“All you do is complain.”
My coworker was standing in my boss’ doorway, yelling at me, while I was staring at her, my eyes wide while sipping coffee.
Rewind this about two minutes and you’d have found us on the other side of our office suite. She’d asked me a question that I didn’t have an answer to, so I said, “I don’t know” and walked away.
“You really should have a better attitude about this,” she said.
If there is one thing anyone can say to me that sets my brain on fire – it’s that.
“No, I don’t,” I said, with my back turned, walking to a meeting with my boss.
Even bigger mistake.
That brings us up to speed for the turrets’ style blowup in the doorway.
“So many people tell you that you have a bad attitude, but you don’t do anything about it,” she continued. “You don’t give a shit.”
She was right about one thing: many people have told me I have a bad attitude. I’ve heard it for most of my life.
Even as a child, my dad predicted that it would never be my actions that got me into trouble, but rather, my mouth.
I was well-behaved in school, but I have never been one to shy away from an opportunity to express myself, whether through makeup, clothes, dance, or by way of words – particularly through writing.
In high school, an opinion piece I wrote landed me in the principal’s office. It was about the lack of work the school was doing to increase handicap access to our buildings. I’d interviewed the vice principal, quoted him, and now he was denying it. Not on my watch (I had interview notes and teachers to back me up) – I didn’t get in trouble.
In college, I managed to piss off countless people via printed newspaper columns over the years. Some of them I knew personally, others wrote letters to the editor. One of them threatened me via email and the campus police got involved. The truth hurts.
During holidays, my family told me I reminded them of Daria – a cartoon character on MTV – known for her dry wit.
I have always taken this as a compliment. Daria is smart, funny, politically involved, and in the end, she always does what’s right (i.e. Saving Quinn from frat boys with bad intentions).
I’ve never set out to say something that will hurt someone – but I’m also not willing to sit idly by while someone else does something I feel is wrong. I’m quick to call it like I see it.
A few years into my first job after college, I got in trouble for something I published on Twitter. A coworker screenshot it and I got called into the big boss’ office. She was really, really angry.
I admitted to what I did, owned it, I didn’t apologize, and I also accepted the punishment (I was fired not too much later).
I said what I said and I stood by it. I have always believed that is my right, and if you don’t like it, then well, there’s the door.
Part of this attitude is in my blood. I come from a family of entrepreneurs; we’ve paved our own path and, most of the time, it’s been successful (albeit not easy).
The other half of this is that, I’m a really hard worker. I’m not trying to toot my own horn here, but I’ve worked my way from the bottom and I’ve done it old school. I’ve hustled – I can’t remember the last time I’ve only had one job.
I’ve slung fried pork loins at drive-ins, dipped frozen custard, had multiple retail gigs, written freelance (for 11 years) for dozens of publications – no job is too small.
I’m always juggling, always trying to think of new ways to do old jobs, and do it without being asked. I have always wished that my work ethic would speak for itself, instead of a fake smile in a meeting.
But, like my coworker said, my attitude always comes up during my annual reviews. Of course, that is something I shared with her in confidence; she was my friend at work, too. We shared lots of things over lunches in my office that we didn’t tell others.
Until she yelled it through my boss’ door loud enough for other coworkers to hear. As she yelled, I sat, stone-faced. But as soon as she left, I cried.
I cried because, well, I hate being yelled at, but also because since my review, I’ve gritted my teeth and smiled more times than I can count. I’ve taken a deep breath instead of jumping to assumptions. It may seem small, but to me, I’ve silenced myself for the sake of my job, and I still get yelled at.
It’s the same feeling I had when I was a cocktail waitress – complete with fish nets and heels – and the rude guy asked me to smile, for him.
You still get the same shitty tip whether you grit and grin or walk away.
A few years ago, I started embracing the term “Cat Lady”. Not because I have several cats, but because I’m not ashamed of who I am.
The term “cat lady” has always been used to shame single, usually older women, who have lots of cats. It also implies you’re unkept, crazy, and recluse.
I was – and still am – on a mission to flip the term into a compliment. Yeah, I’m a Cat Lady: I’m single, I have a cat, I love to read, and I am usually home on Saturday nights. So, what?
My cat Blanche is a calico tortoiseshell. During her first vet visit, she jumped onto the vet’s keyboard – pressing keys as she walked back and forth.
“You’ve got a sassy one,” the vet said. “Tortoiseshells always have that tortitude.”
Tortitude, or catitude, has become the way I describe Blanche’s mood. When she’s upset, she bites me; when she’s happy, she purrs and brings sparkly pipe cleaners. There are rarely miscommunications between us.
Perhaps she is the Jane to my Daria.
While Blanche will never have to cope with the real world, I imagine my “Catitude” will always be an issue for me. That’s not to say I don’t try, but I’ll never be willing to water down my personality for anyone.
As for my coworker, we did meet later to try and hash it out. She said she was mad because she’d worked at 8:30 the night before so that I would feel supported and she felt she deserved respect the next day.
Obviously, I’m not a donut parade, so that excuse wasn’t up to par for me. Her next idea was that I’m not emotionally reliable.
No shit. Next?
It’s been about 6 weeks since that day, and despite us sharing a wall at work, we’ve only exchanged a handful of hellos.
While I hate being really good at cutting people off, I just can’t skate over the words she said: “All you do is complain.”
It put all of my late nights, early mornings, low pay, and creative initiatives into the trash.
Over time, my pain will fade, my work ethic will stay the same, and as for my Catitude?
Well, Daria’s getting a reboot so there’s hope for even the most bitter blogger you know.