Don't #BanBossy, change the culture instead

So there's a new Lean In/Girl Scouts USA campaign to #BanBossy - i.e., ban the word "bossy" when describing young girls. I appreciate the effort to disabuse gender stereotypes, but why not try to change the culture instead of just wholesale removing a word from our vocabulary?

Bossy is not offensive like terms such as "bitch" and "cunt" can be in certain circles (though while we're at it, let's stop letting those words have power over us, too). Why not teach a young girl--or a grown woman for that matter--to take "bossy" as a compliment instead of an insult?

I am coming at this from the perspective, admittedly, of someone who was not probably considered bossy as a child. (I'll have to ask my mother on that one, she may disagree. I'm sure my younger brothers would). Rather, I remember often being tentative with my opinions and actions. That is until high school when two things started to change that: I took drama classes and I started writing for my campus newspaper.

The drama classes gave me confidence to stand and talk in front of other people--actually I found that I actually enjoyed it to a degree. If I felt confident in the reason for being on stage (in those cases, knowing my lines and feeling the part) then showing that to other people made me happy.

Likewise, working on my high school newspaper (first as a staff writer and later as the features editor) gave me confidence in my written voice which, in turn, gave me more confidence in everyday life. I wrote words, people read them, people gave me feedback. Even when people disagreed with what I wrote (which happened even in high school), it gave me confidence to know people were paying attention. I learned very quickly that people would often disagree with what I wrote. As a result, I started to develop a thick skin about their reactions, positive or negative.

I wish I'd been encouraged more as a child to be bossy. One can be bossy, but also be diplomatic and kind and pragmatic.

Bossiness and those other qualities are not mutually exclusive. Bossy as a word may have largely negative connotations, but I see it more as an extension of its root word. Someone who's bossy is in charge, and she's not afraid to be heard. She's not afraid to take action because she knows she's got to get shit done.

Sometimes I think I'm probably not bossy enough in my day-to-day life, but of course the older I get, the less I care about what others think about me. (Well, mostly anyway if I'm being 100 percent honest) I'd like to think now that when I'm not outwardly bossy it's not because I'm meek and afraid to take the lead, but rather because I'm observing, weighing options and thinking about solutions.

In the last few months I've had the amazing experience of becoming an aunt--both literally and in an honorary sense--to two amazing baby girls.  When I look at both of these girls I see their mothers, both of whom are outspoken, confident and assertive. Pretty damn bossy, actually.

It's my deepest wish that both of these babies take after their mothers.

Be assertive, be confident, be outspoken (but also, please, be diplomatic, kind and pragmatic).

Be bossy, damn it.

Warning, grumping ahead

So, I made this promise to myself that I'd blog every day in March--as part of BlogHer's NaBloPo March challenge. It's all part of my personal social media reboot - a reboot that actually means less time on Facebook and more time tweeting and blogging.

Anyhoo, I thought it would easy thanks to the prompts provided--but then I logged on today and realized there were no weekend challenges (I mean, so obviously I wasn't doing the prompts everyday since I just noticed this, but whatever).

My first reaction? Literally, it was: God damnit--do you mean I blogged yesterday and I didn't have to? Because god help me that I do something that's not required.

It's been such a long weekend filled with SN&R work and taxes and various other commitments, so if this means I can just finally kick back and watch some trashy TV (hello, Lindsay Lohan 'docu-series') well then, hell, pour me a drink and let's call it a day.

And then my inner guilt tripper kicked in and I reminded myself that this isn't just about official writing prompts, it's about me reconnecting with something that I used to love to do. Something that, in the last few years, I've been pushed away from thanks to an increase in commitments to everything else.

So there you go, I'm exhausted and grumpy but I blogged, thank you very much. I never said it would be pretty.

And, hey, there's still time for Lindsay and that drink (and yes I see the irony in that connection).


On applying for an #AmtrakResidency

Just applied for the Amtrak Residency for Writers program. They're only taking 24 writers so I know my chances are slim but I'm nonetheless excited by the prospect.

I've done my own "unofficial residencies"--one in 2001 and another in 2012. The first one, in which I took the California Zephyr from Chicago to Sacramento wasn't originally planned as a way to write--but I quickly discovered the situation was ideal.

Years later, I was craving another long-distance train adventure and so booked a trip to see family in Forth Worth, Texas. I took the Coast Starlight and the Texas Eagle on that trip and used the time to work on my book. During my time on the train, I wrote several chapters and spent hours talking to people, listening to conversations and observing others. The experience was invaluabe and it also gave me some much-needed respite from everyday life.

Even before news of this residency came up I'd been researching other trips. I'd love to take the Coast Starlight and the Empire Builder to Chicago, and then maybe the California Zephyr again.

Good luck to all the applicants and here's to dreaming of riding the rails once more.