Tina Fey is a remarkable woman. She’s strong. She’s impassioned. She’s indignantly proud. I can’t imagine how challenging it must have been for her to have risen to the upper echelons of stardom as a woman committed to remaining patently herself.
Ms. Fey’s Bossypants showed me the person I expected to see. Fey was nerdy, neurotic, passionate and very identifiable. It was great fun to buzz past Fey’s childhood days, revisiting the places of Mean Girls past, and getting the behind-the-scenes scoop on what it was like to meet Sarah Palin. I breezed through the whole gosh darned book in a couple of weeks (and that’s cruisin’ for me — I’m usually a two-pages-per-night kinda girl.)
I hope to one day be as forthright with my beliefs as Ms. Fey is. You start to get the picture from page one. Fey has a scar on her face, and thinks you’re weak if you ask her about it. She was born with dark hair, and is moderately resentful of blondes (which, ouch, but whatever). Her dad was a strong man and she grew up being besties with the theater camp kids, just as we’d all expected. Behind her overt opinions, lies an author, who is confidently inviting us to reach into her psyche and see her strengths and flaws. I admire her courage, in putting it all out there with a hefty dose of humor. It’s easy to post a flattering photo on Facebook, but how many of us would be willing to air our dirty laundry and poke fun at ourselves along the way? Take it or leave it — this is me, states Fey, challenging the world to disagree.
But see, I can’t do that. And if the point of Bossy Pants is to find your own roar, then, Ms. Fey, I have to say, I’m kinda like you, but I’m also not really like you at all.
My biggest strength/weakness is that I will never be a “bossypants.” (Okay, family members – please try to refrain from viewing an old home movie with a 4-year-old “Gem” bossing her back-up guitarist/toddler brother around. That may be deemed an exception.) Ahem.
Let me clarify — I will never be a “bossypants” in the real-life, grown-up world. I’d rather keep my head down and incite positive change from the ground up. There’s a fascinating book I heard about on NPR called Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I love her argument that those who shy away from recognition aren’t necessarily afraid, and that the more ego-less of us may make better leaders than the bossy ones.
Which leads me to my fictitious TV doppleganger…drum roll please…No? Okay, well it’s none-other-than Parks and Recreation’s Leslie Knope. Call me simple, (or, you know, easily unnerved by confrontation) but I love seeing Amy Poehler play the hopeful, naive, clumsy, sweet-toothed, romantic, hard-working fool that everyone will make office gingerbread houses for.
Leslie doesn’t make brash and selfish decisions to help herself like Liz Lemon during “Milf Island,” for example. Instead, she goes to friends for advice. And even though wrestling a possum to the ground might not have been the most sensible approach to the mayor’s request, Leslie’s team-minded approach shines brighter than Liz’s me-mindedness, and it’s more endearing in the long run.
“The Mind of a Flip-Flopper” gives those of us who admittedly struggle with decision-making a glimmer of hope that we might not be so different from the bossypants of the world after all. Even the most powerful people might genuinely be prone to flip-flopping, according to Maggie Koerth-Baker’s article from this weekend’s New York Times Magazine (and the last free article I got to read before my monthly allotment was up).
It seems we tend to do a sort of Jedi mind trick on ourselves on a pretty regular basis. We can convince ourselves we agree with what we’re saying to appease whatever audience we’re speaking to, even it goes against something we might have previously believed. What’s even weirder is that a lot of times, we don’t realize we used to think any differently. “Our identities, of course, are also stories we tell ourselves about ourselves,” Koerth-Barker wisely reminds us. We tell ourselves we believe in whatever it is we have in our heads at that particular moment.
So I guess my point is, it’s a good thing that I’m a “scaredypants.” At least I acknowledge my own shortcomings and my propensity to be a flip-flopper. And if Ms. Koerth-Baker’s theory is right, perhaps that aversion to egotism makes me a better leader. But more importantly, knowing I have the propensity to be a people-pleaser helps me figure out how to be more comfortable in my own skin. There’s no point in forcing yourself to be someone you’re not, now is there? We might as well acknowledge and embrace our strengths and weaknesses, or, in other words, “unbounce ourselves.” In summation, go read Bossypants, even if you’re not one. And while you’re at it, start celebrating whatever it is that makes you, you.