If You're a B---h and You Know It: Shut Your Mouth

If You're a B---h and You Know It: Shut Your Mouth

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By: Vanessa Bastien

Screen shot 2021-06-27 at 6.10.42 PM.pngHugging a warm cup of tea to my lips, I eye the coffee shop's crowd through the swirling Earl Grey's steam. Setting my crossword puzzle to the side, I begin making snarly comments to my friend about the dilapidated crowd. Does she really want be eating that piece of cheesecake AND have whipped cream on that Mochaccino? Before I know it, I'm behaving like a [female dog, 5 letters]. I come to a few, self-indulgent conclusions including: I may be small but I'm definitely a big bitch.

Before I come off as completely monstrous let me appear somewhat redeemable. What if I reversed this truth for a day? What if I did the opposite of what I would normally do? Hey, it worked for George Costanza on Seinfeld. "The opposite" all started with his habitual tuna on toast. "Nothing's ever worked out for me with tuna on toast. I want the complete opposite of tuna on toast. Chicken salad, on rye, untoasted.... and a cup of tea," and so George's cycle began at Monk's Café; not only did doing the opposite land him a job for the Yankees, but it landed him a date (Seinfeld)! Now, I'm not really a fan of baseball but I could use a few balls being thrown my way - nothing like a little harmless entertainment. Sure, I've been sitting on the sidelines and haven't limbered up in quite some time but I feel like there was once a thrill sprinting from base to base. Unlike George's dietary changes, I didn't pass up my egg whites for pop tarts and I certainly didn't pass up my workouts for binging sessions while watching a "Hoarders" marathon on TLC, what I did do, however, is make a list of behaviors I mindlessly exercise every day, narrowed it down, and monitored the behavior with aims to counter it. 

I lingered on my revelation: my instinctual bitchiness, and reflected on that for a moment. Why are such snarly remarks the instinct, my instinct? Why must I abase others? Does it make me feel better about myself, does it simply expose what it is that I am lacking or desiring and can't achieve myself? What is the root of this need to belittle? Maybe all I really want is a piece of cheesecake and a Mochaccino with extra whipped cream... but I believe it goes well beyond the coffee shop.

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My Western culture is one based on surface, on trophies and the need to list the credentials to show for one's success. Individualism demands competitiveness, and the ruse and quick shank of a tongue is a symptom of this eagerness to feel on top of the heap. So, I did the opposite. I held my tongue, even if my sarcastic inner voice foresaw hours of artificial, feel-good Disney movie commentary and all the while my tongue wanted nothing but to vocalize the subtle sexual innuendos engorged in my brain, the negativity boiling and rising, itching to expound upon the innocent sipping on their skim milk lattes.

So instead of criticizing, or commenting on something or someone in a negative way, or trying to satirize a certain thing I found myself thinking, "Alright, well, what can I appreciate about this thing I would normally attempt to belittle or put down?" I spent an entire day dismissing the judgements, the negativity that comes so naturally. I went to the park with a friend and people watched. It was a beautiful day; the sun was warm and people shed their hoodies and long sleeved sweaters to reveal porcelain white shoulders and collar bones. I thought the weather would surely sugar coat my thoughts. My eyes landed on my first victim, euh - subject. My friend was aware of my "12-easy-steps-to-kindess" plan... it was more of a "quickie to kindness" if you will. Compliments would not come. My brain lagged, my humanity crumbled, and my first thoughts came choking out. "Wow, this is hard," was the first half-thought I managed to articulate after excruciatingly long, expectant pauses. I tried to look beyond the worn, brown sweater knotted at this man's waist; the awkward, forward lean in his quick, pigeon walk, the bright yellow cassette tape clipped to his acid washed jeans. Not only was it scary to realize I am no Jesus, Job or bulge-bellied Buddha, but it was surprisingly hard to be kind, and earnest about it, on command.

I reddened and turned my attention to a child and I eased; surely my motherly instinct would kick in and I would feel an overwhelming feeling of love and warmth as I realized how cute the child was - apparently not. I watched this kid run after pigeons in the park for about an hour, putting forward my theory that all children act like rampant drunks just hurling themselves frantically in all directions. The only positive thing I managed to say was, "I appreciate the velocity he's reaching. He'll do well in gym class."

As I sat there and tried to balance on the taut line that is kindness, my friend beside me laughed. I was making him laugh. I realize this is why I do it, in hopes to entertain. Now, I know that the comments I make aren't necessarily compliments, or stroke some stranger's ego in some way - but it's not as if these strangers know, and it's not as if my comments matters anyway. I don't know these people, I have no basis on which to judge them, and so my comments are, in the end, nothing but meaningless bravado by a self-indulgent young woman. The older man with the cassette player may very well be a brilliant professor, and he could very well be listening to his own class lectures on tapes. That drunken, pigeon chasing child could very well grow up to become a surgeon and possibly save my life or, less melodramatically, decades from now I could be a middle aged cougar and snatch this young surgeon up and make do with his fat wallet - who knows? That's really the question here, who knows whether or not I make these statements, and who cares if they are true or not. It should come as no surprise that people like to talk, like to laugh, and most of the time at each other - it's a give and take.

After a couple of hours of people watching and struggling to be kind, my friend and I made our way back to the coffee shop, ordered sugarless teas and got back to our crosswords, to our routine, to our "tuna on toast". We may be young, but to outsiders we seem pretty boring, reading newspaper articles about Breatharians and laughing by ourselves... but the teas are warm and so is the atmosphere. As Kazuo Ishiguro wrote in Remains of the Day, "Perhaps it is indeed time I began to look at this whole matter of bantering more enthusiastically. After all, when one thinks about it, it is not such a foolish thing to indulge in - particularly if it is the case that in bantering lies the key to human warmth" (Ishiguro).

Works Cited:
Ishiguro, Kazuo. The Remains of the Day. Boston: Faber, 1989. Print.
"The Opposite." Seinfeld. NBC. NY: New York. 19 May. 1994. Television.
Image source: Flickr
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