The bitch is back. Do you really have to be one to get ahead?

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Photo courtesy of Tinker*Tailor

Bitches, like bangs, go in and out of fashion. One season it’s all about The Devil Wears Prada, then the channel flips to Lady Mary on Downton Abbey. Why is it always presented as an either/or? Either you’re a nice girl and everyone tramples on your petticoats, or you’re a bitch but you buy your own condo at 25.

Some people, (because men can be bitches too), naturally lean toward one persona or the other. Like many women, I started out as a nice girl until I got slashed to ribbons. Then I thought, “This sucks”, so I tried being a bitch. Though I definitely improved with practice, it was exhausting. Even more tiring than being reflexively nice. Finding myself between a rock and a hard place, I decided on the Zen approach of “living in the now”: responding naturally to the given circumstance. Now sometimes I’m super nice, and sometimes I’m a super-bitch. Mostly I’m Switzerland—a conservative blend of the two.

Do you have to be a bitch to get-ahead? Of course not.

People who get ahead and typically stay ahead do so because they make it a priority, not necessarily because they’re bitches. On a 4-burner stove, they shut off leisure, friends and family and put career on full-blast. This is usually based on the assumption that they will have time to catch up with the other burners after they’ve made their first trillion and have won the Nobel Prize. If catching the brass ring is job #1, then being a bitch is relatively easy because selfishness is one ingredient—but only one— in the recipe for success.

Some people are able to compartmentalize: bitch in one room; mensch in the other. I once worked for a woman I’ll call Francine because that was her name. She was a real bitch. Ill-mannered, controlling, bullying. She was also quite successful, having risen to a lofty position in a male-dominated company. Perhaps Francine felt that to get ahead she had to out-bitch the male bitches. In a classic case of Dorian Gray-itis, Francine’s skin was the colour of dead leaves and her eyes had as much life as Dick Cheney’s hunting buddy. Maybe Francine is retired now and, having permanently sealed the door marked “Bitch”, is cracking them up on a golf course in Boca Raton. Or maybe her soul has shrivelled to the size of a dried mung bean. Just sayin’.

A word of advice to all the mouseburgers out there, by all means, find your inner bitch and keep her number handy. She will put some steel in your spine when you need it most. You may invite her for the occasional visit, but don’t let her stay for long. And, don’t expect a “thank-you” note or a pot of jam either. She’s got no manners.

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