I’m a Bitch, I Looked it Up

As a middle-aged woman, I’ve ninety percent stopped smiling. It’s not that I’m not happy. I don’t even know why I should have to explain that. I just don’t see the connection between, say, living my life and walking around with a grin painted on my face.

I’ve never really worn makeup. Maybe that’s what a smile is, another decoration for your face. Which makes us Christmas trees?

I went to Paris years ago and the guidebooks said don’t walk around smiling all the time or they’ll know you’re American. It being the age of Freedom Fries I wanted to, one, reflect well on the United States and, two, pretend I wasn’t from there.

I remember how weird it felt not to smile. Like my muscles were going backwards. My face kept making the motions and I’d have to stop myself. At ease, face. Do something else. Like see Paris, Bombay, Antarctica. The moon. Even though I stopped smiling in order to conform to yet another culture, it became an open door.

In Seattle I walked with my best friend a couple weeks after she’d experienced something horrifically painful. I couldn’t even believe she’d left the house. As we made our way through the crowd a young man barked “Smile!” My friend walked on. I looked at this man and I wanted to yell that he had no idea, no idea at all. I still hate myself for doing nothing. Meanwhile, this man has no memory. To him it wasn’t an event, a moment, it wasn’t anything.

What if my friends and I shouted out helpful suggestions to the men around us? Smile! Stand up straight! Try some hair plugs! Loosen your belt and your belly won’t so dramatically cascade over your crotch region! We’d chuckle and then pound some more mini Snickers.

For my trouble, I’ll expect a smile back. Recognition, from you, that I’m charming. Acknowledgement, from you, that I’m witty.  I will need reassurance, from you, whatever it takes you to provide it, that I am allowed to lob my thoughts at you, and that you will have to drop all your parcels and grocery sacks to catch them.

Or you’re a bitch.

You know who doesn’t smile? Babies. You smile at them for months and they don’t smile back. They don’t have resting bitch face. They have resting genuine true self human being face. The face created by their Creator.

I don’t think bitchy is a look. Bitchy is merely the absence of what you were expecting from my face. Your expectations are not my concern.

Though even in my 30s, I thought I had to answer to those expectations. I couldn’t let you down. I thought I had to respond to every inane comment that came my way. Do you know you have the complete option to look blankly at people who make inane comments? About you, your children, your choices. You can let them hang. Sure it’s awkward. But they can stew in it. You don’t have to think up a way to make them feel less awkward. You don’t have to toss them a lifeline. You don’t have to save anyone or fix anything. Walk on.

There is a school of thought about Christian kindness. I am not able to address this.

I’ve stopping using exclamation points in emails to try to seem more fun and less serious. Serious leads to cold. Cold leads to bitchy. I think this is where people can stop liking you, also a deadly fear for a woman. I’m stepping off the ledge. I will sit at home alone with no friends, not smiling at myself in the mirror.

I guess I’m taking the chance. It’s starting to feel worse not to.

I looked up bitch in the online Oxford Dictionary. I wondered if they’d actually list the word but of course they do.

Bitchy as an adjective had one meaning. Malicious or spitefully critical. Malicious means the desire to harm someone. Which is weird because the crime stats show the ones harming others tend to be the dudes. What’s the word for how a man’s face looks before he harms someone? Does the witness say, yeah I knew he was going to kill his neighbor, he had a total bitch face.

What’s the antonym of bitchy? There is none listed.

There are synonyms for bitch: vixen, she-devil, and hellcat. I was surprised when I read the synonyms because my first reaction was that those words didn’t seem negative. Maybe I’m way off but she-devil and hellcat I can almost picture on sports jerseys.

The second meaning of bitch is “a spiteful or unpleasant woman”. This is the second reference to spite. What’s all this fear of being spited? This meaning is marked informal so that you know only to call a woman a bitch in casual settings like a barbecue.

Here’s where I truly was surprised. And lost some wind in my sails. Under meaning 2 point A– marked as offensive so you know you’re about to be offended– bitch means “a woman”.

A woman. Just, a woman. Any woman. All women. Cheerful or spiteful. This takes all the impetus out of the smiling then doesn’t it? Because I lose either way. So does your mother. And your grandmother. Your favorite auntie who sent you tins of oatmeal cookies in college. Your kids’ 3rd grade teacher. The principal with the little duckie collection. The doctor who delivered your babies. The surgeon who knit your heart back together, scowling over your gaping wound. Your senator.

It’s not easy to stop smiling.

Oh wait.

It is.

 

5 Things I (Still) Don’t Get About Facebook

For some people, Facebook is an escape. For me, it’s heading right into the rats-den.

Do I “Like” enough?
Can you Like too much? Do other Facebook people shake their heads and say, “Geez she Likes a lot.” If you like too many things do people think you’re easy? “Oh that Like doesn’t mean anything, she’ll Like anything.”

Why do some people never Like me? Ever? Not even once?
Am I not interesting? Do I not select visually appealing photographs? I never did learn to use that Instagram thing. You can say a lot with sepia.

I’ve posted my kids, they’re super cute. They do cute things. If you’d read you’d see what a cute thing they said. What are you, made of stone?

I should get a cat.

Or are they not even reading it? Are people just scrolling past me, looking for their real friends? Looking for athletic-shoe freebies?

I should get my Mom on Facebook.

Did you accept my friend request only to dump me in some “Group” abyss of people you never have to think about again?
Every now and then I think, huh, I swore so-and-so and I were friends but come to think of it I have never actually seen a single post. Maybe they are really super busy. Maybe they are “on” Facebook but “never go on it.” Or maybe they relegated me to a group. A group called “Flotsam” or “Miscellaneous Past Acquiantances” or “untitled” because it’s not even worth your time to give all us social lint-bunnies a name.

How soon until we become intimate?
We had ninth grade English together. Teamed up for a project on The Merchant of Venice. It was a really fun English class. We did real good on Shakespeare. Pound of flesh and all that. Super good.

I haven’t seen or talked to you in 29 years. Except for the A on our team project and a vague remembrance of your red and white Norsport sneakers, I don’t know anything about you. Twenty-nine years later, the first post I see of yours is that after years of infertility, you are pregnant with twins. A boy and a girl. That’s fabulous.

Do I jump out of the past with a giant banner shrieking “Congratulations!” It seems kinda personal. Like I haven’t earned that kind of closeness. When we met I didn’t even have my period. And now we’re all up in your uterus. I signed your yearbook with bubble letters. Are we frozen in time? Today we are not in each other’s lives. The only reason we are now connected is because of an experience from the past. If we leave the past, do we actually have anything? Should I comment on your post with a cascade of rainbow hearts? Is there an emoticon for Olivia Newton-John? I want this to work.

When do I Like and when do I Comment?
Did I mention I’m an introvert? Likes are better for introverts. And lazy people. Are some people just Likers and some Commenters? Dogs/cats? Boxers/briefs? Liking seems a lot easier. Like microwaving water for tea instead of waiting for the boring old kettle.

Elan Morgan (www.schmutzie.com) has a great article about how she stopped Liking for two weeks and made herself write out comments. She felt more connected, which is what this is supposed to be all about. Right? Right?!!

But to Comment, I have to think of something. I have to spell, construct parts of language. And what if I comment and someone already made that comment which is fine if it’s a no-brainer like “Happy birthday” or “Have a great time at OysterFest!” but not if it’s something more complicated like “I never knew you could drive and take movies at the same time! Eeks!” But maybe the Eeks sounds like I’m reprimanding. Maybe the whole thing sounds judgmental. I should read the other comments first. This is taking too long. Never mind, just Like it.

There is a strong suggestion from Wise People that says throw it all out there, fly your flag, open your heart… it all sounds good except: I don’t want to look stupid. I don’t want to expend more of my personal stock of warmth and caring than is ABSOLUTELY WARRANTED. This feels important.

We’re friends. Really. We are.
I sent you a friend request – thinking of that chunk of time we shared, the talks, the thoughts. You accepted my friend request. So I’m all thinking, oh you remember too.

I run into you at a wedding. It’s been years. Last time I saw you we were both young. We hug. We are glad to see each other. You wrinkle your eyebrows, “I think maybe we’re friends on Facebook or something?” The “or something” is a dagger. I feel like the over-eager little sister. “Yeah,” I say. Here I’ve been Liking, maybe even going to Facebook Second Base by leaving a Comment. Here I thought we were at least remotely connected, when actually, in Facebook world, the only world we now share, you don’t know I’m alive.

The next time I see one of her posts, I see that she has 996 friends. We are not actually friends. We are people together in the mall during a super awesome shoe sale.

How do I keep from being the 1st to Like something?
I’ve come across a post that was great, enlightening, a cool photo that reaches across boundaries to unite and inspire. And my impulse has been, “Amazing!” I get my pointer finger ready, ready to tap that Like button with enthusiasm.

Then I realize. No one has Liked it yet. And I’m not actually that close to this person. We worked together ten years ago. In different departments no less. Hmmm. When was this posted? Seven minutes ago. I could Like and hope others Like after me. SOON after. I don’t want to be the one Liker dangling out there. That would seem way too intimate. That would seem like me and the Poster were closer than we are. It would be like we were a two-some, a team, maybe even dating.

If the post has been there for hours and NO ONE has Liked or Commented, I’m sorry, I’m not touching it. You’ll have to hang out here, in your brilliance, alone.

Maybe by your next post, I will have become a stronger person.

A lot of people would like that.