I had an interesting conversation the other day; at my kids’ school, there’s a fair every spring, and each family is expected to work at the booth for their kids’ class for an hour. The room parent assigns two families to every hour, then emails a schedule out to the parents in case anyone needs to switch. In my son’s first grade class, there are twenty-four kids, but only sixteen slots to work at the booth.
When I got the fair staffing email, however, I was surprised to find that I hadn’t been assigned any time to work. I say I was surprised because I’m a pretty involved parent in the school; I chair committees, I’ve been a room parent, and I’m a generally active member of the Parent’s Association. If I were staffing a booth, I would want to staff it with people who I knew were responsible and likely to show up at their assigned hour. To put it another way, I would want to staff it with someone like me. In my son’s grade, however, we have a lot of rookie parents. Meaning, I’m one of only seven or eight parents who has an older child in the school. So I thought that maybe they didn’t staff me because they assumed I’d be busy with my daughter’s booth or something, and they were trying to do me a favor.
Nonetheless, while I was at the kids’ school the other day, I mentioned to a friend of mine who also has older kids that I thought it was weird that I hadn’t been staffed for the fair booth, and she kind of raised one eyebrow and gave me a duh sort of a look. “Of course they didn’t staff you for the fair,” she said. “They’re all scared of you.”
I thought about this for a minute, and I realized that she was totally right. I am scary. Responsibleness aside, if I were a rookie parent who didn’t know me very well, I probably wouldn’t have staffed me either. But it did start a conversation, which by this time five or six other moms had joined in on also. What does it mean to be scary? Are scary and bitchy the same thing? Why are some people scary while other people aren’t?
The first thing we did was go around the group and decide who was scary. There was zero disagreement on this, except from some of the scary people who had no idea they were scary, which I thought was really kind of funny. I mean, one of the moms I have always been the most scared of was totally shocked to find that we all thought she was down right terrifying. But otherwise, the scary girls were really easy to identify, and the non-scaries were even easier. We defined scary as someone who’s not afraid to tell you what they really think and isn’t afraid to say no. For example, if someone came to me and asked me to chair the fair committee next year – which is more or less a full time job – I would have no problem telling them that I’m so sorry, but I really have absolutely no interest whatsoever and I’m sure they could find someone else who hasn’t already volunteered in so many other capacities. A non-scary, however, would just say yes. Which is exactly why they’re not scary. Because if you know someone’s not going to turn you down, then there’s no risk in asking them to do something. I have no hard data to back this up, but my guess is that non-scaries probably go on a lot of bad dates.
But the bigger question, for me anyway, is whether being scary is the same thing as being bitchy. Because I’ll own being scary. But I don’t think of myself as a bitch, and it would upset me if other people thought of me that way. We decided, however, that the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Scary says no to things, but with a smile and an apology. Bitchy just shoots you down then talks smack about you when you leave.
I told everyone flat out; I like being scary. Being scary means that I rarely get pulled into drama, and I rarely do things that I really don’t want to do. At the end of the conversation, my friend, who’s a non-scary, and who actually did chair the fair last year, admitted that she wished she were a little bit scarier. Well, come on, I told her. There’s still plenty of room on the dark side. We’ll have a welcome party for you and everything. Just don’t ask anyone to organize it.