One Bitch Two Bitch

When to name things and when to call things names.

A woman called me “nigger bitch” while I walked down a Baltimore street, on one of those nights when the city seems to ignore you. The skyline simpers, half-lit, despondent, and constellations don’t bother to fill in their gaps. The prostitute told me I wanted some and did not like it when I didn’t want any.

A boyfriend called me a “nigger whore” when I told him I accepted a friend request from another man who used to be one of his best friends. He wanted none of that.

That night on the Charm City street, I walked away and never saw the woman again. My relationship with that boyfriend, which was way past dysfunctional at that point, spun out of control like an overloaded washing machine — nothing comes out clean and the caked-on detergent needs cleaning, too.

Both times, the racism pissed me off and I sidestepped the sexualized insult. Or I stepped right over it.

I’m a bad feminist.

So call me a Pam Grier-bad bitch anytime.

A girlfriend asks if a skirt makes her arms look fat. Bitch, please.

Another friend tells me her man hugged up on another woman at MacDinton’s? That woman’s a whore.

Anyone remotely annoying, male or female, can be a ho, as in, “That ho took the last of the waffle fries.”

At a party, I was damn pleased with myself when I came up with a One Bitch Two Bitch Three Bitch Four, Five Bitch Six Bitch Seven Bitch Whore scale of how many times someone can act like a bitch before acting like a whore.

Dr. Seuss, no doubt, rolled right out his grave.

On a night I couldn’t ignore — one of Tampa’s famous lightning storms cracking in time with Rihanna (ho) blasting from a Starship dinner cruise — I looked at all my children’s books, working so hard to explain when to name things and when not to call things names. After finding One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, I found a smaller title: I Can Read It All by Myself Beginner’s Book.

People talk about reading signs. If a therapist pushed me toward some kind of romantic self-reflection, I’d tell her I talk about casual sex in sexualized terms because I don’t want to reconcile any of my contrasting sexual images (aka, denial): the classic bookworm in school binding her breasts with sports bra over sports bra, and the classic other woman going at it on a flight of stairs behind closed doors.

Imaginary therapist says: “You’ve got a self-imposed Madonna-whore complex.”

Blow me a river.

It’s not complex. Awareness mixed with avoidance make the best kind of defense mechanism, though it isn’t defense as much as it’s fortification. Just like a child’s milk does a body good, a woman’s whiskey puts hair on her chest.

I’ve done the leg work.

I published a poem once, and, while working on it, decided the only noun, for a woman, that could fit the poem was “cunt.” The woman in the poem was me, and I wasn’t shy telling people that. I caught much flack for that move — too ballsy, brazen.

Erica, you can’t just say what you want.

Now, if you Google me (come on, bitches, you know you all Google yourselves), you eventually can find a page where someone asks what rhymes with “cunt.” My name shows up.

No matter where you catch me on a given night, I’m not going to be shy about that.

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