broken my figurative heart (and hurt my literal feelings) every time I’ve been casually labelled a ‘bitch’ by someone, in passing. As if it were nothing but a mere assessment of a character trait—and a terribly natural one at that. But…I couldn’t possibly be! I’m delightful!
I have a colleague who, very proudly, declares that she once took a quiz to find out what ‘kind of bitch’ she was. Her results said she was an Alpha Bitch, and she professed it with great fervour and satisfaction, wearing it like a badge of society’s vote of confidence. I couldn’t understand. Was being a bitch currently in style?
I’ve often been told that I must cultivate some degree of ruthlessness to succeed in this ‘cut-throat world we live in’. I’ve watched pop cultural favourites in horror where XYZ steps all over her sick grandmother to cut a business deal and/or trades his girlfriend in as a sexual favour because it means owning a hotel (Okay, perhaps this is all mostly from Gossip Girl, but I’m sure there are other, higher-brow examples out there that don’t quite come to mind as easily.)
The idea of this seems galling. It leads me back to that big, looming question that has spurned ever so many indecipherable philosophy doctrines and bad, loosely psychotherapy-premised shows—‘But what is the meaning of life?’ For me, I suppose when I shy away from unleashing the full can of worms that’d be the answer to that question, the sentiment would veer off a touch from Sartre’s ‘Hell is Other People’ and arrive at ‘Life is Other People’.
It seems simplistic, perhaps, but apt. I can’t think of a single thing about my life that cannot be measured in people.
· The friends I have, and the company and support they provide on a monthly/weekly/daily-nightly basis.
· The people I work with, the ability to make it through the day seamlessly and without debacle, to prove my worth as a working individual AND as a human being.
· My family, and constantly exhibiting the fact that I love them, so they are secure in the knowledge that their daughter loves them/cares about them.
· My boyfriend, and taking decisions every day to be a different ratio of bad girlfriend/ good girlfriend (aka myself/ attractive version of myself).
· The miscellaneous, but important, cast and crew of my life (The cleaning lady at the gym, the old classmate I run into every time I drink at Summerhouse, the landlord) whose opinions possibly matter most because they see me from a bird’s eye-view.
I digress, but there is a modicum of method to my madness. This off-track diatribe about people being the essence of existence ties in with my theory. If people are the very core of the apple that is life, then how is being a bitch a marketable quality? It seems odd to revel in this label (something not exclusive to M’Colleague here), to treat it like it is a saleable characteristic that will ‘take us far’ in life. Take us far I’m sure it shall, but it seems a touch hollow to be a widely-feared CEO at a soul-guzzling mega-corp and not have anyone that’ll grab a drink with you on Fridays.
But this realisation, I’m afraid, is not the centrifugal force that drives this verbal onslaught. The sad realisation is that despite my accidentally-Buddhist world-view, coupled with my inherent knowledge that I am the golden-est of all hearts that ever has beat, is the fact that I am, in reality, a bitch.
I never saw it creep up on me. I went about innocently, doing my thing, assuming that since I know what a soft and gentle spirit resided in my otherwise unprepossessing frame, people would automatically know it as well. Never could I have fathomed there was truth to the statement ‘Oh, you’re such a bitch’ uttered off-handedly by a friend or compatriot. ’They’re mistaken,’ I would tell myself, claiming plausible deniability because, heck, I saw no signs of it.
Until, one day, I heard myself saying the words “well, what can you really expect of her. She can’t even spell ‘brooch’”. It hit me like a tonne of bricks in action replay—what a goddamn bitchy thing to say! It then came to me in a discomforting cascade of flashbacks—I had always said things as such and their cousins. Whether it was ripping people apart for their inadmissible grammar, or their obsession with a shallow little somethin’-somethin’ like shoes (see? There I go again), I’d always had a standard I’d expected people to meet. I just hadn’t realised quite how I was treating the people that fell short of this self-erected yardstick.
Yes, I always smile at doormen and yes, I always get up for older people on the bus—but is that enough? Have I been so caught up believing I was nice that I’d forgotten to be? I can’t help but wonder if I’d gotten it so wrong that my real self and ideal self were that far off that I wasn’t at all in touch with who I had become over time.
And if this were true, if I had been an undercover bitch for ages now, was it even possible to revert to my former state of niceness? Was there a cure for the deep-rooted snark that had infested my sterling soul? Could I successsfully shake the nasty, or…
…or should I just be taking the ‘What Kind Of Bitch Are You?’ quiz, grabbing a label and owning it?