Does Having Good Manners Make Me a B*tch?


The day was young and I'd already been called a bitch twice. Why is it that when others act inappropriately, I react and then I look like the bitch? Where's the justice in that? Perhaps not reacting is the answer, but that goes against my grain.

I may be a bitch, but I'm a punctual bitch and there was no way I was going to be late for my daughter's doctor appointment. I couldn't be, considering it took weeks to schedule (What is it with those doctors? You'd think we were meeting God himself). We left a few minutes early so I could grab an iced coffee and still have plenty of time to find a spot in that filthy, dark, maze they call a parking lot.

When I saw the line at the drive-through I almost reneged, but I was in dire need of caffeine. As I placed my order and pulled up to the pickup window, the heavenly percolating scent wafted into my car and perked up my mood. Then I noticed the barista dunking his hand in the ice bin and plopping ice into his mouth. I'm sorry, but unless he was in labor there's no reason for him to be sucking on ice chips retrieved with his bare hands! I was dumbfounded when he handed me my contaminated iced-coffee, but I regained my composure (I'm rarely speechless for too long) and explained why it's a no-go. He stared at me blankly.

"I could call the health department," I pointed out the obvious.

"That's your prerogative," he replied.

Guess what I heard as I drove off? "What a bitch." Your hands are in the ice and I'm a bitch.

My daughter rolled her eyes. "I know he was gross, but did you have to threaten him?" I sulked and fumed all the way to the doctor's office, then navigated my SUV into the tiny, winding lane to search for a parking spot. I drove up, around and down the ramps for 30 minutes, suddenly thankful that I skipped the caffeine, which would've only revved my anxiety. We're going to be late! I hate being late! I was on the verge of full-blown panic when the guy in front of me started to back out. I was so busy smiling, waving and mouthing "thank you" that I missed the guy behind me swinging over to my left, cutting me off and taking the spot. Are you kidding me?! My near panic attack gave way to road rage. I threw my car into park and walked up to his window.

"Did you not see me parked right in front of you with my turning signal clearly indicating that I'm taking the spot?"

He didn't look amused and I suddenly remembered a Law & Order episode that started like this and didn't end well. What the heck is wrong with me for getting out of the car? Before I had a chance to fully assess what's wrong with me, he provided an explanation: "You're a bitch."

You took my spot and I'm a bitch. OK. Thanks for clarifying. I was so angry by then that even my daughter's presence in the car (and my son's two friends who apparently witnessed the incident from their parked car) didn't serve to contain my inner bitch. "Mom, you HAVE GOT to calm down," she said.

I have a sign that says it all and it's prominently displayed in my kitchen: People Say I have a Bad Attitude. I say Screw 'Em. I was the kid who hated being told that life isn't fair. I have a highly developed "justice meter" coupled with high standards and I have a hard time accepting that things are far from perfect. If something is wrong, it's just wrong and I need to fix it. Maybe that's how I ended up in law school... If wanting people to respect my time, respond to emails in a timely manner, be polite, and do their jobs, makes me a bitch then so be it. I have a right to enjoy coffee sans e-coli and expect that I will not be aggressively cut off in a parking lot.

I can't help but wonder if it's a gender thing. Would the parking lot guy have called another male a "bitch" for pointing out his offensive behavior? Maybe he would've called him something worse, but the word "bitch" is obviously and specifically intended as an insult to strong, determined, confident women. So I'll take that as a compliment.

In a recent interview in Cosmopolitan Gloria Steinem said, "If you don't play a submissive role, if you don't do what you're supposed to do, you get to be a loud black woman or a bitchy white woman." And her advice? Just say "thank you." Well, amen, sister. If having good manners and high standards makes me a bitch, then thank you. Thank you very much.