• HeatherJoy Bagnall

“They May Call You a B....”

Updated: Feb 1

“Mama said there’d be days like this, there’d be days like this, my momma said!” The Limousines wrote this earworm that has been festering in my brain for too long to remember. I love this song. It runs through my brain as boss after boss tells me to stay in my lane, as a man after man tells me I am “uncontrollable,” and as those who don’t know me or don’t like me call me a ‘bitch.’ A description my true friends shake their heads and laugh at.

For the longest time, it broke my heart, I just did not understand. While I knew I was strong and determined, I always try to be kind. My heart is in the right place and typically on my sleeve. Ethics above self-gain. Love above boasting. Being nice above lashing out. Be a warrior for the wronged and a princess, with class, dignity, and grace whenever possible.

It is rare that I write anything that contains curse words. While determined and strong, I find cursing in public something I need not do. Perhaps that is why it has taken me so long to write this chapter. Many of us have seen the memes of little girls, captioned, “don’t call us bossy, if we were boys you would call us leaders.” There was no meme culture to rely on for support when I was growing up. I did, however, have my mom and her father, my grampa. There is a conversation that took too many years for me to understand and far longer to take to heart as I believe he meant it.

In recent months I have written about being a single mother, the shame society places on us not even knowing our stories. Not that it is any of society’s damn business. I have written about being a female teacher in a male leader world. I have written about not being heard by doctors, misdiagnosis, and gross accusations placed on me when I complain of pain. I have written about the condescension, sexism, and dismay of a doctoral journey where the motto was, “please sir, may I have another.” Yet, each time I have stopped short of saying go ahead, yes, I know, I am a bitch. Perhaps it is the kindness warrior in me that only sees the slander and doesn't want to use it or hear it. Perhaps it is the preference for the cornerstone of being nice. Both of which ironically are also used against women as weaknesses. Also, something I have written about, I have that dreaded disease, the ‘calm down dear 'syndrome also known as emotional woman syndrome, hysterical woman, or in less fancy circles, ‘bite me’ syndrome. Another phrase I do not use, but sometimes pops into my head.

Where did this Bitch problem come from? A long line of Bitchy women, of course!

Dear Grampa,

You were right, you are right! Time and again, I have been called some derivative of bitch and had people try to control me where they had no right. This week it happened again, in not so many words. ‘Stay in your lane, m’lady.’ And Grampa, I didn't apologize, I am not sorry. I cannot thank you enough for telling me this was going to happen. Sitting in the grass so upset that I was in trouble for my actions with everyone except mom and you, I was confused. That man who told me to act like a girl, learn my place, he wore my glass of lemonade. You laughed, grandma and others yelled at me and I ran up the hill. Mom made sure I was okay then you came to talk with me.

You told me the story of the day you realized my mom was a hard-headed, strong woman. You said she was three and had cut down gramma's lilac tree. You realized that day that you better check your manhood, be strong, and support her or your life would be miserable. You knew she deserved it. I did not understand when you said you tried, but did not have a man to show you how to support a strong woman respectfully. You admitted you made mistakes but Grampa, I am sure all is forgiven. How could you have all of the right answers? But, I did not understand any of that when I was so young.

You told me that man, my uncle whom I really did not know and whom I had drenched with my lemonade, would talk to me the way he did and so would men and even some women. He apologized and said point-blank that some might even call me a bitch because it was a poor choice word and really a jealous word for boss, leader, or a strong woman they could not keep under control. There was no doubt in your mind I fit that category.

I cannot thank you enough, Grampa for making me promise to be kind and know that someday I would understand why some folks see me the way they do. I promised I would be your princess, your warrior, and they would never let them break me. I am sorry Grampa, some have yet, each break has made me stronger.

I miss you so much today. I know what I am doing is right. I know I am strong and I know I am a leader. I know politics has absolutely shit to do with child welfare. I hope my actions make you proud, for no matter what choices my leaders make, it has nothing to do with me. There is nothing more important than putting our children first.

Thank you for your wisdom, Grampa. Thank you for your love.

I miss you.


Me #SelfSavingPrincess

Dear World,

Go ahead, tell me I am bossy.

Love, HeatherJoy


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