When I was in second grade, I came home from school and my Mother sat me down to have a chat. This was never a good sign. She started, “Young lady, someone told me that you are very bossy and make all the girls do whatever you want to do. Is that true?“
Whenever my Mother began a sentence with “young lady”, I knew the conversation was not going to be pleasant. Young lady was NOT given as a sweet, mild compliment. Au contraire.
Of course, I asked, “Who told you that”? I knew it wasn’t one of my teachers, because frankly I was always “teacher’s pet”. My Mother responded, “It doesn’t matter who told me, I want to know if it is true. Are you bossy?”
I answered truthfully & emphatically, “No, I am not bossy.” I continued, “I ask all my friends what they want to do. No one seems to have any ideas. So, then I just tell them what we’re going to do. If someone had a better idea, then we’d do something different –but not one of my friends ever has any good ideas .”
Did you catch “any good ideas”? In retrospect, I wonder if that was entirely true. Did I simply ignore my friends’ ideas? Or did they know that I was going to make the decision anyway -so why bother suggesting anything at all?
My Mother then told me that I was acting very bossy. Further, that was not how I was being raised. She continued that I was supposed to listen to everyone’s ideas and suggestions.
Obviously, my Mother wasn’t listening to me I said –no one had any good suggestions.
Finally, she informed me that I was not be bossy any longer. Suffice it to say, I paid absolutely no attention to Mother’s advice.
How could I stop being bossy if I didn’t think I was bossy in the first place?
Years later, I learned that it was my older cousin who told my Mother I was bossy. Of course, it is the same cousin who worked at UndercoverWear for 25+ years and in fact, I was her boss. She was well paid and because of the many incentive trips that UndercoverWear offered to our sales force, she & her husband traveled around the world. So, I guess she should thank me for being “bossy.”
Several years ago, a group of very successful women initiated the Ban Bossy movement. Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook, the Girl Scouts, Beyoncé, Jennifer Garner, Condoleezza Rice, Jane Lynch, Marlo Thomas, and Diane Von Furstenberg have all joined. They strongly believe that young women who are called bossy–back off–and this is one of the reasons there are not more women in high corporate positions. While I understand their theory, I really don’t agree. If a woman backs off after being called bossy, she probably doesn’t have what it takes to compete and succeed in the business world.
I know firsthand what it’s like to be in a “man’s world”. When I started UndercoverWear, the Direct Selling Association was “the old boys” establishment despite the fact that Mary Kay and Mary Crowley (Home Interiors) were incredibly successful.
Further, even though I actually created UCW, my husband Walter got MUCH more respect from bankers, lawyers etc. Often times, I was completely ignored. When I first met one of the “social” women of Hawaii and she asked, “So what does your husband do? I answered, “We own a lingerie company”
With every bit of disdain, you could muster up, she answered, “You mean you actually WORK???”
That sent me into therapy for a couple of years.
Because of all my personal controversy, I recently asked Joyce, my best friend from first grade and throughout grammar school, the question. “So, tell me honestly, was I bossy? Here is her response: You never came across as bossy to me. You were confident and assertive, and in those days, little girls like that were labeled “bossy”.
Clearly Joyce was always the sweet diplomatic one in our group and still is!
Once again, I am not offended by being called bossy.
Just as we don’t let any one event define us –no one word should either. So, bring on the BOSSY!