Don’t Take This The Wrong Way: You’re a Bitch

I was afraid to put my face in the scanner as 100% bet your house on it I’d open my eyes as the scanner light beam passed over me.

My hand will have to do.  It’s a 65 year old hand and it looks it.

My face does, too, apparently.

I heard it through the toxic grapevine.

What exactly is “the toxic grapevine”?

An old friend I had recently seen told another friend that although I looked very good (weight loss) my skin care needed some work.

BTW: of the two “friends”, I’d say the one who passed on the information to me directly deserves the “Meow Meow” award.  However, since I don’t want to insult kitties everywhere (I’ve got some kitty lovers who read this blog) I’m renaming the award to “Bitchy Chardonnay”.

This grape is a particular vintage with many varieties.  In my instance, it is the screw-on cap bitchy chardonnay with a small “b”.  For most women, like the GE commercial, “It is the fabric of our life”.  Friends can be petty.  Particularly, about how we “look”.  Big whoop.

As my wise niece says, “It’s about balancing things out.” If you say something positive, gotta level it out with a negative because lord knows you don’t want anyone getting too big for their britches.

I suspect more women than male readers are now nodding, “Say no more.  I’ve been on both ends of this petty bitchy-britches party.”

But, there is the aged, cork-in Bitchy Chardonnay with a capital “B” variety that both sexes can contribute to and that is the fuel of bullying networks within schools and playgrounds and, in fact, all abusive relationships.  This variety is not simply meant to hurt feelings or demand britches adjustments– it wants more than that.  It is as aggressive as a machete.

It can kill people and wants to.

One chronically “bullied” boy in Massachusetts is currently on trial for stabbing a classmate to death in the school bathroom.  The dead boy was unknown to his murderer.  They had never crossed paths until this fatal moment.

The bullied boy’s defense is mental illness.

In a separate case, high school kids from a different Massachusetts town have just been charged for a pattern of bullying and tormenting a fellow classmate that led to her suicide.  I’m not sure about their legal defense but a mother of one of the accused teens was quoted as saying that the dead girl, “started it”.

Bitchy chardonnay with a small “b” requires another “friend” to decide it is information that needs to be shared with the introduction, “Don’t take this the wrong way.”  And, it requires the phrase being uttered with conviction–as if there is more than one way to take something– even when there is patently only one way.

Bitch Chardonnay with a capital “B” simply dispenses with the ‘don’t take this the wrong way” entirely and goes for the jugular.

It is not about my skin care no matter how wrinkly, just as it is not about the dead boy’s relationship with his murderer.  There was no relationship.  It is a about how we human beings try to make our own sad twisty little selves feel better at the expense of others.

It’s in the DNA of human history writ large–wars, genocide as well as writ small, such as as Madison Avenue.  It can sell “stuff”.   Oh, let’s say a skin creme, for example– (out of nowhere, I know) as in “You are going to look better than other oldies, if you buy this skin product.”

It starts out so simple, doesn’t it?  A throw-away line like “Don’t take this the wrong way” or even more subtly, Clairol’s, “Because I’m worth it” (the subtext being there are others who are not worth it?)… and it ends up.. well, frankly, it ends up sometimes with folks dead.

Mental illness as a defense may explain some of this, but, clearly, not all.

Whilst I think my deep thoughts about all this, has anyone heard about Retinol A?

©Pat Coakley 2010


••Photographs from this blog and my wider archive can be purchased at

12 comments on “Don’t Take This The Wrong Way: You’re a Bitch”

  1. Standing Ovation from me…. so well said.

    I hear strivectin in combination with Retinol A is the way to go for wrinkles and skin these days… However, I have seen photos of you Pat. You are gorgeous. Im not just saying that… Im telling the truth.

    I once had a close male friend tell me after I visited him in his workplace something that seriously broke my heart. He said… yeh my co-workers thought you were so beautiful and one demanded to know who you were. I said really?? *BIG SMILE* !! He replied “yeh, he said who was that woman you were with? Man she was beautiful… big, but beautiful. I just about cried right there.

    Now, had he stopped.. it would have have made my day. But… noooooo he had to continue with the entire story! People just don’t realize how bitchy they are.

    • Amber, this is such a complicated issue. I’ve had a conventionally pretty Irish face all my life so I know it’s value and it’s inflated meaning to all of us.
      Perhaps, today, this is why I accept what I see in the mirror even if others do not. There’s always been more than the mirror image even when I couldn’t see it. I can try to lather up and if you remember I wrote once of going outside to do errands with my wrinkle creme still on to hilarious and humiliating results.

  2. i agree with amber, i have seen you and my eyes dont lie, you are extremely beautiful. this photo reminds me of alfred steiglitz’s portraits of georgia o’keeffe. and she was thirty-something when he took them.

    some people just cant help being blind, forgive them for their eyes can only see murky shadows from within, something you happily will never have to worry about

    but do protect yourself from the vitality vampires, sadly, the world is chock full of them and they are good at surprise attack strategies, keep a cross or a string of garlic around to repel them, and as they say, bless them and walk on

  3. Tipota, “Vitality Vampires”. WOW, what a great great phrase! I may not have been clear in my post but I simply accept my lines and wrinkles! They are there. I see them. They time-stamp my looks but I’m not in search of timelessness. I’d be the right age for nice John Singer Sargent portrait! I’d wear a dress made of my silken tulips!!

  4. I wonder where the large supply of “Bitchy Chardonnay” is coming from (I think the stuff with the small “b” has always been around). It’s kind of frightening. The vitality vampires, as tipota calls them, have only had a sip. Somehow we have morphed into a culture that thrives on one-upsmanship (or put-downsmanship) and has largely forgotten the pleasures of cooperation and mutual support. And it’s not just about appearances. Nice-looking arm, by the way.

  5. Don, Do men in your generation (tough to generalize I know but let’s do it anyway!) have BC with a small “b” in the same way as women? My experience is that women seem to have the market on this type of “putdown”. My arm thanks you!

  6. A wise friend of mine once said about such people, “don’t be angry with them, just feel sorry for them”.

    As for Retinol A, there was a very interesting English documentary, “Prof. Regan’s Beauty Parlour”. It’s very interesting doco because it showed that some of the cheaper products on the market were better that some of the big brand names.

  7. Razz, you are always surprising! You were the last person expected to know about anti-aging skin products! I have not seen that documentary but had heard about the cheaper products being just as good…hence, there are cheap products on my vanity!! But, now, that #7 does sound pretty good….see, we’re always vulnerable to the myth! PS. I don’t think I wrote this post so it made the point I really wanted to make…which was that women, even those of us who consider ourselves good friends and good human beings engage in the diminishment game on a scale that is almost unconscious.

    I’ll have a go again at it after buy a little of Dr. Regan’s potion….kidding…I’m kidding. I think.

  8. Among the many points here Pat is the crux of it all- what you said about making ourselves feel better at the expense of others.
    These seeds of small mindedness, overt concern with superficial crap, all of it stimulated by advertising urging us to be better, thinner, younger and sooner too, point to a discouraging assessment of where we’re going as a species.
    Let’s try to keep it simple folks: If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything.
    Maybe there’s too damn much chatter on every topic, everywhere.
    ” Opinions are like assholes- everyone has one “.
    I can’t recall the author of this quote, but maybe it was the same person who said that the reason we have two ears and one mouth is that we’re supposed to listen twice as much as we speak. Good luck with that America.
    Having cleared my head of early morning vitriol, I know you were in no way fishing for compliments but, you are one fantabulous babe and if you could only place your cerebellum on that scanner, everyone would know that your fantabulousness begins on the inside and moves out from there.

  9. Bingo! Bon-Bon! That was the point I think I buried in this post but to me was the animating reason I wrote it! Thanks for taking a moment away from that dog of yours which I’m not kidding I think is wagging a spell over your readers, including me!

    Seriously, opinions exceed facts in our times or better yet, opinions precede facts. I have such an image in my head to go along with your “opinions are lke assholes–everyone has one” that I need to go purge my brain cache!

  10. Love this!! Particularly the wise neice’s “balancing” explanation….it finally all makes sense…let us allow no one to get too big for their britches in the “self confidence via compliments from others” department…what a travesty that would be!!
    On that note, I think I’ll get buck-wild today and go hand out some random, well meant, and sincere compliments minus any hint of balance!!! By the way…that’s a great shirt you’re wearing=D You can just refer to me as the well-meaning merlot variety(little “m”)!

  11. Pat, in response to your question of a few days ago, no I don’t think put-downsmanship is limited to the ladies! While women may have the corner on doing it with flair and in relation to appearance, the competitiveness of men is not a myth.

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