The Problem with Good

The problem with good things and good times is that well, they’re good. And it’s hard to talk too much about good times, good memories, good luck–good stuff–without sounding like you’re bragging or all high on yourself.

Now if you’re a guy, you can get away with good talk easier than a chick. Because guys start talking trash at two. ‘My truck better.’ ‘My blocks higher.’ And so on. And lest you think I’m just blatantly sexist, there are reams of studies on gender and linguistics, my favorite being Gender and Discourse by Deborah Tannen. This book is amazing and saved me from the funny farm more than once because it states truths that lots of people either don’t know, or won’t admit.

Such as? Men–boys, guys–form different relationships with each other, and the world, than girls do. The male world is one of power and/or performance and boys/men often establish themselves, and dominance, as though they were on a totem pole. No boy wants to be at the bottom of the totem pole. In fact, its perfectly acceptable–even encouraged–to want to be on top of the pole, hence little boys bragging, ‘I can run faster, I can swim farther, etc.’

The bragging is a statement of power. Of right.

And girls? Well, girls are expected to share intimate details of their lives, keep secrets and make nice.

But little girls and women aren’t always nice, and some of us girls actually want to be climbing a totem pole instead of playing ring around the rosie.

Wait, you say. That’s ludicrous. Women don’t hold hands and sing songs and keep each other tied to the other.

Or do they?

Because I got to tell you, I honestly think we women have been raised not to run fastest and swim furthest but to keep others happy. To help everyone get along. To not draw too much attention to one’s self….at least not overtly…and to essentially function like the Japanese business model. No one woman is higher than another. No one woman is better than another. We’re all equals and we’re all wonderful and we’re all happy and good.

I’m hoping you’re shaking your head and jabbing your finger at the computer screen saying, ‘You’re wrong, bitch. You’re wrong.’ I’d very much like to be wrong. And maybe in some wonderful chick lit novels I am, and in sci-fi fiction I am, and in some parts of the globe in some little city apartments and condos there is a different world than the one I observe, but I know what I see, and I know what I hear and I know what I’ve experienced.

So here are my favorite non-fiction books for those girls who are frustrated with being good, or for women who want to be so unpc as to long to climb to the top of the totem pole and fold your arms and feel smug about being smart, and strong, and together, and…happy.

1. Gender and Discourse by Deborah Tannen – a book about linguistics but it changed the way I wrote dialogue AND looked at the male/female world.

2. In The Company of Women – mentioned last week or so in my blog and sometimes this book totally pissed me off (it suggests we level the playing field with other women by not appearing too smart, and too strong, and too together…) but also fascinating in its look at women’s relationships, positive as well as negative.

3. Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget by Marianne Legato – asserts that men and women are different in every cell of our being, but with the biggest difference in our brains. It’s a biological take on Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus but again, reminds me that men and women aren’t two dolls with different genitalia. We are different, we should be different, but we can learn from each other and take away the best aspects of the other, and not the worst.

4. Why Men Love Bitches by Sherry Argov – Okay, this is more self-helpy than the others on the list and while its directed at empowering women and teaching them to hold their own in a relationship I think its also necessary to teach some eternally optimistic good girls that by giving too much, and being there too often, they simply end up giving themselves away. I love the ballsy title but I love even more the theme that women should be treated well by men….not just some of the time, but all the time. And it took me oh, only 40 years to learn that one.

5. And a tie for 5th place….Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead but Gutsy Girls Do and Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office. Don’t you just love all the nice girl good girl titles? Which begs me to ask, why don’t we have a proliferation of titles that read Why Good Guys Don’t Get Ahead but Gutsy Guys Do, or Nice Boys Don’t Get The Corner Office? And I’ll tell you why: because boys aka men know how to get the corner office. And men know how to get ahead. So why don’t women? Is it possibly because we’re still trying to figure out how to get along?


So here’s what I propose—we just go for it. We take the risk. Go for the brass ring. Break the glass ceiling. Confront whatever fears and doing so, the good girl becomes a great woman.

Because that’s what I want to be. Not nice, not good. Great. As in, a Great Bad Woman. As in, a great Bad Woman Living a Fantastic Life AND not afraid to talk about it.

Maybe that’s the point I’m slow to make. When things are good, we women shouldn’t have to apologize. Or shrug something great off like it was a fluke, or it landed in our laps. We shouldn’t have to be afraid of being seen as strong or successful.

When things are good, we should enjoy it.

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