Am I a bitch?

I’ve already explored whether or not I’m a hater and concluded that I must be an asshole if people perceive me as such. So I’m certainly a bitch in the sense that people have called me a bitch, and many people think of me as a cold-hearted Wednesday Addams type.

But is it fair to refer to me as a bitch? What have I done that is so bitchy? What does bitch even mean? Literally it means a female dog, and apparently, back in the 14th century, it meant a woman with high sexual desire, as in a “bitch in heat”. Today it tends to be used as an all purpose insult for women. Any woman who is bossy, or uppity, or assertive, or daring to behave in ways that are traditionally considered masculine, is called a bitch. And those sexist connotations are why I take such issue with the word. Calling a woman a bitch means she’s acting like a man in a way that is unacceptable in mainstream society, and calling a man a bitch is calling him a woman, which is, of course, the gravest of insults.

So I do bristle when I’m called a bitch, even if it’s usually meant jokingly, perhaps because it is meant jokingly. Why is it funny to call a woman a bitch? But there’s also a part of me that embraces the label, as many feminists do, in a “taking it back” kind of way, because a bitch is a woman in control of her life, and bitches get stuff done.

But there’s also the concern that people are calling me a bitch because they think I’m mean. As I’ve discussed, I often come across more negatively than I intend. But once again, I’m forced to wonder if a man behaving in similar ways would be judged so harshly for such behaviour. When a man acts dismissively, it’s the other person’s fault for wasting his time, but when I do it I’m not being open to other people’s opinions. When a man looks at his phone instead of chatting with people, he’s considered busy, but when I do it I’m unfriendly. Could I stand to be more empathetic to others? Sure. But so could most men who have swallowed our society’s programming on how to be successfully male. Why don’t we have a nasty word for men who are bossy, assertive, aggressive, dismissive, and unfriendly? I guess there’s the word “dick”, which is often used as an insult towards men. And that word is indeed problematic because it implies that penises are inherently bad. I take similar issue with the word “cunt” being used as an insult. And I’m especially offended by the word “pussy” being used to mean weak, while “balls” denote courage. How does that make sense? When men are kicked in the testicles they act as though the world has ended, while vaginas regularly excrete one’s uterine lining in a rather painful process, and women just get on with it. And yet women are the weak ones? Ridiculous.

Now allow me to return to the word “bitch”, and its casual overuse. I especially hate the insult “son of a bitch” because it doesn’t insult the person it’s meant to be insulting. Instead it insults his mother. I still, for reasons we won’t go into here, watch Supernatural, even though it is deeply problematic in its treatment of both women and men (I think largely due to poor writing resulting from ignorant sexism, rather than malevolent misogyny), but they throw around the term “son of a bitch” like it’s a meaningless adjective. But it’s a very loaded term. It implies that the person at fault is the mother of the villain, rather than the villain himself. It lets men off the hook entirely and places all blame on women. If you think I’m overeating to a simple word, then you’ve probably used that word before, without fully considering how hurtful it can be. Or you knew exactly how hurtful it would be and your intention was to hurt, in which case you’re the bitch big ol’ meany pants.

 

*I rarely get political but I’m just going to add on this footnote: This post seems especially relevant in the wake of Hitler’s Trump’s win of the US presidential election. Is a demagogue really more acceptable to Americans than an authoritative woman? I agree with Danielle Moodie-Mills that this election is proof of white supremacy’s last stand, but I think she underestimates how much misogyny also played a part in America’s choice.

Halloween, and missing something that isn’t gone

When I was a kid I loved Halloween, and I still appreciate it today, but mostly from a nostalgic perspective. It was tough for me to let go of trick-or-treating when I became too old for it, and I’ve given a lot of thought to why that is. What is it exactly about the holiday that I enjoyed so much?

As a kid I loved all holidays, while as an adult most of them have lost their luster, but Halloween is the one I mourn the most. For children – or at least for those who come from reasonably high income families – holidays represent a lessening of responsibility. When you’re a kid, Christmas is the best time of year because you get lots of presents, you get a significant amount of time off school, you get to eat delicious food, and perhaps enjoy other fun traditions, like taking the After Eight rule seriously.

But now that I’m middle-aged and have long since left home, these traditions have faded away and a lot of the general fun of the holidays is gone. Now that I’m financially independent I can buy myself anything I want and gifts just don’t give me the same feeling they did as a kid. For children, receiving presents are the only time they can indulge in the age old instinct of acquisition. (Not to get all Ferengi on you, but it seems self-evident that all humans love accumulating wealth, whether that means money or anything else.) But as adults we can acquire whatever, whenever we want, and gifts are often too far off the mark of our actual desires to really be satisfying. For me at least, gifts are actually a burden because they make me feel indebted to the giver, even though I’ve received something I never wanted in the first place. And holidays in general are similarly burdensome.

For adults, holidays represent an increase in responsibility; the exact opposite of what they mean for kids. This is especially true for people with children of their own, but there are obligations even for those of us who are child-free. I hold no animosity towards my family, but being forced to visit their dog/cat infested houses, and endure their ideas of festivities, which are starkly different from mine, isn’t really all that fun. It’s not torturous or anything (though I know for some people it is) but it’s not something I would choose.

So while Christmas was exciting as a kid, it’s now mostly annoying. Easter meant a fun egg hunt followed by chocolate but now it means eating food I dislike while wondering why my non-Christian mother gives a damn about the resurrection of Christ. Thanksgiving never really meant much beyond a day off school but now it means a day off work to recover from interaction with my family. In many ways special occasions are now occasions I resent.

Not so with All Hallows’ Eve because there are no familial obligations that come with this spook fest. When I was a kid Halloween meant the most fun ever: eating a ton of candy and the adventure of acquiring said loot. As younglings, my brother, my best friend, and I travelled our entire neighbourhood so far into the night that houses started to angrily turn us away. Passer l’Halloween (the Québécois way to say trick-or-treating) was a ritual I looked forward to all year round. I agonised over what costume to wear and challenged myself to collect so much candy that it would last all year. Now I can simply go to the store to satisfy my candy cravings, but it’s just not the same, is it? There’s something visceral about going door to door, asking for a thing, nay demanding it, and then successfully getting it. I understand intellectually, that when I go to work, I’m doing the same thing: putting in time and effort to get something else in return. But I don’t feel it emotionally since the result is removed and feels intangible. Holding out your candy bag massive pillowcase and instantly being rewarded with kid currency feels much more immediate and substantial.

And then there’s the dressing up. Recently, I suspect as a result of watching Heroes of Cosplay, my partner decided that cosplayers are necessarily insecure. According to him, cosplayers love putting on costumes so much because they are trying to escape their real lives, trying to escape themselves. I don’t entirely agree, since I’m sure there are those who do it just for fun, but I see his point. I even relate to his point. I spent most of my life hating my reality, and in some ways hating myself, and often lived in a fantasy world. Dressing up for Halloween was a chance to disappear into the what if. Today I’m much more confident in who I am, and genuinely enjoy most of my life, so costumes just doesn’t thrill me the way they once did. I also believe that everything we wear, every day, is in some ways cosplay. I strongly believe that gender is a societal construct, so when I wear cute dresses and high heals at work, I fully indulge any need for dress-up I might have.

I know a lot of adults still enjoy Halloween, but I’d guess these are party people. I don’t drink alcohol, and I don’t generally enjoy social events, so while I tried to force the issue as a young adult, and attended many disappointing Halloween parties, trying to have fun, and usually failing, I am now past that point. I just need to accept that Halloween is no longer my holiday.

Tonight I will look out my window and watch children pass Halloween. I will place a couple pumpkins outside my door and have candy ready for them, in case any are patient enough to brave my three-storey walk up. I will feel nostalgic and somewhat sad. I will remember how much joy I used to feel while trick-or-treating and I will know that I will never feel that specific joy again. I will remind myself that I now have new pleasures, like going out to eat at new restaurants, hiking in the woods, and snuggling up on the couch with my partner to watch sci-fi shows. I will wait for my partner to get home from accompanying his trick-or-treating niece and he and I will eat the candy he stole from her. I’ll know that even though I’ll never get to enjoy Halloween the way I used to, ultimately this is a good thing because now I can enjoy much higher quality sweets than the crap most people give out, and I’m secure enough not to feel the need to dress as somebody I’m not.

halloween-1990

Me and my siblings, Halloween 1990.

Am I a hater?

I’m not proud of this but I’ve done my fair share of inadvertently alienating people. Sometimes, in an effort to be funny I’ve ended up hurting someone’s feelings. My humour does tend towards the sarcastic and cynical, but I guess I have a tendency to go overboard. Once, and this example goes back 20 years or so, I was hanging out with friends of a friend. The topic of football came up and I disparaged the sport and referred to someone in the group as not even existing, not being worthy of my attention, because she liked football, or maybe it was soccer, or rugby, whatever. Later I was informed that this girl was extremely offended by my dismissive attitude, and I felt bad. I still feel bad. I don’t remember this teenager’s name, and I don’t remember what sport I was poo-pooing but I’m still traumatized by this event decades later, by the fact that I hurt someone so deeply without even meaning to.

Other times I’ve felt less guilty but more confused as to how such a misunderstanding could have come about. I know I have resting bitch face but do I also have resting bitchiness? Where everything I say comes across as rude and hostile even when I don’t mean it to?

Recently at work, my supervisor took me aside to let me know that there had been a complaint lodged against me. At first I just assumed she was talking about a hasty email I’d written because I know I can be curt in writing. But no, as she went on, it because clear that she was talking about an incident I couldn’t even remember. Apparently this whiny baby perfectly pleasant guy came into my office to talk to me and I ignored him. Now this guy is known to be extremely meek and soft-spoken, and when I’m working I tend to zone out. I’m sure I simply didn’t notice him when he came to see me. But he was so offended by my not paying attention to him that he filed a formal complaint!

These are just two examples of a lifetime of being perceived in ways I don’t intend. People think I’m a hater. I’ve often been accused of misanthropy, but honestly, I don’t hate people. I’m actually a pretty big fan of humanity. Yet because I’ve been accused of misanthropy so often, I’ve sometimes tried to convince myself that maybe I do hate people. But it’s not antipathy I feel towards others, usually it’s just indifference.

I’m an introvert, so I have no patience for small talk, and I don’t really care how your weekend went. I mean, I do if we’re friends, or sufficiently close co-workers, and if you can tell a story in an amusing way, then sure, I’d love to hear about how you got sunburned climbing a mountain. But generally speaking, I’d rather stand in the elevator in silence than talk about the weather.

And, as mentioned, I’m also rather bad at noticing people. I can’t even count the number of times people I’ve been hanging out with have said, “hey, did you see that guy who just walked by?” And my reaction is no, I did not see him. Usually I’m in my own world, my mind is racing a mile a minute and I genuinely do not notice the people around me. I notice in a general sense, like I don’t constantly bump into people, and I’ll notice things that are interesting to me, but not the things that are interesting to you. So no, I didn’t see that guy you think is hot, and I didn’t see that guy who looks suspicious, and I didn’t see that mom being a bad mom, and I didn’t see that crack dealer dealing crack. I just didn’t notice because I just don’t care.

But sometimes I do care, and I still say or do the wrong thing, because I also have social anxiety. Back when I was a kid, in the ’80s, we called it shyness. But now we’ve pathologized it, which I actually think is fair. Anxiety can be quite crippling. I don’t just dislike talking to strangers, sometimes it fills me with dread. I’m fine in everyday situations, like going shopping or whatever, because I know the rules of shopping. I don’t have to tip cashiers. But I hate situations that are even vaguely ambiguous. I’ve been to a hairdresser a total of four times in my life and they’ve all been traumatic events. I prefer to cut my own hair than face the awkwardness of making small talk with a stylist or trying to figure out how much to tip the shampoo kid. And then there are social events. I know intellectually that people aren’t just standing around judging me, but it’s difficult to get past that perception emotionally.

I’m fine at parties where I know everyone, like work parties. Or small gatherings where I’ve built up a respectable level of ease with the other guests. But events filled with people I don’t know are literally torture. Imagine being in a group, or even just with one other person, and they’re talking and you can’t think of anything to say in reply. You’re just standing there mute, knowing with every passing second that you’re coming across as more and more rude but you can’t do anything about it. Or maybe you can think of something to say, you can think of a million witty rejoinders, but you can’t say them out loud. Your mind is full of possible comments that simply won’t escape your lips. And because I’m now so acutely aware of my tendency to accidentally offend people I default to saying nothing rather than risk an inadvertent faux-pas.

As a result, I come across as the most boring person alive. And ironically, this problem is exacerbated if I’m bored. Boredom, of course, is a subjective feeling. One person’s exciting topic of conversation is total dullsville for another. So I’m not judging. If your thing is cooking, then more power to you, but it’s not my thing and I don’t give a shit how much paprika you put in the casserole. So my mind wanders. If you don’t hook me pretty much immediately then I’m out. Sometimes my mind wanders even when I am interested in the topic at hand. It’s not a problem of being unable to focus. It’s more that I’m not prone to interruption, so rather than interject with my thoughts on a subject while another is talking, I’ll just go off on a digression in my own mind and only be snapped back to reality when I’m asked a direct question.

So people think I’m a jerk. I come across as an asshole. And I guess I am an asshole, if that’s how I come across. Because result, unfortunately, is more significant than intention. And I guess you could make the argument that being indifferent to other people is hateful. It’s certainly not empathetic, or compassionate to not give a shit about others. So I guess all the times people referred to me as a bitch, they were right. Maybe I should embrace that label. After all, why do I even care how I’m perceived? If I’m largely indifferent to people, why would I care about their opinions of me? The answer is that I’m human. Of course I care what other people think of me. Everyone cares what other people think of them.

It’s trendy nowadays to tout the benefits of self-acceptance and not putting stock in other people’s opinions, and that is healthy to a degree. It’s especially important for women, who are so constantly expected to perform for others, to focus more on their personal journeys and less on others’ expectations. But if we all truly didn’t care how others were perceiving us then we would be sociopaths. We can’t help but care. Humans are social creatures. Anyone who says they don’t care what others think is either lying to you or lying to themselves. We all go home and agonize over what we said to who and how it was perceived. If you seriously never wonder what others think of you, you might just be a narcissist.

So yes, I DO feel badly that I hurt that girl’s feelings in 1996, and I didn’t mean to ignore my coworker last month, and I do regret any number of times I’ve been overly sarcastic or didn’t say anything at all. But what can I do? I guess I’m just a hater.

Welcome to SuperAnemic.com

My name is Nique Yager and I guess I’m an artist, in the sense that I create art – not in the sense that I make a living off of it. I’ve studied just enough art theory to know that the things I make are considered “low art”, and that I have no interest in studying any more art theory.

Like most artists, and writers, and creators of all kinds, I feel like I don’t create enough. Some people call it writer’s block, others call it procrastination, or lack of motivation, self-doubt, fear of failure, depression, anxiety, all the reasons we come up with not to create, when all we want to do is create. Sometimes it’s simply laziness.

I’ve often thought one of my biggest problems is laziness, but am I actually that lazy? Or am I just tired?

A quick Google search reveals the definition of lazy as: unwilling to work or use energy. Synonyms are idle, slothful, work-shy, shiftless, inactive, underactive, sluggish, lethargic.

Am I those things? Sure, sometimes. Who isn’t? It’s human nature to be lazy, in the sense that we are always trying to conserve as much energy as possible, likely because people evolved in a time of scarcity. I’m reminded of that Discovery show Naked and Afraid, where contestants are often accused, by other contestants, of being lazy, when really they are literally starving and sleep deprived. By lying around and not doing anything they’re simply trying to not die. That’s not laziness, that’s efficiency. But by definition, not doing anything is laziness. So then the problem isn’t whether or not someone is being lazy, it’s the connotation that laziness is necessarily a bad thing. Of course, if you’re reading this then you’re probably in the global 1%, so your life is pretty cushy. You’re not on Naked and Afraid and you’re not living in scarcity. You’ve got a million options in front of you for things you could be doing. So why are you doing nothing? Why am I, so often, doing nothing?

But am I really so often doing nothing? I mean, I have a job. I work like, 40 hours a week. Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, which is, certainly by my standard, a lot. And I work hard at my job, or what at certain times I’ve even dared to call my career. And I also workout every day. So that’s not lazy, but I also spend a lot of time in front of the TV. Instead of drawing or writing, or working on things I care about, I veg out with TV or the internet. But are those necessarily bad habits? Again I must ask, is this really laziness, or is it legitimate fatigue?

After a long day at work I don’t have the energy to do anything else. As an introvert I have just spent the entire day getting drained of all my energy through interactions with my coworkers. Not only do I no longer have the energy to be with people, I don’t have the energy for anything!

And then there’s the anemia. Anemia is a blood disorder and there are many different kinds. Most people are familiar with the acquired kind, which you can get from poor nutrition, or excessive blood loss. I have hereditary spherocytosis and it’s really not that big of a deal, but symptoms include pallor, jaundice, and most significantly, fatigue. My red blood cells are misshapen and prone to rupture so they don’t have a very long shelf-life. As a result my body is constantly in overdrive producing new blood cells to replace the dead ones. So I’m more tired than the average Joe. Or am I? How can I know? I have no basis for comparison. Because life is always fair, I also have a few other ailments, such as poor eyesight. I know what it’s like to be able to see, and what it’s like to be visually impaired, so I know my vision is sub-par. But I don’t know what it’s like to not have anemia. I don’t know if I’m actually more tired than everyone else, or if I’m just lazy!

All I can do is compare myself to others. I live a fairly active lifestyle, especially considering all my hobbies are sedentary. A lot of people these days have office jobs and we’re all sedentary. I’m not any less active than other office-dwellers, but I definitely have several examples of simply not being able to do what others take for granted. Like the time in high school when we had to do the Canada Fitness Test in gym class. We all had to run around the soccer field however many times and I’m the only one who couldn’t do it. I might have been able to do it, given enough time, but the bell rang before I could finish. It was pretty embarrassing but luckily everyone else had gone to their next class so there was no one left to make fun of me. As a child I was definitely sickly. I was that kid who’s always getting nosebleeds and who catches every cold.

But as an adult I’ve been reasonably healthy, and I feel like I’m fairly fit. Although, every time I go on a bike ride, every other cyclist passes me. Not just the hardcore people either. The old grannies pass me too. Still, I’m not so weak that I could claim to be affected by spoon theory. Or rather, I do have limited spoons, (limited energy) but much more than someone with a severe illness. I have a friend with MS and I would consider it rather insensitive and pretentious of me to claim I go through even a fraction of what she has to deal with.

So yeah, I get dizzy sometimes, but doesn’t everyone? I’ve known completely healthy people who have fainted for no reason at all, and I’ve never passed out, so perhaps I’m not prone to physical failure after all. Maybe I’ve just conditioned myself to avoid failure by avoiding effort, which is a rather lazy approach to life.

I remember a conversation I had once where I was making fun of my lethargy, and my friend commiserated, talking about how she’s insanely lazy. I laughed it off but I was actually offended that she would consider herself lazy. In my view she was a “do everything” person. One of those people who seems to be constantly doing things. Going to school, and work, and cooking, and raising kids, and freaking macrame or whatever, all at the same time. My reaction to her self-deprecation was to feel ashamed of myself, because if she considers herself lazy, then what would she consider me? But does that even matter? Does it matter what our neighbours are doing, or is the only important gauge our own feelings? As long as I feel like I’m doing enough, then I’m doing enough. But that’s my point. I don’t feel like I’m doing enough.

Instead of spending time creating, I watch TV. I watch a lot of TV. So much so that I’ve developed rules for myself. I will only watch a show if it has a sci-fi, or fantasy, or supernatural element. Or if it’s a period piece. And certain sitcoms. And adventure based, or creative reality TV. And My Little Pony. You see? I have a problem. ‘Cause that’s a lot of shows. I’m legitimately addicted to television. But even when I force myself not to turn on the TV I just end up scouring the internet. So TV isn’t the problem. Avoiding what I really want to do is the problem.

Because if I do what I want to do it will never come out right. Anytime I have done what I wanted to do, it has turned to shit by the time I took a second look. That’s the curse of the artist I guess. We’re our own worst enemies. So if you never try, you never have to fail. And I know that’s a lethargic way to live, but I comfort myself with the possibility, or perhaps delusion, that I’m not really that lazy, I’m just super anemic.