You Say ‘I’m Mouthy’ Like It’s a Bad Thing

Maybe this confession will come as no surprise to you, since I am the loving steward of a midlife reinvention site that has as its tag line, “Quit Your Bitching. Change Your Life.,” but I’ve never been a particularly “sweet” girl.

You know the kind I mean – quiet, demure, content to live in the deep background, smiling pleasantly.

In truth, I used to feel sort of ugly whenever I was in the same room with these women. They seemed so fragile.  So delicate. Around them, I felt like the proverbial bull in the Pretty Girl China Shop. I laughed too loudly. I talked too fast. I was too quick on my feet.

I feared I’d accidentally squish my lovelier sisters with my size 10 feet, or my sassy ass conversational style.

But I don’t feel ugly around the pretty girls anymore.

Because what I know is that the pretty girls suffer, too.

Aging has taught me that everyone hurts. Everyone pretends. Everyone fears. Everyone suffers.

And some of us add to our suffering because we have isolated ourselves in princess castles that have a banner at the front door that screams to the world, “Ain’t nothing bad happening here!”

Whenever I hear that – whenever I hear some mom at a school function or woman at a board meeting or yet another woman at the local coffee klatch deperately going on just a tad too brightly about the awesomeness of her kids, her spouse, her this or her that, the first thing I think is, “hmmmm. Really?”

And then I look more closely at what her eyes are saying.

Much of the time, her mouth is saying one thing, but her eyes…?

Well, often (not always, but often enough) her eyes are saying, “I don’t really mean any of this.” Or, “even if I do mean this, even if what I’m saying to you right now is actually true, it’s not the TRUEST TRUTH.

The truest truth is . . .

… I’m lonely in my marriage.

… My other kid is in rehab.

… I’m worried about my parents.

… We’re spending too much money and we can’t afford this charade anymore.

… Really, truly – is THIS all there is?

Oh, beautiful lovely you, I’m so sorry you’ve trapped yourself in this image thing — won’t you just let your guard down a little bit?


I no longer fret that I wasn’t the “delicate” type of girl. They were so damn popular, and all.

But you see, I couldn’t be delicate, because I was really really sad. And I was really really afraid.  For a really, really long time.

But I looked good on paper.  I got all the right grades.  Scholarship, best job EVER!!

But then, the absolute worst thing that can happen happened.

And one day, twenty years ago, I held my newborn daughter while she died.

And – I found my ROAR.

Well, that’s not quite right. I KNEW my roar before. I just never expressed it OUT LOUD.

But, I’ll tell you something – there’s nothing like a HEAPING pile of NOT FLUCKING FAIR to get a woman all up in her roar.

And I ROARED!!!!

A lot.

Like, I concentrated thirty years of not flucking fair silence, tacit approval, “ain’t nothing to see here banner waving” into the biggest, longest, unbroken sustained roar you can imagine.

I roared about my loss.  I roared about ALL my losses.

I roared LONG PAST the socially acceptable period for roaring.  And THEN I roared because there’s some dumb ass socially acceptable rule for how long you get to roar when your baby has died (It’s three weeks, by the way.  I know.  Utter.  Bullshit.)

I roared for all the roars I was not allowed to roar before.  And THEN, I roared for your sorrows, for every unfair thing that ever happened to any woman or girl who ever lived on the face of the planet.

These were my proxy roars.  You didn’t ask me to express them for you.  But I did.  I hope you don’t mind too much.  I didn’t know that your own roars were your own business.

At first, I didn’t know how to roar in a way that helped myself.  You see, I had found my new superpower, but I didn’t know how to use it rightly.

But here’s the thing, Sweet Cheeks, you can’t expect to use your new roar correctly the first time you take it out of the box. You’re gonna mess up. You’re gonna step on toes. Sometimes, you’re even gonna make an ass out of your fresh new bad self.

But ROAR anyway. Because you will find your way. And you will find out how to use your beautiful roar in a way that exalts and protects what matters most to you without trampling on the spirit of others.

The only way out is through, love.

That was REALLY important, love, so I’m gonna say it again.

The ONLY way out is through.

Let me hear you shout it.

And when you have to, when you feel it spilling up and through, — Roar, baby roar.

Soon enough, love, we’ll learn how to temper that roar with kindness and compassion.  Baby steps love.  It’s all coming.

Love, Jen

Flickr, greg westfall

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49 Responses to You Say ‘I’m Mouthy’ Like It’s a Bad Thing

  1. Lynne Spreen says:

    Oh, man. I know you lost your daughter but it hits harder, different times I read your column. I am sorry, again, for your incredible loss.

    One of the better things a person can say about being over fifty: you feel entitled to roar. (Loved your description of your own evolution by the way.) How many times have you heard an older person say, “I’m too old to put up with that shit anymore.” If a person needs an excuse to roar, age is a good one.

    Good work.

    • Jennifer says:

      Indeed. It’s so funny, Lynne, when I write about Grace these days. I forget that my audience is new to the information, so it feels like you suffer more about it than I do. MOST of the time now, I don’t have that really awful sorrow anymore. I feel healed about it. And, when I see that it hurts people to read about it, it makes me think maybe I shouldn’t reference it.

      But then I go ahead and write about it. Because there was so much HUGE learning in all of that, and I want that part to be the “of service” part.

      I wish I could take the sting out of it for my readers, though.


      • Caron says:

        I know what you mean, Jennifer. There isn’t much of a sting talking about my daughter’s death anymore. It has become something that is a part of me and I can speak of it in a matter-of-fact way. Her death has been and still is a catalyst for so much of my learning process. Profound loss has a way of kick-starting us into action and making us see our own potential. It definitely has a way of making us roar. I’m finding that my roar is more coherent these days 17 years later.

        • Jennifer says:

          Right. But it was sloppy at first, right? Because that’s one of the fears I see women having, they want to roar perfectly.

          Ha, as if there is such a thing.

      • patti pike says:

        My dear don’t take the sting out of it because every time I get stung it forces me to go through my own losses of my children and stop trying to go around it. It makes me cry and roar and get my but moving again. I get looked at oddly when I mention my daughter or son who passed, like they are saying aren’t you over that yet! No dam it I’m not and many more women like me are not. You talking about it kind of gives some of the rest of us the permission I guess to ROAR. So don’t stop talking you are an inspiration.

      • Orfhlaith says:

        Jen, I read your post and think how much it echoes my own life: almost 50, alcoholic mother, lost childhood, dead son – 20 years ago this year, divorce, financial instability, etc., etc., etc. While my son’s death still hurts, it is not the searing all encompassing pain it was 20 years ago. I don’t suffer the numbness, the inability to function, the life-in-a-daze that I went through so long ago, but it still counts, it is part of my genetic make-up and always will be. I have an older daughter; her existence saved my life, and a younger son whose existence gave me a reason to fight. He was born with a disability and fight I did, and it was completely worth it as he is off to college this fall with his whole life ahead of him. Keep writing about Grace, she is and always will be a huge part of who you are. I love your “Grace” posts.

  2. “The only way out is through, love.” I needed this reminder. We all need this reminder, from someone who’s made it through…

    We are so kindred, beautiful, sassy-ass Ms. Boykin. I’ve grown to depend on, expect, and need your epic ROOWWWWOOOARRRR in my life. Thank you for consistently demonstrating that example. On blast.

    Relentlessly. Fearlessly.

    Your signal grows more clear, more unwavering and certainly more unapologetic.

    How lucky are all these other Power Women (and me, Krissy) for your beacon in our lives.

    You’re the single drop of of Dawn detergent in this greasy ass pan we call Life.

    Much love to you, and I’ll see you in nearly 48 hours.


    • Jennifer says:

      You have given me the sound bite of the century: “You’re the single drop of of Dawn detergent in this greasy ass pan we call Life.”

      I swear you can do anything! Can’t wait to see you brother.

  3. Jane London says:

    This is such a great post for a couple of reasons. First off the content; I’ve always been the mouthy one who says what many of my sister friends are afraid to say out loud. I’m the first to call bullshit on myself and others, which is so, not “feminine”. It reminds me of the overly cheery, fabulous Christmas letters that I get from various female friends and family members, outlining their kids/husbands accomplishments or the exotic vacations or advanced degrees earned over the past year. Meanwhile, I know their marriage is failing, one kid hasn’t spoken to them for 2 years, etc.
    Secondly, I so appreciate the straightforward tone of the post. Honest, strong, straightforward, raw. No attempt at whimsy or cuteness. Powerful, Jen.

  4. This bond to the sisterhood is so primally, deeply ingrained. Thanks, Jen, for your story, your authenticity, your passion, your honesty and for roaring for us all. Above all else, thanks for sharing your story.

    I have walked a similar path…of not being content to live “in the deep background, ” of speaking my mind authentically, of the loss of a child, of unleashing the roar (still roaring about a corporate beating that lasted 5 years). It is reassuring to know I have sisters. Thank you for being one of them.

  5. Laura says:

    It is just as hard to be in sorrow over a child whose life has been ruined by drugs and alcohol. He’s not dead, yet. But in a way he is. I have grieved, I still grieve and I wish I could roar — but he’s still alive and there is a smidgen of a chance that he could get better.
    I want to ROAR about the damage that drugs and alcohol do to families. I want to rrrooooaaarrr about the ongoing sadness of a life taken over by drugs. Sometimes, I’m not sure how to be with this sadness. Lately I think that I want not contact – it’s too painful. Any thoughts Jen?

    • Jennifer says:

      Trust your beautiful heart. I am so sorry for your sadness. I will walk beside you while you walk this path. I will wipe your tears and try to make you smile. I will make you tea and go get pedicures with you. I will make you supper and listen to you pour your heart out.

      But what we want is for the pain to end. So, we learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

      And, ultimately, some things just really, really suck. And there ain’t no spin for that.


    • patti pike says:

      Laura: Reading your post was like reading my own words. Two of my children have taken that road of drugs and drinking. One much deeper then the other. You ‘re right it hurts, a lot, and sometimes not knowing what’s going on seems a better option. I don’t know your situation but I do no the pain of losing your children to drugs. There is always hope believe it or not. I have no words on how to get through it all but to roar as load as I can at it’s unfairness, at it’s cruelty for taking my children from me. Remember as our children have made choices so must we to keep going. Take care of yourself.

  6. Sherry says:

    I. so. get. this.

    I was dealing with life’s heartaches pretty well. Loose a house, a business, a job, all my pennies, a part of my right breast, and a sisterhood of friends. Then a friend betrayed me, and then my parents. And those were just the major events.

    I was doing pretty good keeping my chin up and trying to take in the Pollyanna well-wishes and happy “it’s all gonna be fine”-ness my friends tossed my way. Trying to be a good girl that my friends needed me to be.

    Then one day the pile of flucking (love that) unfairness hit me and I broke. Deeply and badly. And when I finally came off the ground I started to roar. Ohhhh I know that roar. It was big and massive and out-of-control. And I totally messed up. And you are so SPOT ON, over time–because of Love, I learned how to refine and use my roar right. And it’s all good too, because I learned who I can trust, and what friends to go to when my roar is starting to get wonky. (funny those are the friends that had a roar break too – a real one – like mine).

    Oh Jen, you spoke my heart today. For that – thank you so much. It’s good to know there is a tribe of us rowdy roarers out there. Thank you. It feels good to not be alone. It feels good to be validated. Thank you.

    • Jennifer says:

      Oh, wow, beautiful Sherry. I am SOOO sorry for your suffering. And I can hear you ROARing all the way here in Virginia. Next full moon, let’s go outside together, whereever we are, and howl at the moon together.


  7. Gail Fulkerson says:

    You hit me right between the emotional lookers with this post. What an encouraging, supportive message for all of us to step fearlessly into our own power and speak our own truth.

  8. Sandy Morris says:

    Jen, the first thing that hit me about this post was your remarks about being a “bull in a pretty girl china shop”! and “Squishing them with my size 10 feet”. You have described me to a ‘T’ there! I come from a family of sweet little ‘pretty girls’, at least on the outside, and yes, you are right, that roar is still in there! I was never little or pretty or girly, and I DO have size 10 feet. And I’m tall and pretty big. But while the other pretty girls are trying to figure out how to get the messy work done without breaking a nail or getting their white pants dirty, I just get in there and fling the chicken poop around and get the coop cleaned. I had 20 years of unfair and ugly and crap-slinging with an abusive husband while raising 2 babies and I don’t have the time or patience for being ‘girly’. I learned how to roar a long time ago in self defense and have since tried to temper it so as not to get spit bubbles on innocent people when they didn’t do anything. But we all know that roaring is messy and that sometimes people get in the way. All we can do is apologize and move on! Thank you for being your lovely self, Jen! BTW, you are gorgeous! I would have never guessed you had size 10’s! Rock on, Babe!

    • Jennifer says:

      Thank you, Sandy. We all have big feet over here. I have one teenager with a men’s size 15 and the younger one is a size 14. Even my baby — who is only in the 6th grade — wears a size 8!!

      And here was my fav part of your share: “have since tried to temper it so as not to get spit bubbles on innocent people when they didn’t do anything”

      Can I use your “spit bubble” thing? Ha loved it!!! J

      • Sandy Morris says:

        Of course, you can use it, Jen! I’m flattered! Yes, in my family we all belong in parts to the Bigfoot Tribe, the No-Ass Tribe, the Big Mouth Tribe, and the Big-Ass-Kid Tribe! My sons are 6’6″ and 6’7″ and have big feet, no ass, a big mouth, and are HUGE! Hahaha! Just like their Mama! I say you have to laugh to keep from cryin’, right? Keep on rockin’ it and watch yer’ spit bubbles! Love you!

  9. Holly says:

    So sorry to hear about your daughter.. I am going to say that most of us don’t get that hard a hit when we need to ‘wake up’ and roar. Many of us dont’ ‘see or hear’ that wake up call! So glad you had your call ( so so sorry to hear it was such a blow). Now that you have found your roar, there are so many people out there who are going to love what you have to share.. and so many who need it.. Perhaps you will be the catalyst in their ‘waking up!’ What a great post!! I can relate to what you have said, I don’t think that we need to be as sugary sweet and nice as we have been expected to be. Being the real ‘me’ is more fun!

  10. This post gave me goosebumps! Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this! I can relate in so many ways, but so differently at the same time.

    I’m going through some changes in my life right now–some of them bittersweet–and “finding my roar” is such a good way to put it. That’s what I’m doing! I’m on a RoarQuest!

    ::hugs:: for the loss of your little one. I can’t even imagine…

  11. Hi Jen,

    You hit home again, as usual.

    I had to LOL because you reminded me of the moms with grown kids who say something like “I raised 4 boys and they never gave me a moment’s trouble.” Give me a flucking break! Were those boys in a coma for 18 years or what?!

    My mother and other adults around me did their best to keep me tame and restrict my talk and writing to only the socially acceptable topics and expressions. They were successful too, for the most part.

    Fortunately for me, as I crossed the 45 year mark I began to roar. It was unfortunate for those who thought they knew me. Some got left behind in the wake, including my husband.

    You’re so right about the awkwardness in using our roar, at first. But it must be used nonetheless. There are some for whom we’ll always be too loud or too brash when we’re being authentic. Oh well.

    You are absolutely right that the only way out is through, and boy does it feel good. No biting my tongue or apologizing for speaking my truth.

    Decades ago a keynote speaker at a woman’s conference urged us to “Say yes to yourself and no to others.” That was the turning point in my life.
    Now only has it empowered me, but attracted other like-minded, smart, strong and beautiful women (like you) to me to affirm and uplift.

    Thank you, Miss Mouthy. It’s a good thing!

  12. Never, never, never, stop writing about Grace… she always gives the right amount of perspective to every piece you write. Thank you again for your beautiful words and inspiration.

    Also, on a personal note, I thought that “flucking” was very professional in place of the alternative, lol!

  13. You’ve roared yourself into healing. Love the visual. And yes, it is sloppy. So be it. Life can be so very sloppy. These are authentic responses to horribly unfair circumstances. I love this quote by Vikto Frankl – ” An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”
    I love your ‘real’ gut-level writing.

  14. Shauna says:

    as always, I love your writing. but really…the title of this post…epic.

    perhaps I will tattoo it on my forehead 😉

  15. Tania says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your loss…hugs to you and I’m roaring right now on your behalf. I don’t know the exact reason things changed for me but I was incredibly meek and at some point in my life I decided I was going to roar even if it was on behalf of someone else, not just for me. Since then I’ve righted wrongs and if I don’t get my way, it’s ok, at least I said my piece. I didn’t realize until my 40s that some of my most beautiful, elegant, seems to have it all together friends feel the pain @ insecurity too. It was an eye opener for me. Getting older and for many of us, divorce, knocked down all those perfectly maintained picket fences down and honesty spilled out. Great post and great blog…

    • Jennifer says:

      I love the knocked down picket fences with honesty spilling out, part. Gorgeous!!!!!! Thank you for taking a moment to connect.

  16. Jen,

    Wow!! Thank you!

    Still working on the kind and compassion because of love…Yet, I am back to knowing that, “I am Woman Hear me Roar!”

    • Jennifer says:

      I’ve found that learning the Nuanced Roar is a process. It’s sort of like hot sauce. You only need a little bit.

  17. Kate says:

    I too had the “good girl” training. I am one of those elegant, polished Pretty Girls. I didn’t notice until my late 30s, and started working on it as I approached the big 4-0. Like others say, my husband got left behind in the slipstream – he couldn’t see my need to be who I really was, and he actively tried to keep me in the Tidy Drawer. The process of getting divorced has rendered me broke (how much do you have to pay the lawyer before they get the job done?), exhausted and desperate – and I still haven’t discovered how to roar. I howl in pain, and sometimes I step up and speak my truth, but boy is it timid still. This post, and all the amazing women commenting on it, is inspiring. It’s time to find my ROAR.

    • Jennifer says:

      Oh, KATE, i am SOOO glad you wrote in. I’m sooo glad you’re hear with us. I salute your bravery. Your beautiful surprising roar. Jen

  18. I’m really blown away by all the comments here. There is so much that so many of you have gone through in your lives. By all of you sharing your experiences in life, it is a great reminder to really appreciate the good things that are in my life and not to be so petty about the small insignificant things that I think are such a big deal. Obviously, I really don’t know what a big deal is. I really commend you Jennifer for keeping a spot open on the world wide web where I can acutally learn something.

    • Jennifer says:

      Thank you, Anne. We have an AMAZING group of women here at LAT. We learn from each other. Tomorrow, it will be your turn to remind us to be grateful, okay?

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  20. oms1211 says:

    I cried when I first read your article. I cried because I felt like something was wrong with me. Your article made me feel like it was okay and relative to how I have been feeling lately.

    I too was that girl/woman who wanted to please. Always so quiet and demure……hid in the background. I always wanted to do the “right” things.

    For the past 2 ½ – 3 yrs I’ve been separated and divorced from my husband of 10 yrs who tried to sleep with my 18 year old daughter who he helped raised (she’s 22 now). I really loved my husband and we had our ups and downs but I thought we had a great life.

    After our separation, I went into this destructive lifestyle; mad at the world, and started tearing myself down with reckless behaviors. However, for the past 7 months, I have let go of so many relationships that no longer serve who I am now. For me, that was really scary because I’m the type of person who hold on……to everything……… and everyone…..tightly. I stick around for the long haul no matter what.

    Some of these people have been in my life almost all my life and it hurt me to the core. Some people I met along the way and thought it would be forever, but realized the dynamics of our relationship was all in my head.

    So this summer, I spent most of my time alone, hurting, lost and confused. Recently, this new thing has come up inside me. Now, I feel like I’m this mean person who has all these mean thoughts and negative feelings about people and things that I usually tolerate. Now I’ve seem to have lost my patience with just about everything and everyone. Things fall out of my mouth that I would have NEVER thought of saying. Thoughts are in my mind that I would NEVER think of people and all I want to do is just be rid of it, them, whoever or whatever without a care.

    My Tolerance level is on ZERO. This can’t be good? But I know one thing. Things that use to please me, or sit well with me, no longer do. People I use to like, feels like I don’t anymore. Everything seems so different……….especially me.

    I will be 40 this year and I’m not sure if this is normal or am I going thru a mid-life crisis (menopause) a little early.

    Thank you again.

    • Jennifer says:

      Sounds to be like you’re growing. And very, very brave. I’m sorry for your loss, for the pain that has brought you. And I also celebrate your courage, because it is leading you to truer and greater things. I’m so happy you are with us, love. Jen

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