The Bitch Slap: Filling in the Blanks

jalapeno poppersPeople who take credit for everything piss me off.

You know ’em. If we ever arrive at peace in the Middle East, they’ll have had the idea back in 1981. They also discovered the Rubik’s Cube and were the first to stuff jalapeno peppers with cheese and wrap them in bacon. Christ – everyone knows that I was the first person to do that. But I digress. </snerk>

My best ideas come from people. And sometimes they’re not the best things to think about, but I end up thinking about them nonetheless. So this morning, after scrapping 3 days worth of drafts, I’m thinking about blanks.

How much time do we spend filling in other people’s blanks?

A gal named Jen over on Tea Silvestre’s blog posited in the comments section, “…life is about so much more than filling in someone else’s blanks.”

It occurs to me that it’s really more about wasting time than spending it. We spend on things that pay us back (or at least I like to think that I do). We waste on things that will never pay us back.

So are you spending or are you wasting when you find your time being allocated to someone else’s blanks?

Life’s a MadLib

I’m looking at my life right now as a pile of those nutty MadLib pages. But that’s the thing — this pile? It’s my life. You have your own pile in front of you. That’s your life.

Every moment we spend filling in the blanks on the pages in someone else’s pile is time we steal from ourselves. And if you think about it, you’re stealing something wonderful from someone else in the process.

As friends and communities, we help one another. But we never learn or get the chance to experience anything worthwhile in this life by doing things for others because we assume they can’t do those things for themselves. So why don’t we put our pointy little pens down and look at the pages staring at us in the face — the pile at our feet — and ask: “What’s next for me?”

…instead of telling other people what’s next in their pile.

We’re taking from others and ourselves when we fill in someone else’s blanks. Because y’know what? They’re perfectly capable of filling them in on their own. As our we.

Which Brings Me to Being Offended

Right? The girl who writes a book on being “unpopular” gets offended? Yup. It it had to do with someone I work with professionally telling me something to the effect of, “People will look at you, a woman who speaks her mind, cusses, and is covered with tattoos, and think that you’re fast and loose.”

And it floored me.

What the fuck “fast and loose” or whatever iteration it was? Offended. That was me. And frankly, I still am.

My personal life is just that — personal. It’s rarely shared in any depth and you can’t look at a single social profile of mine and tell whether I’m dating anyone. Because it’s none of anyone’s goddamned business. So if anyone wants to draw a conclusion that I’m fast and loose because I like the word “fuck” and made a conscious decision to be tattooed? Brilliant. You have a lot more time on your hands than I do. And sure, I draw conclusions about people — but I’m getting better at drawing those conclusions based on actions and interactions than merely on my lack of desire to deal with my own shit and instead, focusing on someone else’s.

When’s the last time someone came to a twisted conclusion about you and the way you live your life? Personally, I think it’s precious that people would have enough free time on their hands to contemplate the ways I spend my free time — clothed, naked, or any variation thereof. I have no idea how anyone else spends their hours and there are few people who know how I spend mine. Facebook’s completely distorted how we perceive friendships and our sense of entitlement to information about other people’s lives. So I’ve done what I can do — change how I share information and with whom I share it. And what offends me most about the “fast and loose” assumption? That anyone who isn’t privy to the way I live my life and how I run my business would think that they had any right to judge. But they do. And they will.

So judge! For all that’s holy, just fucking judge already. Because here’s what it does: It makes you spend more time filling in someone else’s blanks when your nose should be on your own. A variation on “mind your own business?” Yup. Sure is. And critics are just as plentiful as assholes. We all have one and have the potential to be one.

Remember that the next time you want to draw a conclusion about anyone. And maybe use that pen you’re drawing with to fill in your own fucking blanks.

“Quit Fucking with My Blanks”

This is a phrase I’ve just added to my lexicon. Because they’re my blanks, not yours, to fuck with. If we spent more time taking people and life at face value instead of wringing our minds through possible scenarios and conclusions, we’d know in short order who and what are worth our time.

So you — yeah, that includes me — quit giving other people permission to fuck with the blanks in your life. And quit fucking with the blanks that don’t belong to you. And to help us all along this path, here’s a quick list of thing that I think might help as we all recover from the recoil from the Bitch Slap:

  • Assuming versus Asking — Got a problem? Question? Assuming has “ass” right in the word for a reason. Save an “s” and ask instead. Uncomfortable? Maybe. Informative? Definitely. And to hell with the people who won’t give us a straight answer. They’re only cheating themselves.
  • Make a List — Start you day by asking what you can do for yourself each day and how each of those things will benefit you. Yeah, I said YOU. Your chances to help others will come — and helping? Not the same as blank-filling. By putting your blanks as a priority, it’s a lot easier to resist the temptation of putting someone else’s blanks in front of yours.
  • Understand Collaboration — It takes two or more to collaborate and when we’re in the fortunate position to have collective blanks to fill because we’re walking a path with someone, things get out of whack when one person is doing all the filling-in. You have your blanks. Your collaborators each have theirs. And you have the task of filling in some blanks together. Sharing isn’t about dominating. Effective collaboration is about equity.

And I Lied a Bit

I wasn’t the first person to think of stuffing jalapenos with cheese and wrapping them in bacon. But think about the blanks that had to be filled in for that to happen:

Unfill the jalapeno

Fill the jalapeno

Make sure the filling can’t escape the jalapeno by using a protective outer coating of bacon.

And people are changing it up all the time. Different cheese, cheese mixtures, types of bacon, baked, fried, broiled, pepper variations…

We continue to fill in our own blanks. In our way. And what’s delicious to one might not be to another.

But that’s what makes life taste so sweet. Or savory. Or whatever you have a hankering for.

So quit trying to make life taste the same for everyone and let’s pay attention to our own piles. Stuff your own peppers. Fill in your own blanks. Focus on helping instead of taking. And those people who think that they always know better than you do and want to claim ownership on every great idea? Fuck ’em, because they’ll always want to spend more time filling in your blanks than their own. Their loss, really.

Because it’s none of anyone’s goddamned business but your own how you fill in those blanks.

You (and I) have been slapped.

25 comments
Erin
Erin

What an introduction to you and your writing! I mean that in a great way. I just listened to your BlogcastFM interview, was totally intrigued to visit your site (fellow popular-only-on-test-days girl, right here) and picked this post as a starting point because I freaking love Mad Libs, and they were in the title. I'll never look at them the same way again and might even love them more for your analogy. I love your angry eloquence. I love the points you made. I will be back in the future to make more coherent and relevant comments but for now I'm just gonna poke around and digest all this!

JasonFonceca
JasonFonceca

Epic, Erika! I love this. Love your attitude, love your ideas, love stuffed, bacon-wrapped jalapenos. I love it all. This is my first time here, and what a great first experience. I'm gonna expand a bit on your "collaboration" point, because I think this is one of the most misunderstood and could use some clarity. I'm a deeply caring, deeply trusting person and I've had more collaborations (failed + successful) than most. From this experience I've created my own collaboration deal-breakers, I find they help with judgment and filtering out blank-fillers :) 1. A clear, shared, strong *vision* where all people know what they bring to the table. 2. Commitment to *progress,* and tracking that through an agreed system. 3. Commitment to *fun*, and to speak up as soon as it's not - aiming at solutions. Rock on and ryze up :D

Mlconnolly
Mlconnolly

yup. what you said.  and said so well.  but that's why you make the big bucks! and it's a great commentary on how we are living our lives as opposed to how we should be living our lives.  consider me bitch slapped!

Killian
Killian

As someone who birthed all three of her kids before her 24th birthday (yes, with the same man, to whom I was married), has tattoos, loves sports, prefers sex with women, is in an open marriage, is permanently disabled, and homeschooled her kids, I wholeheartedly agree with everything you wrote.  I am so absofuckinlutely tired of assclowns judging me as a person by what they see on the outside, without no knowledge of me as a person. No, I was not a slut, yes, I knew how birth control works.  Yes, I'm mostly gay, no I am not in a biker gang, nor do I choose to use recreational pharmaceuticals.  No, I'm still not a slut, yes I know how "marriage vows" work, yes, I've tried physical therapy AND prayer and I will still never walk again by myself.  And last but not least, no I am not a hippie religious freak who locked her kids away in a basement to avoid social contact.  (In fact, my oldest is graduating summa cum laude from UNC Greensboro in a few weeks, at age 20, and was just accepted into her graduate program in applied econometrics.) Thank you from the bottom of my arrhythmic heart.

Brian Watkins
Brian Watkins

Great post as always, Erika! I would even take that a step further from "stop trying to fill in others' blanks" to "stop letting people talk you into filling in their blanks." It's consistent with the "don't let other people abuse your time" points you've made before.

Leon Noone
Leon Noone

G'Day Erika, Mark Twain said, "it's not what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for certain that just aint so."  "Stuff your own peppers" Just love that. But whatever you do, never, ever, ever  allow lemon even on the same plate as fish. And I really, treally  was the first person to say "marketing isn't everything but everything is marketing." And I was always a tad jealous of Oscar Hammerstein 11 for managing to rhyme  "hand which" and "sandwich" in the lyrics of "Life Upon The Wicked Stage." It's quite extraordinary what you can get away with when you specialize. Slap on the fun, Best Wishes Leon

JoeRayCr8iv
JoeRayCr8iv

Thanks for the bitch slap to keep it in perspective. I love the "And critics are just as plentiful as assholes. We all have one and have the potential to be one."

tomRmalcolm
tomRmalcolm

...damn it! All this time wasted waiting for some fast and loose pics of your tattoos in you know...thoooose places. They're just scared little minds afraid of looking inward, they are the antithesis of those great monkey balls of steel! Instead they have bb's of steel...or maybe aluminum...mercury? yea, mercury puddle balls....

AmyS
AmyS

I saw this meme the other day that sums it up for me:  People sometimes ask me, 'What will you do when you're old, with all those tattoos?'    Be fucking fabulous, duh.

MichelleGillies
MichelleGillies

The person you work with professionally obviously hasn't got a clue who you are. I don't know you personally at all... we have never met...but, I can tell you...from what you write, how you present yourself in interviews or in "___casts" you are the last person I would call "fast and loose".  But of course there will always be people like that, "she's fat ... she must be lazy", "he's a drop out...he must be stupid". I hate those blanks. I would like to slap them all upside the head,  but your slap will do. Thanks.

Bill Dorman
Bill Dorman

Kind of appropriate post after our little e-mail exchange this am and one of my co-workers trying to fill in my blanks. I told her Billy was a big boy and didn't need her in my personal shit.  Because I'm wont to do, I will have to talk about myself to relate to your story. Probably boring at times, but it goes down like this: I'm a volunteer Guardian ad Litem; I am the eyes, ears and voice for abused and neglected kids DCF has placed in the system. When I decided to volunteer it was to make a 'difference' on a more personal level. What I wasn't prepared for was what that looked like; picture Walmart on steroids.  My current case is a same-sex, mixed race couple w/ 3 kids who don't know their father (and won't because he is doing 15 yrs hard time). And trust me, this is mild to some I see.  The point of my story is, it has really helped me be much less judgmental. I have to go into each case/situation with a totally open mind. Just because you cuss and spit and have tats, means nothing to me. How you ultimately treat me will be where I determine what type of person you really are, what your value system is. And even then, I will try not to judge your choices. It's your life, certainly not mine.  That's my story for what it's worth; hopefully it had some relevance to your post. Now I need to go out and find a bacon wrapped stuffed jalapeno thingamabob. 

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Wait - you're not fast and loose? Well I've been grossly misinformed...! ;-) People never fail to amaze me with their blanket ignorance, miss - just because I have a large nose, I'm Jewish? Or I'm tight with money because I'm Scottish? Or I have a small dick because I have dainty hands?  Smile at their ignorance, write an awesome fuck you post just like this one, and ask them how their last orgasm was (except they've never had one, because they're too busy wondering about other peoples' sex lives). Asshats.

ANDmountains
ANDmountains

I know that asshole was crude and stupid, but you have to admit that people who look alike tend to act alike. Denying that means you're in denial. I'm not saying it doesn't suck sometimes. I'm a complicated person and it seems insane to me the conclusions people jump to sometimes, but I let it go because I know they're usually right.

Peter
Peter

I know someone who makes comments like the "fast and loose" comment all the time. I count these people among the unfortunate facts of life. Every 10 words contain 5 parts assumption, 3 parts bullshit, and 2 parts douche-bag. It makes me wish these guys would have a fuckin' heart attack. More than four sentences from their pie hole, and I'm queasy. Physically sick. It makes you wanna ask: if assholes like this really knew how full of shit they were and how bad it stunk, would they be terrified to open that hole in the middle of their face?

Tea Silvestre
Tea Silvestre

You had me at "wrap them in bacon." (<-- my nod to Jen) Plus, anytime someone uses a food metaphor to make their point, I'm there. But seriously, Erika - you're only human. You know that as soon as you draw a line in the sand (about embracing your "unpopular" stuff) the universe is going to test you. And it's usually going to be some a-hole that needs a soul-transplant. I'm just glad you had the presence of mind to recognize the test and then share it with all of us. Sweet Baby Lettuce! Thanks for the slappin!

PJ Mullen
PJ Mullen

" someone I work with professionally telling me something to the effect of, “People will look at you, a woman you speaks her mind, cusses, and is covered with tattoos, and think that you’re fast and loose.”" Please tell me you're not doing work for the Santorum campaign? That guy has plenty of blanks he needs to fill in on his own.  Or at least rub one out every now and then to relax. :) Oh yeah, I get the judgy, judgy bullshit all the time.  As a guy who left a career path he hated to stay at home with his kids because his wife had a great job she loved with great benefits and *gasp* a pension I get the whole "did you lose your job?" and "can't find work?" crap all the time.  My favorite is when I hear things about what people say about me behind my back, like I'm a loser because I'm letting my wife support me. Whatever.  All those people can suck it. The sooner we realize that the ways in which people chose to live their lives  that have absolutely no impact on our own are none of our damn business the better off we will be as a society.

Melanie Killingsworth
Melanie Killingsworth

Running around a lot of film/commercial/documentary sets and situations, a lot of people hook up, short-term. Doesn't bother me, but it's not my style. I was told by some friends I was thought to be 'stuck up.' I was honestly blindsided. We all ate together, laughed and joked around, went to the bar afterwards, I just went home alone! 'I mean, you don't have to sleep with them, but . . . ' But be a tease and fake romantic/sexual interest and then not back it up? Or just be a normal part of the workforce but not ante up my lady parts and thus be a stuck-up? Damned if you do, damned if you don't, damned if people think you do or don't. Screw it! (Not them, just it.)  And thanks for the slap. It's good to hear that I shouldn't care what they think (yay, outsider affirmation!) and be reminded I shouldn't assume about anyone else that doesn't have the same 'style' as I in regard to set-relationships. 

Sandi Amorim
Sandi Amorim

New fave phrase, "Stuff your own peppers!" from what could now be my new fave bitch slap!

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