B: We’ve spent a couple of weeks talking about the truth-telling witch (Tiffany Aching and Matilda). [We’ve talked] about what it is when you have that child, especially a little girl, in your life who has a really strong inner world and need to see authenticity in the adults around them.
And this week we’re moving on to what we’re calling the Bossy Pants, which is in line with Tina Fey and her amazing book about taking ownership of that. It’s a really strong outward energy and truth-telling in that way.
A: So this is one of my absolute favorite characters of fiction, all time. [Granny Weatherwax] is also part of the [Terry Pratchett’s] Discworld series, but she is the head honcho Matron witch. She’s actually typically depicted as a spinstress.
She never got married, which kind of agrees with her. She’s fine with that and pretty much anytime there’s any big “To Do” going on, she’s going to be right in the middle of it; either she’s already put herself in the middle of it on purpose, or somebody calls her and they’re like, “Hey, help us out.” She has been described as having “a near-unshakeable belief in her own abilities.” She probably errs on the side of arrogance. I think that’s fair to say. The thing of it is, it’s not misplaced arrogance. She really is that powerful.
But the thing that I love about her is that she uses magic as a last resort. She prefers practical acts of service, doing the right thing, and knowing the right thing to do, and basically goes around putting the world in order the way that it should be.
This is at the top of her priority list. If she’s pressed into it, she can perform really powerful magic. But for the most part, she uses what she calls “headology”, which is basically like reverse psychology, getting into people’s heads, finding out what motivates them.
And then strongly motivating them, Aka twisting their arm into doing the right and decent thing. That’s kind of what she’s about.
So here are a few quotes that I absolutely love about Granny Weatherwax.
So here’s one.
Looking into Granny’s eyes was like looking into a mirror. What you saw looking back was yourself and there was no hiding place.
Another one of my favorite quotes about her is: “Granny was one of the only people who could make you feel stupid just by looking at you.”
“When all hope is gone, you called Granny Weatherwax, because she was the best, and she always came. Always. But popular? No. Need is not the same thing as like.”
People were terrified of her. She scared people, but they also knew that if they called her on her when something bad was happening, she was highly competent. Like, losing was never an option for her. And it’s not that she’s competitive for sport. She just must have the world in order and must have the world the way it needs.
This is my very last quote before we launch into discussion, from the book the Wyrd Sisters:
“Granny’s implicit belief that everything should get out of her way extended to other witches, very tall trees, and on occasion mountains.”
I love that so much.
Bossy witches get a bad rap
B: Those are amazing. All [witches] in traditions and literature are always that get everything done type of woman. [Granny’s] almost intimidating in her competency, which was why we had to “other” her and make her a witch instead of a human. But the thing about the [witches] we’ve talked about so far is that the truth-teller is kind of exploring and getting her fingers into everything because she’s interested in it. “I can do that thing. So I’m going to.” [But Granny] is like, “No, this is happening and this is how.” She needs [life] to be an order and she has no problems being the one to make that happen. And [she] kind of prefers that people are a little afraid of her.
[Internal truth-tellers] can be spacey and kind of “gone” and their own world. Bossy Witches are: intimidation, power, and not a wallflower thinker.
A: No. This is the child who’s born scowling at you. Like, “I thought you would have your sh*t together better than you do. I am judging you.” Do not know how to take care of me. Put me back. I want new parents.”
And most people find that a little bit on the intimidating side. I have one that’s a little like that. And it’s intimidating. Yeah, it keeps me looking alive.
B: Keeps you on your toes. [laughter]
A: Oh my gosh. Yep. Okay. So here are some parallel examples of [characters] you might be familiar with. Minerva McGonagall, um, who we won’t get into, but we’ll just mention her. The goddess Athena. Or if you’re familiar with the Percy Jackson series…the daughter of Athena? All the Percy Jackson fans are screaming the name here…[trying to remember] Annabeth Chase! Yeah. Annabeth Chase.
B: [laughter] We were gonna basically be dishonored if we didn’t come up with that name.
A: And Lagertha from the show Vikings, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Yeah. Strong women. I think that these sort of women are depicted as villains a lot. They get cast as a villain often in fiction, which is why I love Granny Weatherwax so much because the two-dimensional villain ignores this little streak of idealism that [these types of feminine archetypes] have inside. And I think that most people, even most children have this type, usually have some driving inner idealistic side. Like they love animals a lot and hate cruelty to animals, right?
Or maybe they really hate it when people abuse their children and it comes across as like this righteous anger, right? They might be extremely angry when this happens, and then they’re going to go fix the world. They’re going to go reorganize the world. They’re going to be like, no, you will spay and neuter your pets, and I will make it so that it’s legislation and you have to and I’ll slap your ass with a fine if you don’t. Right?
They’re movers and shakers. They are.
B: And I think that we’re starting [to see] the world of movies and that “Disney world” of heroes and villains and things that are marketed to our young children… They’re starting to shift that villain narrative. We have Descendants type shows, and then you have them Maleficent, which was actually a really cool retelling.
And they’re really looking at that because um, you know, for a long time our Disney princesses were helpless and the villains were women with agency. They were Ursula with a master plan. Nobody was telling her what to do. She was fabulous. They all had agency. They all had like women’s faces and women’s bodies and maybe they weren’t conventionally beautiful, like dainty princesses, but they were amazing to look at and to see how they pulled these things together!
A: I was always so drawn to them!
B: I was just talking about this with my sister-in-law; we were really disappointed that our children weren’t more into Ursula.
A: [laugh] “Why don’t you love her?”
B: They were amazing! And we were terrified of the villains, as children. But then as adults, you’re like, “Oh no, that’s, that’s actually the one I would rather be.”
A: Right! They were changing things in the world! Not that they got it right necessarily. But I think that they were misrepresented…
B: They were. And so we’re shifting I think, a little bit. We’re starting to see those retellings as like, “No, but there’s a villain side too.” And like “let’s maybe look at these women with agency in different ways” while still using that shorthand of the familiar framework of the villains.
That’s important because for girls who weren’t dainty and soft and “beautiful” and Snow White and Cinderella and whatever growing up, it was difficult to feel like you had a place in those stories. Right? I just got to say, with my giant feet, that scene where the stepsisters are cramming their feet into ballet slipper. I’m was like, “But that’s how I look like every summer when my feet grow!” [laugh]
A: [laughing] “That’s just the way my feet are!”
B: “Feet are not indicative of your goodness.”
A: Exactly. Well, I’m not convinced that conventional beauty [ideals] and type line up exactly. But I do think that people who are more logic-driven naturally as people… they give less forks about it. You know what I mean? It can be insulting almost if you’ve worked very hard…
In the case of Granny Weatherwax…she’s described as a “handsome” woman and it was one of her greatest tragedies. Like she was terribly disappointed that she didn’t turn out to have warts. She just couldn’t make herself look as scary as she would like, no matter how she tried. She was fairly attractive.
Which is funny/true, because I think it can be really frustrating for women who work very hard and are high competence and get themselves in a position of power, and they learn how to wield it well… for them to still have people [judging] them and their merit based on their looks and merely how they choose to decorate themselves… it’s so frustrating and so demeaning, right?
And I think that women can learn how to wield that as a power; some people do use [looks] to their advantage, but it can be really incredibly frustrating, especially for girls like this. They’re like, “No, I don’t want you to value that or to come up and say, ‘Oh, you look so pretty today.’ Gosh darn it, I want to look terrifying today.”
Why’re you trying to take my power away?
B: And that, unfortunately, speaks to the way that we culturally view girls and women. And so that’s less about appearance I think. And more about, “oh, I haven’t broken the system yet.” Arggggh, there’s still more work to do. [laughing] “You mean I haven’t burned the patriarchy down yet? Dammit! I’ll keep trying.”
That forward motion is why… Speaking of Tina and Bossy pants, I have to confess that I’m a massive fan of ridiculous comedies and Baby Mama has been close to my heart for a long time. [laugh] Like, all of my literature cred just dropped down to nothing because I love stupid comedy, whatever. But, so, at one point she’s ordering food on a date and she’s being very specific about everything that she wants. And she was like, “I’m sorry. Some people would call me bossy and overly demanding” or something like that. And it’s like, no, that’s just because you’re a woman. If you were a guy, they would just call you a dick. And I love it. I love that she did that. And then later [she] came out with Bossy Pants, because it’s totally true. We have our different perceptions of how it’s acceptable to have that forward driving, action-based energy. It’s almost okay for a dude to be a dick!
A: Yeah! If he’s highly efficient to get shit done, wields the power, maneuvers himself into making his plans an actionable reality; that’s like, the creme de la creme of what we expect guys to be right? Like, that’s the Alpha Male, right? So what do people do when they find that in a little girl?
B: A little girl. That’s the kicker too because cause women…there’s so many sides of this. Women fight against this as adults; either you’re expected to be boss-bitch and you should be climbing the corporate ladder, or, if you’re not, then in no other context is that acceptable.
But then, bring it all the way down to a child, and then you’re just bossy.
A: I’ve even heard little girls who have this type of personality called bullies by parents who are—I wouldn’t say sensitive because I don’t think that sensitivity is a bad thing. But parents who take things personally and allow what their children say to them, along with the standards which their children try to hold them to (especially these kinds of kids) to get to them personally. Yeah.
If your child is coming after you with, “well I think we should” and “I don’t think you’re doing this well enough” and “I think that you…” like, you could handle that in lots of ways. Like you have choices, right?
You could say, “Hey, sounds like you have a lot of good ideas there. Why don’t you go write down your plan, come back, and we’ll negotiate a truce here.” Right? Or you could say, “Hey, stay in your lane kid. This is none of your business. You’re not welcome to tell me how to run this part of my life, and I’m going to ask you to step back.”
And that’s a fine boundary to teach a child too. You know what I mean?
Depending on what it is. If it involves this child directly, I think that involving them in making a plan as a good idea. [In that scenario], telling them to step back and not have any authority or say in this situation is going to blow up in your face, big time. It’s gonna be it’s gonna be bad, and they’ll find a way to exact revenge.
Your Response Can Make or Break Her
B: Right! There is totally a path into bullying, but that’s for the child who doesn’t have the emotional intelligence and she’s not been cultivated in her personality type, for her strengths.
A: You gotta give ’em scripts, man. Gotta show them how to do it.
B: Yup. Like all of the other ones we’ve talked about. There’s no way to like I’m just flip a switch and “be parenting”. You have to work with each child so closely and pay attention to what they need and get creative and look for those strengths.
Because, first of all, you’re not guessing. If you have a child like this, you know. you know that this is yours. You know,
A: [laugh] You’re not sitting there saying, “do I have a bossy child?” She lets you know at 6:00 AM every morning on the dot, what you’re supposed to be doing.
B: They are judging you.
They have the power within them to affect so much in their worlds.
And that can look again—I really don’t want to pigeonhole them into that CEO box—but whatever they choose to do, they’re going to do it enormously efficiently. Right.
A: And probably with a strong sense of justice.
B: Yep. And that is only realized in the best way if we can meet them where they are young, and help them with things. Like “your friends probably aren’t going to want to listen to you if you’re just snapping at them all the time.” Or, if you’re running the game all the time, like pay attention, are they backing away?
A: This is why we develop soft skills. If you want to get sh*t done, this is a skill you have to develop. Like, you have to turn not having soft skills and emotional skills…you have to make them see [the lack of skills] as an obstacle to their goal because they will move anything out of the way if they’re trying to get to their goal. Then watch how fast they learn the phrases and to ask for things politely if they see that as a means to getting them further toward their goal. Because they’re always future pacing. They know what they want. They’re thinking ahead of how to get it.
If you ask one of these kids, what is your plan for the weekend? They usually have an answer, right?
If you ask a teenager of this type, “what is your plan for the next?” maybe they’ll have an answer. But if you ask an adult, they usually have a 20 year plan. Yeah, like their future pacing always. So if you say, “hey, if you really want this thing badly and you want to know how to make this happen, these are the skills that you have to learn.”
And if they say, “Well that’s stupid! That’s stupid. Why are people like that? That’s illogical! That’s efficient!” my suggestion is always to say, “yeah, that sucks.” Right? “That’s just how people are.” And then, if you can explain the biochemical process of why people need affirmation and how we evolved to need like oxytocin between each other, if you could explain that to them, the actual inner workings of it, they’re going to be much more likely to not hate people for being people.
Right. And be like, “Well, that’s just how life evolved! That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.”
And then they’ll be like, “oh, man, I guess that’s true.”
As opposed to [responding to them] like, “You have to be nice!! Why aren’t you nicer? What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you just be nice like your sister?!”
The Tenderness That Drives Her Tenacity
Which brings us to Granny Weatherwax’s life motto, which is: “We don’t do nice. We do right.”
B: That’s right. Yeah, I was thinking of the comment about her [from the books]: Granny Weatherwax hadn’t done nice. She’d done what was needed.
That’s what fascinates me about her as kind of the matriarch of this whole system. It wasn’t just the witches; everybody thought of her as the one you go to [because] she is immensely reliable. She is the one that gets stuff done—
A: —and does the stuff that everybody else doesn’t have the stomach to do. Like, she’s going to go out and shoot Old Yeller without a problem. [laugh] She’s like, listen, he’s suffering, shoot him. And she did it, because it needed to be done.
B: Yeah. And that’s the thing that we can develop in our girls.
They might not be popular and liked, and they might not be fitting into the mold that the people around them expect them to fit into at this age and stage of life. I actually just had this conversation with my son, but in reverse because he’s a lot softer than you would expect, or than society would expect him to be.
He’s moving into middle school and that’s so difficult. It’s hard. It’s still hard. And so we talked about that and we talked about popular and being liked and how this is a very short window of your life and “I know it’s hard and I know it sucks, but the things that you’re building now are going to stretch into a much bigger stage of your life. And rearranging your life to be liked and popular and changing your personality for that misses an opportunity for growth.”
It’s important to give them places where they can shine and can fit and can feel comfortable being themselves, but then to also affirm to them that it’s hard to be human, and it’s hard to go through puberty, and it’s hard to get out of high school. But your life doesn’t live and die on your friends in high school. Most of us are not still friends those people.
It’s just not as permanent as it feels and when we can give them that [concept of] nice versus right, and nice versus needed, it gives them a little bit more perspective. And ultimately that’s a thing that kids need: the feeling of fitting in somewhere. And really where we fit in is a much, much larger than the window of childhood and teenage years.
B: Thank God for that.
A: Right. No kidding. I think that most girls that I knew that fit this description… Like, where are the truth-teller girl might be more tempted to be personable and try to do the “nice” thing, as a means of self-defense/self-protection…
I think that the whole concept of being “nice” isn’t gonna come up so much for the Bossy Girl. Unless it’s just her being like, I’m so confused by that. That’s so dumb.
And it might actually hurt her more when people say, “Well, you’re just a cold b*tch”, or “You just have no feelings”, right? Or “you just don’t care about anything”. If you work really hard to build trust and rapport with [bossy people] like this, you will often be privy to a very soft, vulnerable side that only comes out at home. And it only comes out around the people they trust very much.
So if you can make an effort to affirm the rightness and the compassion that’s actually driving that rightness for those girls—like “I saw you do that and I know the reason that you did that is because you feel really strongly about creatures suffering” or “I saw that you did that and I know that you did it because XYZ,” seeing their intent and affirming, “yeah, you’re a good person. I love you. You’re a good person and I believe that you love other people too.”
It’s huge for these people. Because the question they’re [subconsciously] asking is, “Do you trust me to protect you? Do you trust me to do the efficient thing and the right thing to protect you and keep you safe?”
Do you trust me to do that for you?
And when other people misunderstand the why behind what they’re doing, it can be incredibly hurtful for them.
I think like my grandmother was very much a Granny Weatherwax type. She was so funny. The way that she cared for people was, oh, it was so easy to miss. Like she would say “love you” sometimes, but as far as saying mushy things to each other, she was kind of sharp, a little bit. She was a little terse. She was always doing hard work, and she sometimes was a little bit salty. She could say things that are a little bit cutting or a little bit judgemental to people, but if you were watching her actual praxis, she was going into the nursing homes in remembering that old miss So-and-so needed compression socks, and her daughters didn’t visit often enough.
And [my grandma] took the woman compression socks, and she’d palm single moms money after church. Or she was noticing that your shoes didn’t fit right. And she also knew that if you’d had a big expense in your family, and she goes by taking you to buy shoes.
And the only time she would say the words “I’m proud of you” was in birthday cards. That was it. You got this one mushy birthday card thing. And it was like, who wrote this? This is her handwriting, but who wrote this? And it, I saved all of those cards because it helped me remember, “oh, there’s a soft woman in there.” She is, she’s kind and she actually cares a lot.
All of that ferocity of action is actually coming from a place of deep caring.
That’s just how she expressed it.
So I think seeing that [intent] in your daughter who’s like that [is important] Especially while the world is telling her she’s cold or telling her, “Well, you’re kind of a sh*tty girl. You’re not our version of what a woman should be. You’re not the princess. I mean you’re the wicked witch.” Especially if your peers don’t understand the “why” behind what you’re doing. Because these girls are thinking far down the road, and other people are not putting together why doing “a” equals “b” down the line.
There are the people who are crying because you went to take your dog, get neutered, right? Like you have the one daughter who’s ever here crying, “Why did you hurt my puppy; he has stitches; you’re such a mean person!”
And then you know, the Granny Weatherwax girls are like, “Cut his balls off. That is a good idea. It’s right for all the puppies in the world.
Do it. Do it now.”
And she gets it, but it’s not going to make sense to her peers for a very long time. So affirming that [right now] is kind of huge.
B: It totally is. And then framing it in the different ways that it shows up for her.
Steering Her Own Fate
That’s why I really like Lagertha [of Canada’s History Channel series Vikings] is a parallel to Granny Weatherwax. Because if you watched the series from the beginning to the end, she was just kind of happy with farming. She had been a warrior, and she had done what she needed to do, and then we see her by herself taking care of her farm really early on in the series. (I’m sorry to spoil this, but you should have watched it already. I mean come on. [laugh]) Very early on, her husband leaves and it’s just her.
Somebody shows up to—you know, I don’t know what they would take or do with a farm, but they showed up to do something [bad]—and she’s not having it. She really super kicks ass. And she’s taking care of her home, always reprimanding and keeping her husband in check: “remember this was our goal, remember this is what we’re doing, why are you doing this thing?”
And throughout the series as [her character] developed, she was always protecting herself. First of all, she has very strong boundaries that she will not back down on. But she’s protecting her son. She’s completely aware of the agency that her husband has and even when it hurts, she lets him have that agency because she’s keeping her own as well. And then eventually she winds up overthrowing an earl and becoming a leader in her own right.
And that’s fine, but that wasn’t a path that she had to take. She could have been [anything]. You know the Vikings; they’re always talking about fates and whatever. And at one point [her husband Ragnar] says, “I have to [do this thing]. I’m fated to.”
And she says, “You don’t believe that and neither do I.” Because she knows she can choose whatever path she wants to.
A: She is fate.
B: So, like we sometimes tend to push truth-telling, internal, thinking girls into becoming more academic (to keep learning more). we tend to push [the Bossy Girl] toward that CEO leader route in, [toward] ways we have deemed she should be, and that’s not what she needs. If she’s going to take that route, she’s going to take it.
A: You’re not going to be able to stop her.
B: But if she’s going to take the route of, you know, a philanthropist or a librarian or whatever she’s gonna do, she’s going to take this energy into that field. If she’s going to be a stay at home mom, like it doesn’t matter, if she’s just gonna be a nomad…
Whatever it is she chooses to do…
A: She’s going to be the best at it.
She’s going to kick butt, and everybody else should hide.
B: So it’s not about looking for, you know, the Bossy Pants and deciding that she has to be the boss. It’s supporting her in developing that interpersonal kind of finesse. It’s really difficult to do [alone] as an adult, much less a child, and keeping [her inner] values really strong and supported because the values are ultimately what’s driving her.
A: Yeah, absolutely. And once they internalize those lessons, they tend to stick really strongly. Some of the most principled women that I’ve ever met before have been Granny Weatherwax types. And they’re that way unswervingly. Like, I have a lot of standards that I hold myself to, right? And I can be self-indulgent and kind of like veer off the path and then course correct. Like, “oh, getting back on the path now.” But I don’t even notice them course-correcting very often. They just stay the course; they’re good at it, they’re exceptional at it
B: And I think that’s a component of being…instead of being the Explorer, being more of the Mastermind. They know what they want, they don’t need to explore. [They have] a destination they’re headed towards, they know where they’re going. And then the really cool thing about this, too, is if you have this kind of child—if you have this daughter and you’re feeling opposite to her and you’re feeling like you don’t relate to her—that’s not necessarily a bad thing or even a hindrance to your relationship. Because they need somebody who’s going to help ground them and help them enjoy where they are [right now].
As long as you’re not trying to change them.
A: Right! As long as you’re not telling them “you’re wrong! you can’t be that way.”
Number one, they won’t believe you, like you’re not going to be able to convince them. But they will disregard you. They’ll write you off and then they’ll discount you, right? Like you’ll lose has any influence you had in their life.
B: In the same way that our truth-teller girls will write you off if you’re inauthentic or if you’re not being honest, these girls need you to trust their future path and let them take it. Do you want to talk about Nanny Ogg?
Grounding Prevents Burnout
A: I do a little bit because I think that this is a point of connection for these girls!
Granny Weatherwax’s best friend, who is beyond ridiculous and totally amazing, Nanny Ogg, is like this creature of comfort. She’s incredibly smart, but she kinda plays dumb. Um, she rules the roost in her own family, she likes a good pint of Ale. She likes singing inappropriate songs. She likes having a good time. Her metric [for success] is having a good time, right? And being super grounded in her body, in her surroundings, and living “present” in the moment.
I think this is a huge point of connection for Granny Weatherwax girls. They are drawn to people who have the ability to invite them and make space for them to do this. And I’ve never met a Granny Weatherwax girl who doesn’t like a good spread of food that’s high quality.
They love a great sensory experience, and anyone who can get them to slow down and be present in the moment in their body is going to endear themselves to this kind of Bossy Girl really strongly.
I think that’s so important because it’s grounding and it helps them kind of take in more information in the present moment. Because how are they going to make good plans for the future unless they’re able to be present and observe? I think being present with somebody like Nanny Ogg, who can help them enjoy the creature comforts of life and the “here and now” of life, helps them take care of themselves so that they don’t burn out completely or destroy their bodies in the process of powering forward. Like the steam engine that will. [chuckle]
B: One of the exercises that I really like for that is sitting down and [doing] vision board with them. And then you bullet journal plan out the future. [There’s] this exercise where you let them picture their perfect day—it’ll change over time—but when you can sit and dream about it, it helps. And then how can you bring some of that perfect day into this state. “Someday I want to do this big dramatic list of amazing things; what little thing can I do that makes me feel that now that, and will help me move forward?”
Let her know that some of them can be done in pencil.
You can have that 5-, 10-, 20-year plan, but write it in pencil, because you’re still growing and you’re still changing. You’re not [necessarily] committed. So you can encourage them to have those values and strengths. And we can sometimes overcorrect and be like, “But you made this plan, and you’re all about plans!”
No. Let them explore and let them shape that future themselves, and let them know that it’s okay to discover it even though discovering isn’t quite what they feel like they’re supposed to do.
A: Mmmmm. They’re not locked in necessarily. Yeah. And if we could once invite them to relax and be present in their body, and [help them] really enjoy the creature that their body is, occasionally, then it can help them realize that there are more than just a checklist. Like, your worth is not directly tied to how many items on your checklist that you got checked off.
It feels really good to them, to do that. They feel powerful and alive when they’re checking off the checklist, but it’s also good for them to remember, “there’s another side to me too”. I can be close to the people around me. If we cuddle at home on the couch, that’s fine to do that. I can rub your feet, and we’ll be okay.
Yeah. The truth-teller has to feed their brain and they have to keep eating. Their engine is their brain, keeping them thinking and creating.
The [Bossy Pants witch] needs their body. They need to be able to have that energy.
We can talk for a minute about shadowing a little bit, and turning this [bossy energy] on as a truth-teller (which is where I fall on the spectrum, I’m very introverted).
The Truth-teller can turn that on, but I cannot fathom having the energy to keep it going, longterm.
A: You mean, a person can pretend to be Granny Weatherwax if the world you to be for a little bit, but that can’t [be sustained].
B: Bossy Witches’ energy that drives them mentally and spiritually and physically is amazing, and if their bodies aren’t taken care of, it will slow them down and then that’s gonna feel like death. Like wherever we talked about Matilda, and when she couldn’t have ideas and intellectual stimulation, she was bored to death, the [Weatherwax] girl really does need her body to be taken care of.
A: Mmmhm. They have huge amounts of personal physical energy for the execution of plans, right? Yeah. And as children, like you don’t have to worry so much about hypertension, but if you can set her up for good self-care habits right now, you can save her a world of physical difficulty by the time she hits 40 or 50, you know, when she’s still pushing herself so hard.
If she has built in[to herself]: “And now I’m going to do yoga” or “I’m going to go swim” or “I’m going to meditate or do headspace” or whatever it is that you help yourself —”I’m going to pet the dog.” “Maybe I’m gonna go connect with my favorite animal right now.”
If you help them build that into themselves, then you can protect their health for the entire future, which is kind of a big deal. Especially for people who burn that hot all the time. You know?
B: Yeah, and if we don’t give them the outlets to take care of their bodies and then also the structure and freedom and space to have that outlet for all of that energy, she’s going to spin. And that energy is going to come out in negative ways.
A: It’s going to be like Azula from the Last Airbender, just like shooting fire out of her ears. “Yaaahhhhhh, I am thwarted from my goal!” Then you do become a Disney villain a little bit.
B: [laugh] See… “how to keep your girls from becoming a Disney villain: Step 1, Raising Hermione podcast.”
We see this type shows up in some powerful ways, but I think we see it more powerfully in real life because it’s not easily fictionalized. I think people don’t like to write about it. I think people don’t like to imagine. I think they don’t want to encourage it. I think that because adults tend to be intimidated by this type of child…
A: Adults are intimidated by this kind of adult!
B: They are! But we see it showing up in real life. We see it in our Ruth Bader Ginsburg type warrior women and um, that is in our and the CEOs of course. And I bet if you think really hard about people in your life that you had once a perceived as bossy pants or as overbearing or controlling, um, you can probably reframe that a little bit and think about what their motives might be and what they’re actually doing. They’re probably this type of woman.
A: And if they’ve done their due diligence, we might resent them a little bit because they were right.
Growing Superb Communities, Not Superwomen
B: I do want to talk about the similarities between the truth teller and this person because um, I think they get kind of conflated and we create this almost superwoman type character. It’s the “witch” of our time. If you’re going to be all of these things, then you have to be the one to fix everything. So you have to be academic and you have to get shit done and you have to like make this wrapped up conglomerate human that does not exist. Right?
A: You would explode!! Could you imagine being a perfectionist, who was always is looking for actionable truth, and was also sorting through the massive piles of information that a Tiffany Aching sorts through….you’d go crazy. You would literally lose, like you’d lose your ability to stay in touch with reality, probably.
B: It’s not sustainable, and I think that that we feel the pressure as this type of child and this type of adult. You feel the pressure to kind of perform that, which was what I hinted to it a little bit earlier. I know I’ve fallen in this trap a lot because if I know I can do a thing and I know that the thing needs to be done, I can turn on this energy for very short bursts.
I know I’ve had that type of energy turned on for a period of about eight to 10 years in a job that I held, and I like crashed and burned like a meteor. Like that was it. I had nothing to give!
A: It wasn’t generating energy for you.
B: Not at all. And that shows up in family situations a lot; sometimes you might feel this as a listener if you’re a nurturing type and you have been given the kind of matriarch helm of your family and you’re expected to organize the dinners and keep everybody in touch.
If you’re expected as a nurturer to also organize and drive things and keep everybody doing the things that they’re supposed to be doing, that’s energy that you don’t naturally have.
And you’re going to burn out.
We often expect our action-based Weatherwax girl to be more docile and analytical and data-driven, or we expect our truth-teller girls to be more forward-moving and extroverted, and they’re not going to be able to sustain that on either side. Right?
A: Like, even in the case of me—I’m more like an extroverted truth-teller than the introverted truth-teller. And there’s a pretty big difference between someone who is outwardly trying to build in systems that they can control in the world so that other people can lean into the structure… versus someone [like me] who’s got a lot of energy for exploring the world and introducing new ideas. My job in the world is more deconstructing than constructing. I’m deconstructing things that are not useful, and parsing them out and saying, “Well, that’s how that went together. And there’s yer problem right there!”
I’m good at that, right? But if you asked me to go and take the responsibility of saying “and now I’m going to tell you how to put it back together, and this is our new plan”, it may go really super well or it may blow up. I don’t know, I’m just, I’m just like throwing the little sticky gel frogs onto the wall and seeing how high I can get them to go before they don’t stick.
So if I’m being asked to be in that situation for long, I will not go to bed feeling like, “yeah, I’m awesome”.
I will go to bed feeling irritable and angry and snapping at people and feeling deeply resentful that other people are relying on me to tell them what to do. I’ll feel mad about it.
But a Granny Weatherwax girl’s going to be like, “Good. All is right with the world. They should listen to me. I’m the one who knows things.” And that’s their gift to the world. Like, they’ll go to bed feeling confident; they don’t do a lot of second-guessing themselves.
B: And they’re not, they’re not trying to be that way. They’re not aspiring to be. They just are.
A: They just come out like that. That’s just how they’re born and that’s how they die.
B: It is. And yeah, I just um, I really love it. If you haven’t read this series [Discworld], you just should.
A: It’s more than just entertainment.
B: Yeah, that’s for sure. There’s so much power in seeing these because we don’t see it very often. See these types of characters to see them all together in one universe working together…
A: ….and sometimes against each other.
B: They do. And then we also see, you know, the way that they interact with each other. Like I’m actually Tiffany, I don’t know which witch it was, but when Tiffany sees one of them singing really confidently…
A: Nanny Ogg!
B: This was interesting to me, where GrannyWeatherwax is really good friends with Nanny Ogg, and Tiffany’s looking at [Nanny] going, “I should be that. Why am I not that?”
A: I’m actually going to pick it up and read it.
B: Do that.
A: Because I’ve got it dog-eared right here in my hot little hand.
Okay, so real quick: the situation is, Nanny Ogg [and Tiffany] are at a funeral. (Did we talk about this already? I don’t think we talked about this already.)
Nanny’s at a funeral, they’re all at a funeral, and Tiffany is trying to figure out how to “work” this crowd, right? Because everybody’s really upset. There’s a witch hunter that’s been coming around. There’s a lot of distrust in the community. And Tiffany has prepared the body, she’s actually made the body slab, of this old man who was a friend of hers, and now she’s kind of at a loss. She doesn’t know what to do, because people are standing around looking stricken. So Nanny Ogg hops onto the table, grabs a flagon of beer, and start singing right?
“Tiffany listened, enthralled.
Nanny Ogg was a one-woman masterclass (or rather mistress class) in people. She treated perfect strangers as if she had known them for years, and somehow they acted as she really had. Dragged along, as it were, by an extremely good singing voice for an old woman with one tooth, perplexed people were raising their voices beyond a mumble by the second line, and by the first verse, were harmonizing like a choir. She had them in her hand.
I should have learned this, Tiffany thought. I wanted to learn fire and pain, but I should’ve learned people. I should’ve learned how not to sing like a turkey.
I love that so much. It’s interesting. It’s interesting to look and see how like every single different witch and wizard (because there are, wizards in this world too, in case anybody has sons and wonders, ‘Should I read this? I have boys too.’ Yes!! Read it. Everyone should read it. Everyone should read stories about boys and girls!)…anyway, I love that every single person has a gift to offer the world. Soft skills are magic. Logic is magic. Having personal authority is magic.
“Magic” is anything that you bring to the world that comes easily for you that is very difficult for someone else.
Not that we shouldn’t all try to learn skills and be well-rounded people, but gosh, we need each other in a big way.
B: And that reframing—where I think the trope of the witch started as this negative thing—the way that literature has taken it kind of under its wing and adopted it over the generations really has been: “Yeah, you’re magic, and that’s not a bad thing.”
A: Yep. That’s a good thing.
B: Awesome. All right. There’s more to come. Stay tuned. We’ll talk to you guys next time.