Remember when you were at your 25th college reunion? You were feeling a smidge sorry for yourself because your circumstances weren’t exactly what you had hoped they would be at this juncture. Someone who either worked in the White House or is a movie star or possibly both asks what you are doing in that little town in Kentucky that the New York Times portrayed as full of sawmills and aluminum house trailers during the Kim Davis debacle of 2015. Actually, maybe he didn’t describe it that way at all. Perhaps that’s just you being annoyed by the barrage of stereotypes that even those who like to consider themselves open-minded seem to hurl at Appalachia. But, I digress.
After ascertaining that he will probably notice even if you slide under the table very slowly, you respond, “Well, I took care of my mother until she died last year. I pay the bills by keeping a few tax clients, but I’m really excited about a book group I taught at our high school in the spring.” Did I mention he worked in the White House or is a movie star or possibly both? You continue, “And I’m going to be a substitute teacher this fall. And I’m getting certified to teach yoga. And I’ve started writing a book. Oh, and I take care of my daughter. She’s awesome.”
Worked in the White House. Movie star. Mercifully, you have the wisdom to stop talking before you mention that you know how to change the water filter in the refrigerator.
You scramble to disguise your defensiveness with nonchalance. And you use good wrapping paper, expensive stuff you bought at Papyrus.
You ask, “What was funny?”
You must have used too much tape wrapping the package; he senses that you are defensive.
He says quickly, “That’s all great. Really. You are just so,” he pauses, “badass.”
Never having thought of yourself as “badass,” you roll the word around in your mind. You even look up the term in Urban Dictionary: ultra cool m*****f*****, it says. You’ve been called much worse.
You start to view your life through a lens of badassery.
Some things clearly fall in badass territory. Maneuvering your SUV with the Kentucky license plate through a swarm of young men on four-wheelers who are being chased by police in a not-so-great part of Brooklyn. Badass. Having the presence of mind to shove your daughter’s head down so as to avoid potential stray bullets. Definitely badass.
Paying for your own tee shirt at a favorite restaurant while listening to the stranger sitting at the bar beside you try to cajole her male companion into buying her tee shirt. Badass on estrogen.
Come to think of it, changing the water filter in the refrigerator also qualifies as badass. As does dismantling the garbage disposal and shoveling a monster driveway.
Contemplating further, you realize, however, that being badass isn’t just Dirty Harry, Betty Friedan and home maintenance. The essence of being badass is bravery mixed with vulnerability. Or, perhaps better stated, being a badass means being strong enough to welcome whatever the world brings you. You keep the door open even when you know sometimes the world is like a cat that deposits dead mice on the doormat. Every badass knows that if you close the door to dead mice, you also keep out peonies, fresh breezes and warm grilled cheese sandwiches.
Reading thank-you notes from sixteen-year-olds telling you that, regardless of what you think of yourself, they admire you, they think you have “moxie.” Badass. Knowing you should be thanking them because they helped you feel useful. Incredibly badass.
Accepting love expressed as words, attention or casseroles. Badass. Giving love without judgment. Badass. Badass. Badass.