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Where’s the Bitch?

MF w boaWhich came first: the anger or the Bitch?

The Bitch started to move in during the muddle of middle school. My mother groomed her. First, she was a frustrated teen: pushing, hiding, wisecracking, seething and getting by. That’s the girl who needed the theatre so much, who was afraid to speak and wanted someone else to write her lines, to give her a way to expel the steam inside her—“Bill Starbuck, you’re a liar and a fake.”

She was fed by the confusions of suburban California in the late ‘60s. With her sarcastic tone and sneering style she polished me into a young woman. She could take on Mama-the bitch-of-survival.

And finally I was rid of that damnably shy little lost thing who could never say what she wanted, never trust that her legs could carry her fast enough or that her lungs would support anything like abandon.

That one? Even though she was a kid, she listened to cautionary tales, she saved and measured, she played alone, quietly, she listened to the adults. Don’t ask questions, don’t upset anyone. She stuffed away her big old, grand old self: no one could love her that way.

Oh forget about her; let’s go be The Professional Bitch. The Professional Bitch was the only way to approach the repetitive carelessness of a cruel workplace, of a viscous profession, of a narcissistic husband.

She could close every comment, every argument. Last words were her specialty: last words and stage whispers. She could keep a list a mile long. She could drink scotch and laugh with the men. And with the Bitch, I was funny and glib. With her, I had a context, a ‘tude, a style. With the Bitch boa wrapped around my shoulders, nothing could hurt me. My stride was sexy, witty, and impermeable.

But … I was a bitch.

Powerful. And a little toxic.

Really, I was a hollow milk-chocolate bunny, the kind my mother was always disappointed to bite. Didn’t everyone know I was hollow inside? I thought it was perfectly obvious. If I let anyone get close they were sure to know, right off. Empty! Fraud! My biggest fear. I could listen for a cue, be ready to run, adopt passing dreams, directions, beliefs, mannerisms. But I couldn’t muster conviction. I didn’t follow through.

The anger must have been there all along, just waiting to be flung at some unrepentant shit-head. Oh, I wouldn’t dare. And I wouldn’t even think about it for another twenty years.

By then, the Bitch had mellowed considerably. She ran into the usual pumice of disappointment, exhaustion, love, empathy, indifference, time and uncertainty. Grain by grain the rock-face wore away; sometimes boulder by boulder. She didn’t become less exacting or critical. She just got tired and gave up more often.

And that damnably shy little lost thing? She grew, even shut away and abandoned like that. She grew up: silent; hidden; unknown. She wanted a turn. She could finally push the door ajar.

“H’lo?  Where did she go, that Bitch that ran my life?”

It was my daughter who discovered the surprising fact and told me—I wasn’t a bitch. Next thing I knew, a man told me I was sweet.

“Sweet?  Me? The Bitch? You’ve got to be kidding.”

“No—your essence is sweet.”

Now how can he know something like that? How could he see inside when there’s nothing there to see?

But it just might be true. I could tell the story my way. I’m a grownup and I fill me all up from my toes to my fingers.  I feel the sun on my shoulders and it’s ok. Maybe I don’t need the bitch to protect me.