August 19, 2018: A day in Norcross that couldn’t decide if it felt like being overcast or sunny.
We started the day off with Bailey’s and bourbon in lidded coffee cups. You know, the kind that keep in the heat or the cold of your beverage so you can stroll around sipping all morning. And that’s what we did. My roommate, Jennifer, and I pulled up at Conni’s house, and within ten minutes they’d whipped up a concoction of cold coffee and liquor — “Ooof, try that, girl; it’s strong!” — and I’d filled a cup with a sweet red wine, lidded it and added a straw for good measure. I couldn’t figure out how the lid worked—why do they keep making these things more and more complicated?— and Jennifer showed me how over the kitchen sink, teasingly stroking my shoulder and saying, “You’re so pretty. It’s okay because you’re pretty.” We laughed.
We headed out to the Saturday outdoor market in downtown Norcross, a suburb of Atlanta. Really, it was less of an outdoor market and more of a 12-tent set-up with folks peddling everything from fresh, home-grown vegetables to advice on how to check your fire detector at home. I smiled at every vendor we passed but shook my head at the offering of their wares. I wasn’t interested, but Jennifer and Conni partook in the offerings from various tents.
We strolled away from the tent setup and toward the next street over where a tidy row of boutique jewelry stores and restaurants and other shops made up the small block that serves as downtown. It’s like our Southern version of a Thomas Kinkade painting. By now we were feeling warm and fuzzy at the edges, sauntering through downtown suburbia with our bourbon-laced coffee and red wine liquid breakfast. We strolled—getting our steps in, we called it—and chatted all the things that 30-something women chat about. Shoes and men and work and kids and men. You know the things.
We ended up at Ba Bellies and claimed the outdoor table for ourselves, settling in under the umbrella as Jennifer went in to tell the waiter that we’d chosen that table. Not that it mattered, like they couldn’t see us. The restaurant had just opened and had no patrons inside. Only jean-clad 20-something servers with longish hair and hip styles sitting around at the bar talking shit with one another. We told them they should turn their sign around; it still read CLOSED.
There were two young men sitting at the only other outdoor table next to us, pouring over a laptop. I remember thinking, I hope we don’t get too loud and disturb them. But Jennifer is usually loud and there’s no stopping that. They didn’t seem to mind. Our server with the gorgeous Latina name eventually came over, after we’d sufficiently perused the fares, as Conni chatted about a new role at her job. But she said something that struck me as she was describing it, something to the effect of, “But, I don’t know if I really want it, but I feel like I should take it.”
I stopped her and asked her why she felt that way. She said she wasn’t really sure if she wanted to take on such responsibilities. She was happy not doing so but felt like she should take them. “Like, isn’t that the next logical step? Isn’t that what we work for? You know, all that ‘bad bitch’ bullshit?” she added with an eye roll.
We told her she should only take it if she wants to take it. If she prefers her stable home life, taking care of her kids and letting her husband be the breadwinner, then that’s what she should do. As far as I could tell, he didn’t mind either way what she decided to do, so it was up to her.
In case you haven’t noticed, the ‘bad bitch, independent feminist woman’ craze has swept the nation, infiltrating all colors and creeds of both men and women. I love it; I am it, but it’s become a trend that everyone wants to claim, whether it’s true for them or not. And, sitting at that table, that’s what Conni found herself battling with: trying to force herself into a role or caricature she didn’t want just because Instagram and Facebook now say it’s cool.
I always think of his “bad bitch” trend like I do kale smoothies or Lululemon. It’s more than the eye can immediately see, more than just a label or a war cry on social media. That ID stamp is a status symbol, something that we use to show off, to flaunt our accomplishments—the ultimate hierarchical rung for our generation of need-to-achievers. It’s another way for us to divide ourselves, to identify ourselves; as a sign of accomplishment, culture and income. One of the words that has nearly become synonymous for my generation is “narcissistic.” What people don’t seem to recall is that the previous generations made us this way—our teachers, parents and mentors—those who told us, “You need to stand apart from the rest, to impress, to be better, to brand yourself better than everyone else to make the cut!” That’s why from resumes to LinkedIn, Instagram to YouTube, you’ll find that we’ve mastered how to brand ourselves as better than we are for that very purpose. Why then, should we not adopt and covet the label of “bad bitch” in its positive connotation?
As you chew on that, I’ll let you know that we ordered Turmeric Dill Fish on “Bun” with watercress, peanuts and fish sauce on rice vermicelli to start, followed up with Notorious P.I.G., a fun and funky way of saying heritage pork shoulder, Asian slaw, kimchi remoulade and greens with sesame vin over jasmine rise.
It was over this food that we noticed our server storm out of the restaurant, hurrying right past our table with her purse slung over her shoulder. We were her only table, but she didn’t stop to ask how we were doing or to say that she would return soon. She just hurried to her white Jeep, threw her purse in and got in after it, cranked up and drove away. She must have quit right there on the spot, because another server came out to ask after us a few minutes later. The girls and I looked at each other and shook our heads, knowingly.
Restaurant life, you know?