"That's not a nice word to call girls or women," my mom, ever the diligent feminist, responded.
Around the same time, one of my brothers (who will not be named) called me "a witch with a capital B". There wasn't much swearing in my house, so this was pretty wicked. It fast-followed an incident at my nana's house in East Vancouver when I spouted some curse word at my brothers (likely over which show to watch on TV) and got my mouth washed out with soap.
None of this turned me into a lady.
I took my mother's warnings and cursed strategically, marrying it to my father's ever-faithful Irish advice to "just punch the guy" to develop a definite fight response when confronted with danger.
This has been a fun quality to hone in a skinny blonde girl who was shy around all adults growing up, and let's face it, looked like a child bride most of the time.
People thought they could mess with me, and sometimes did. And it wasn't like I got all Hulk-like and pounded muscle-heads into the ground to the amazement of on-lookers. I wasn't terribly strong, but I rarely let a cat-call or an invitation to argue or fight pass me by.
The summer I turned 13 and just before I started middle school, I went camping with my cousins and met my first real bully, who was two years older than me. She spotted me and figured I was a done deal.
"I heard you girls were calling us bitches and sluts," she spat when we ran into them at the beach. "It was you!" she pointed to me.
Any wise girl who looked like this:
Would do well to avoid a girl who looked like this:
But I couldn't resist. I stepped forward and said "yeah, it was me."
She invited me to punch her first and even pointed to the spot where I should do it. So I did. I mustered all my brute strength, reared back and landed a great motherfucking swing on the bitch's jaw. And then it was over. She was on top of me in the sand, pummeling away, while everyone looked on. Someone finally pulled her away and I had an embarrassing shiner to start grade eight.
But here's the thing. I'd do her like that again in a heartbeat, plus that homeless guy who tried to grab my BFF on a downtown street late at night, the jerk who threw the paper at me instead of placing it on my desk in grade five and the countless assholes who have yelled shitty things to me and gotten a face full of vitriol back.
I've gotten worse as I've gotten older, but it means I ask for what I need, I don't trust authority (it doesn't always win, Mr. Cougar Mellencamp) and I'll never take the first answer on anything. It means I'm a pain in the ass sometimes, but I won't stop. I can't stop.
Pushy broads for evah.