UPPITY


Last month I was having a conversation with a British friend who sniffed disapprovingly as he said: “Well this whole business really backfired on Megan Rapinoe.”

“Backfired? Megan Rapinoe, the superstar US women’s soccer champion had been front page in all of the papers. I had no idea what he was talking about:

“Yes. That whole business with the arms in the air and the tea cup. That certainly put people’s back up.”

Perhaps I should take a step back here and emphasize that this guy was British and the Brits prefer shambling rather than striding. It’s a “don’t put your head above the parapet.” “Too big for his breeches.” ”Too clever by half.” “Ideas above her station,” kind of ethos.

Not that this has led to a more egalitarian society. The gentry are happy to pretend to be just plain folk… before they retreat behind their moat into the castle.

But back at the conversation: At first I had no idea what he was talking about. “Really? What’s wrong with celebrating a victory?”

But then of course I knew exactly what was wrong. She was being Uppity.

I think the expression started in the U.S. South but has spread everywhere:

Uppity Blacks - (especially men) see Barack Obama and Mohammad Ali.

Uppity Gays – ‘Well it’s all right if they help us plan our wardrobe but must they thrust THAT into our faces?’

Uppity Jews – I think this needs no explanation.

And there she was, breathtakingly audacious, celebrating a success, taking a bow, being Uppity. None of that panicky ‘does my rear end look big in this?’ Much more like Lizzo, the stupendously voluptuous singer in her song Juice: “No, I’m not a snack at all. Look, baby, I’m the whole damn meal.”

Recently I saw Daphna Baram, an Israeli comic’s stand-up act where she says she was told by her therapist that she had a fear of success. Really? An Israeli with a fear of success? What is this world coming to?

Americans used to be known as braggarts. We didn’t shamble, we strutted. But recently I’ve noticed (except for the Stable Genius in Chief and his enablers) a slight reticence in my US friends. I even noticed a certain hesitancy in me.

So I asked my husband as he buried his head in the newspaper, hoping no doubt to avoid any meaningful discussions: “Am I Uppity?”

He didn’t even bother to look up. “No.”

Crestfallen I persisted: “Not even a little bit?”

He glanced over at me kindly. “All right darling perhaps just a little bit.”

Damn, so now am I falling into the type who keeps a “fat” dress in the closet – just in case? Next stop I’ll be that person who resents success. The little worm called envy which is the ugly step-sister of judgemental.

Recently I was at a restaurant that was semi-expensive. (I put in semi so you don’t think that I’m being Uppity.) A group of people in their 20’s were splashing out a lot of money at lunch and acting like it was no big deal. My eyes narrowed. They should be filing papers in the back office, having a sandwich from the local deli like I had to do.

Most of us just don’t get a chance to be Uppity. You can be a good butcher, even a great butcher and the world just doesn’t seem to care. There’s very little notice given to an impressive shoe salesman, or extraordinary dishwasher. You can however be an epic sex offender.

Of course some people can still celebrate success. In England companies get the royal seal of approval. Say for example, great jams and jellies. Of course there’s a royal seal for umbrellas, but also broomsticks and scaffolding, gate manufacturers and cobnuts. (Whatever they are) I believe there’s even a royal gynaecologist.

In football, players get to throw up their arms in triumph, do a little victory dance, punch the air, howl like a baboon. (They even get to blubber like three year olds when things don’t go their way….but that’s a whole other incomprehensible story)

However for the rest of us, the option of allowing ourselves to take a small bow seems to be fast disappearing.

What’s hobbled our swagger? Is it that whole “woke” business? What with climate change, racial injustice, and foods like pastelon de vegatales y Queso Vegano – that’s bananas and vegetables to the uninitiated, how can we celebrate anything?

In the old days I thought nothing of planning my Oscar acceptance speech while still writing Act 1 of the screenplay? Back then an almost deal was worthy of calling all my friends, maybe even getting a mention in Variety. After all, small victories should be afforded some airtime too.

Life is filled with so many defeats and little humiliations, why has it become so infuriating to see someone celebrating a triumph, taking a victory lap, throwing their arms in the air? Especially when they are world-class players like Megan Rapinoe.

Because the thing is, it isn’t bragging if you are that good.

TURNING POINTS from Crowd-Writing

a book by Shelley Katz

Out Now

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