Bad-ass Butterfly

Be a bad-ass. Make the world a better place…


“Let’s get Grandma tattooed.” My daughter said.

“Okay.” I said

We didn’t drag Mom to get a tattoo. She went willingly. Would Mom pick a skull and crossbones? A dragon? A stingray?

As I watched Mom’s tattoo take shape, I finally knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, a badass. Really, I’m grown up, way up, but I was never able to pin down just what it was that I wanted to be. A veterinarian?  Wait, no, a marine biologist? An artist?

I ended up stuck in retail, as a retail warrior. Retail warriors were a company’s idea designed to make you feel like a valued part of a team. Money would’ve worked better.

Wanting to be considered a valuable asset, I dressed up as a warrior for the annual Halloween costume contest. I had a shield with a dragon and a real looking plastic fake sword. In case I was mocking the establishment, which I was, my superior asked, “Just who are you supposed to be?”

Without hesitation I answered, “Boudicca, leader of the Iceni who led her Celtic tribe in rebellion against occupying Roman forces in 60 or 61 A.D. Celtic men were okay with a woman ruler, but the Romans weren’t. They took her land, flogged her, and raped her daughters. Boudicca was a badass warrior. Look her up.”

“Okay.” My superior said and walked away. That was either too much information or she knew I wasn’t buying the company’s propaganda. My coworkers voted my costume the winner. I received free product samples and Smarties which made me feel valued. It was one of my proudest moments. Badass had a heady feeling like a beer before lunch.

History was full of badass women. You didn’t hear about most of them. At age sixteen, Sybil Ludington rode nearly forty miles, twice the distance of Paul Revere, to muster her father’s militia. Sybil was the oldest of twelve children. She probably helped wipe noses and changed poopy diapers before that ride and groomed her horse after too. There are those who doubt that she even existed.

Annette Kellermann promoted women’s rights to wear a fitted one-piece bathing suit instead of pantaloons. In 1907, she was arrested for indecency. Society would rather have a woman risk sinking like a rock and drowning than to reveal a little leg.

Fifteen year old Claudette Colvin was handcuffed and arrested for refusing to give up her seat on an Alabama bus, nine months before Rosa Parks. Three strikes were against her. She was a teenager, female, and black, but badassery at its best.

Rachel Carson, a biologist and environmentalist, stood behind her warning about the harmful effects of pesticides despite the threat of lawsuits from the chemical industry. It was suggested that she was a hysterical alarmist and probably a communist because she was physically attractive but unmarried. At that time, communist was a polite way to call a woman a bitch because she was smart and didn’t accept bullshit.

Throughout history, badass women were called troublemakers, mocked, arrested, shamed, or killed. Badass women changed the world. We have freedom, bikinis, can vote, sit where we damn well please, and DDT was banned.

Mom chose a butterfly tattoo. My daughter posted a picture on Face book. Mom’s sister, Mim, went ballistic.

“Relax, it’s henna.” Mom said.

“I was beginning to worry about you.” Mim said.

The tattoo represented not a loss of marbles, but Mom’s independent streak. Many women of Mom’s generation were adherents to societal norms. If something didn’t make sense to Mom, I never watched her nod her head in agreement.

My mom was a badass with a butterfly. Though the henna would fade, stepping into badass would remain with me and her granddaughter. We should all be so lucky to know such a woman.

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