Where’s YOUR Sass?

When I was small, the worst thing I could do, I was convinced, was to “sass” my mom. At least, that’s what she led me to believe when she got that crazed look in her eye, usually right after she’d taken off her weaver’s apron and started to serve dinner. If I even looked like I disagreed about something, she’d zing, “Don’t you dare sass me!”

Now, of course, I know she was extremely tired after a long day running back and forth in front of six big looms, trying to keep them going so there were no “slubs” in the cloth they were making. (These days, I read that a blouse, say, is made from “slubbed” cotton and I can’t even imagine wearing it. My mother would never!) And then she had to come home and get dinner on the table.

Usually, my older sister and I would have started dinner, baking or frying chicken, cutting up potatoes, pulling a vegetable or two from the bin. But my mother liked to add her own touch, and, I must say, no food I’ve ever had was better than hers. (Different, but not better!) I don’t know what magic she used, but everything tasted better when she was done. And we were never entrusted with the making of biscuits. We had biscuits at every meal, unless she served beans, in which case there was cornbread, which I could make before I was 10.

Looking back now, I wish I had been taught, made, induced to sass. I wish my mom had been Dorothy Parker in all her vicious eloquence. Knowing how to talk back to a grabby boss, how to curse rude strangers on the street, how to get that sprawling teenager out of the bus seat so I could sit down, would have been handier than knowing how to make guests comfortable in my home. (You can get your own linens, right? There’s nothing wrong with your feet.) As it was, I had to learn it on my own, or, rather, my NOW (National Organization for Women) sisters taught me. But that’s a story for another day.

This weekend, I went for the very first time to a pro-choice demonstration in my hometown, the Southern city I left when I was eighteen years old. Sass was there in abundance, loud and very defiant. That is how we have to be now, not just about abortion rights, but also about white nationalism and the insane number of weapons on our streets. I never wanted to tolerate any of that, and I have a feeling other people are reaching their boiling point, too. I hope you are one of this mighty, furious majority. Kindness will not cut it with people who think their right to own an assault weapon is more important than our right to buy groceries or attend church in peace. Or with the people who think their religious beliefs should dictate how you handle your body, or with the folks who fear being a minority so much because they know how minorities are treated in this country.

Be loud. Be incensed. Be effective.

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4 Comments

  1. Linda

     /  May 17, 2022

    Thank you for this brilliant gem. Love live sass!

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  2. Thanks, Linda! Could you like it, too, with the button, please? Pretty please?

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  3. Big Sis Bobbi

     /  May 17, 2022

    You SAID it, Li’l Sis!
    Any suggestions for shedding this genteel manner we were raised with? Somewhere between dodging my mother’s steely gaze and watching all three of my kids shrug in feigned ignorance when I tried to demand a confession of who trimmed the cat’s ruff, I realized I never had any sass. The rest of my life I’ve been envying it in others ( BTW: I believe you have lots more than me!). My daughter is most like me, but I enjoy two daughters-in-law who are unabashedly outspoken and two granddaughters who surpass even them. I think it’s just a generational thing that’s passed us by. Thanks as always for your excellent writing, based on genuine curiosity about everything.

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    • I recommend reading more Dorothy Parker but also younger writers like Roxane Gay and hanging out with those granddaughters. (Sure would like to meet them!) I don’t know, though, about your not having sass. I seem to remember the male academics swooning even when you disagreed vigorously with them. Something about red hair and brilliance just floored them before they found their words. Anyway, watch those protest signs.They are right to the black heart of the opposition. As always, please smash that like button at the end of the post! And thanks for dropping by.

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