The Bitch Slap: 9 out of 10

bitch slap 9 out of 10Multiple conversations as of late have brought me round to the issue of Person versus Persona. Last night, it was a podcast recording – an interview with a colleague who said, “You sound like the nicest person on the phone – it’s different from the in-your-face brand that’s out there online.”

Of course it is. People buy into extremes. Brands commit, and that’s where RedheadWriting comes from. It’s my alter ego that slinks off to the Bat Cave and gets shithoused at the bar while Alfred’s working on the Bat Mobile. It’s 80% me and 20% titanium balls…a devil-may-care version of a 5’3” redhead who, in all actuality, cares quite a bit about the people in her life. It’s also a defense mechanism – a protective outer coating. The chocolate on my Ding Dong. No one in his right mind would send a Ding Dong to market without that coating. It’d get beat to shit in 3 swings of the lunch box flat.

Enter, The Persona – the protective chocolate coating for public souls worldwide.

So what can Personas do that The Person can’t (or shouldn’t)?

Our brains like to conjure up retort after retort. We talk in the car, in the shower, in front of mirrors and to friends and colleagues about all the things we wish we could say if we had the balls. Enter the 20% of The Persona (remember? Titanium balls). Persona’s got balls covered. So, for every 10 shitty things we think of saying, The Persona says all 10.

The Person is more 9 out of 10. And here’s where we commence slapping.

I’m as guilty as the next person of taking snark one step too far. Ranting. My persona flies off the motherfucking handle like Ari on Entourage. But when it comes to my personal life, which includes every interaction outside of my Persona, I try to err on the side of leaving that one shitty thing left unsaid. Some days I succeed. Others, I fail miserably. But I do try.

And maybe I’m killing whatever illusion you had of my Persona – and that’s okay. Everyone has some level of illusion they conjure to protect them from the world knowing 100% of their shit. When you put yourself out there, you have to hold something back for yourself and the people dear to you. But before you get sideways that there’s a gal behind the curtain making the Big Red Head talk, think about your own Persona for a moment. What do you share? How do you share it? What makes you feel safe? Pot, meet kettle. You do the same thing. And it’s not about not being “authentic” (which I have no fucking idea what that means anyways). It’s about saying – Hey, I’m here, but here’s what you get. This stuff? It’s mine. Why? Because you haven’t earned a place in my life to share those things with me, just like I ain’t coming to your house for Christmas, ‘aight?

Personas can go to item #10 safely. But having been a person that used to always have to have the last word, to win, to conquer…I can say it’s a better life erring more toward the 9s. Having watched every season of Entourage, everyone fell in love with Ari Gold. I’ll say it: he made angry sexy. And he always went to #10. We all wished we had the balls to say what he said, and we cringed/laughed/felt embarrassed every time he long jumped over 9 and took the game-winning (and in many cases, losing) shot.

And it’s also why in the final season, he became human to us. Because we saw a man who stepped out of his Persona and left #10 alone and instead, started to say the things he should have been saying all along and to the people who mattered most.

This entire post was inspired by an email I received last night and couldn’t find the words to respond with until an hour or so ago. Filled with apologies and words I know to be sincere, it was from someone who always went to #10. And I’m here to tell you – #10s hurt. They make you doubt and lose faith in yourself; they make someone else’s issues your responsibility. They quickly turn what could have been love into remorse and take things that you wanted to remember as beautiful and tarnish them. Someone feels like they win. The Person on the receiving end loses. And neither of you are any better off than before #10 flew through the air.

Maybe Meatloaf’s math is better with the whole two out of three thing, yet I know my mind doesn’t work that way. My brain runs at 203MPH from the moment I get up until the moment I can convince myself to go to sleep (and god help me if I wake up in the middle of the night). And the 9 out of 10 rule serves me well.

I don’t argue, if nothing good’s going to come of it (and for all parties involved).

I certainly don’t fight anymore, unless it’s for something that I believe in. Life’s filled with small shit that we can waste our time bickering about or we can save that energy for the big shit (which is where we’ll need the extra energy anyways).

And when #10 flies every now and then, I still feel like shit. Because I remember how it felt when someone hit me with #10.

So, yeah.  I slap myself, having been on the receiving end of some #10s over the past few months. Maybe you know what it feels like. The next time you see The Redhead take it to #10, it’s the Persona talking – the one people say, “Oh, I wish I could say that!” about, when in actuality, you really don’t. Just like Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail – the one time you get the gumption to say what you really, really think (and not in a nice way)… it’s probably about the same time you wish you could eat those words like a bowl of fucking tortilla chips and RoTel queso dip at a Superbowl party.

Having the upper hand? Doesn’t win you anything most times.

Saying that shitty little thing that creeps in? That should leave you feeling shitty after the words are spent.

And sometimes, the most compassionate thing we can do – for others and ourselves – is to find a way to be more Ari in the series finale than Ari first-season.  And if you’ve never seen an episode of Entourage in your life, just go with the 9 out of 10 rule. Some days – the days where you feel less like the guy on the Wheaties box and more like the box – shoot for 3 out of 10. While I promised myself I’d never leave unsaid things I felt needed saying after losing Jason last year, we could all use a lesson on dialing back the snark and turning up the soul.

Or maybe I’m an idiot and that’s just me – if you’ve got this mortal coil all figured out, hats off to ya. I just feel pretty lucky every day where I can go to bed knowing that I did good work, spoke from my convictions and learned something in the process.

Carry on. Smartly.

44 replies
  1. Suzanne Vara
    Suzanne Vara says:


    I love the way you explain the person and the persona. People get a notion of who they perceive you to be and hell if you are not that person. I hover around a 6-8 but man oh man when you push me I hit harder than a 10. Defense mechanism. Dumb but sometimes warranted. Those whose intent is to demean and degrade another shows a weakness and when we are responsive/reactionary, we are feeding their weakness begging them for more. I have lived that for 6 years and now 2500 miles separated from it I get to finally look the other way and not respond.

    You are who you are and we are better people having you here to set us all straight.

    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      Thanks for stopping by this morning, Suzanne. And yup – I know what it feels like to deliver an 11 or 12, too. And not doing that? Gives the person in front of us the deprivation they didn’t expect along with the knowledge that we didn’t do something…and felt better for it. Great seeing you 🙂

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    This is amazing, and it must have taken those titanium balls to have bared your soul this way.  It takes a lot of trust for most of us to lower our defenses, but it takes even more trust – in ourselves and in others – to even acknowledge that we HAVE defenses in the first place.

    Kudos, dear friend. Love you.

  3. anitaashland
    anitaashland says:

    Great post.

    I find that The Person has personas as well. I offer info about myself to another person based on what they can handle, and to protect my mind, so I’m not the same person to all people. Or maybe I just have multiple persona disorder. 😉

    BTW, I’m a first time commenter here and discovered your blog a couple of weeks ago. Before finding your blog I never would have thought I’d seek out bitch slaps, but now I do. 

  4. MegCarpen
    MegCarpen says:

    I can’t tell you how often I’ve been kicked in the rear by that damn #10. I can happily back you up on the thought that the one time you say something outrageous, it will backfire, and everyone involved will come out worse than they started.
    Thanks for the reminder to keep it at 9, which can still get the point across, but without burning bridges.

  5. Shad Boots
    Shad Boots says:

    One of the most famous Person/Persona duality has to be Charles Bukowski and his character Henry Chinaski. To this day, people still confuse the two, but he was almost nothing like that–though, he did have his troubles.

    Also: ice baths help with sleep, apparently. I haven’t been brave enough to try it (though I could be nearing the need to do it). 

  6. Heather McElwain
    Heather McElwain says:

    Great post, Erika. Where can I get me a pair of those titanium balls? I’m on the other end of the spectrum, rarely letting my 8s and 9s roar. I’m pretty much 100% squishy Ding Dong. Either way, you got me thinking about what I put out to the world. Thanks.

  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Love the post.  #10 is more like the Hulk.  It should only come out when you need to be all green, and giant, and Lou Ferigno on someone/something.  Otherwise a 9 is great 🙂

    Also trying to live as #10 gets tiring after a bit.  

  8. Sonia Rumzi
    Sonia Rumzi says:

    As Meg Ryan said in that same movie, I walk away and spend the evening thinking of all the things I could have said. I never have the right words when I need them and maybe that is a blessing. Thank you Erika.

  9. Expat Doctor Mom
    Expat Doctor Mom says:

    I thought the red head writing may have been your “Persona” but I like it whether it is the ding dong cover or not.

    I agree with you on not understanding what does it mean to be authentic!  Seriously!

    At any rate, I have learned through the years to tone things down but instead of the comments it has been the passion.  (My parents are Serbian, like Italians: love hard, fight hard = passionate).  Had to tone that down a bit and I am no longer the fighter much either. 

  10. Erika
    Erika says:


    As usual a great post. Until last year I worked for larger organizations and created corporate personas. Now that I have my own business, the practice of creating a persona is more tricky. Except in some rare examples (Martha Stewart, Inc.) a corporation isn’t a person.  It isn’t like you can walk up to Amazon at a cocktail party and be surprised that its personality differs from its persona.  As a sole proprietor I am learning that I am the brand and I better write in a voice that I can rock at a cocktail party.

    (Another snarky) Erika

  11. Erin Feldman
    Erin Feldman says:

    Great post. I sometimes think about this idea when I look at my own blog. The persona is different from the person. It isn’t that they don’t overlap at times – I think they do – but the persona is a shield, the chocolate coating on the Ding Dong. I’m not quite sure how those two interact with “authenticity.” I’m still myself when the persona is playing her part. Perhaps it’s the fact that the “persona” is an edited version of myself. No less true or authentic but different. The “person” is unedited, unrehearsed, and unpolished.

  12. mark_jordan
    mark_jordan says:

    Great article, Erika. I use the Persona in strategic situations. And sometimes 10 is the way to go. I think that going to 10 shows you’re human as much as being sensitive and sincere. Yin and Yang. The key is to ebb and flow between the two points. As you point out with Ari, getting stuck on 10 is more cool when you also show the other side. I get that from you. Even if it’s not necessarily your brand.

  13. John Heaney
    John Heaney says:

    I now have something new to add to my personal lexicon: the #10. Since humor is frequently funny at someone’s expense, that humorous quip that flashes across your synapses may be riotously funny yet entirely inappropriate and potentially damaging. It’s taken years, but I’ve learned to forego every laugh for the greater good. Most of the time.

  14. Judah
    Judah says:

    Loved this!  Thanks.  Reminded me of a quote I read of Jerry Jones of Cowboys fame recently: “Choose your words carefully.  Make them soft, for you make have to eat them.”

      • Jodi Henderson
        Jodi Henderson says:

        I don’t know a whole lot about Eminem, but describing him as having “humanity in his #10” makes me think I’d like to be like him.

        I’m a big fan of being honest and respect those who have the balls to actually do it. With that said, I don’t agree with being a total bitch about it. I think that being honest with someone should be helpful rather than soul-crushing. It’s a fine line methinks and, hence, the reason it’s an ongoing struggle for me.

        Thanks for another fantabulous post.

  15. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Video killed the radio star; I had a certain mental image of some of my favorite groups at the time and when video came out there was definitely a disconnect. Sometimes I would rather live with the persona…… Ozzie on Reality TV………………..

    You can be right and you can be dead right; pick your battles.

  16. Sdavishb
    Sdavishb says:

    Great post.  If being an a**hole and making people feel diminutive makes someone feel good and mighty, then I feel sorry for them.  No, take that back.  I don’t feel sorry for them.  Makes me glad I’m not them.


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