Being a brat has nothing to do with your age

I had some interesting feedback today from a woman who said she didn’t associate the idea of being a brat with older women. She wondered if that was a cultural thing and I think she’s right.

I have bratty friends and I have been called a brat but it has nothing to do with where we stand on any age continuum; we are all different ages. It is because of our mindset.

We have an attitude, a bratty spirit that pushes against anything false, that stirs things up to make them better and that looks with skepticism on the idea that we should accept the status quo just because it’s the status quo.

Not associating being a brat with being an older woman harkens back to the idea that being a brat is something only kids do and that it’s a bad thing because it’s about “misbehaving”.

Grama K with bow on her head

Sure kids misbehave but remember how adept they also are at recognizing dishonesty in adults? They have a built-in bullshit detector and it can get them into trouble when they “misbehave” and call out grown-ups who are trying to get away with something.

That’s the kind of brattiness I’m talking about and it’s ageless.

It has to do with being true to yourself, to what is right, even when it’s not popular. It has to do with breaking the rules, when your heart or your common sense know they need to be broken.

My well-brought up grandmother flirted outrageously with her much younger male doctor when she was in a retirement home. There was no one else around; her 80 and 90-something boyfriends always seemed to die as soon as she got their framed photos on the dresser.

My status quo mom was aghast! She thought this behaviour was “inappropriate” and that my grandmother should know better.  I of course, was cheering her on.

Nothing was going to happen; my grandmother was too sharp not to know that. She was bending the rules—and being a brat—to feel alive.

c 2013 Kathy Barthel

Why Bratty Kathy?

Friends told me I shouldn’t do it; I shouldn’t call the blog Bratty Kathy.

Chatty Kathy they understood, but Bratty Kathy? They worried that people might think it was all about sex.

They worried that what I would say might be misinterpreted. Marketers thought that well-mannered women wouldn’t consider themselves brats and might not embrace the blog.

Kathy on stone ledge piece of grass in mouth 698 px W x 498 px H

Giving brats a bad name

Those things never occurred to me but it turns out that the word brat does have a negative connotation. Even my beloved Oxford English Dictionary describes it this way:

Brat= (n) derogatory a child, esp. an ill-behaved one (origin unknown)

When I google images of “bratty women,” I find idiotic pictures of women sticking out their tongues. I had no idea there were so many art directors and photographers with such a singular lack of imagination.

My definition of a brat

“brat” = (n) someone who goes against the grain, stirs things up to make people think, to make a difference, witty, clever, surprising, a maverick, sexy, fearless, optimistic, aware, ageless, alive.

I know quite a few women who fit that description and who would probably like to get their pictures taken.

Owning it

Bratty Kathy is about them and about everyone who has ever fallen in love, thought they looked fat, worried about money, felt old or lonely or had an awesome love life. SPOILER ALERT: there will be sex.

Bratty Kathy is about getting out of your own way so you can live the life you want in the wild and unpredictable 21st century.

It’s about being comfortable in your own skin and owning who you are, all of it, including your flaws. Especially your flaws. It’s about grabbing your life by the throat and living it. It’s about not being suffocated by the “accepted wisdom” that tells you what you’re supposed to do, or what you’re supposed to think, or what you’re supposed to feel, just because of your age. And if some of those limiting beliefs are in your own head, ditch them.

Kathy jean jacket 398 px x 398 px

Here’s a little chart to show you what I mean:

Old Ageless
Out-of-touch Aware and engaged
Sexy?  Are you kidding me? Sexy and…H O T
Humourless Funny and witty
Status quo Rebellious
Stuck-in-your-ways Flexible and adaptable
Dull Kick-ass

In other words, a brat.

Bring it on

When I read those words in the right-hand column, I think about my grandmother when she was 83. My wedding photos were being taken in the park and she was sitting on the grass, feet straight out in front of her, snapping pictures. All of those words fit her, including sexy—just ask her boyfriends.  My grandmother was a well-mannered, well-brought up woman and most definitely a brat. It is to her (and to my mother who is not a brat) that I dedicate Bratty Kathy.

If the OED says a brat is “ill-behaved,” bring it on.

P.S. A friend of mine told me about hanging out with his 20-something kids and sharing their experience of being young and full of promise. His bittersweet story has stayed with me, along with the idea that it can be hard to feel hope and promise when you’ve been beaten down a few times. But that’s exactly why Bratty Kathy exists—to recognize that none of us is full of bratty bravado every day and that to put your whole heart into something, to push your spirit, talent and voice out into the world, is risky.

Bratty Kathy will always be powered by a tender heart because to shine like a brilliant, flawed sun takes guts and sometimes you are regrouping after a failed attempt. Sometimes you live in the shadow of the sun.

Bratty Kathy is about all those bumps in the road that you never saw coming and the idea that to make it work, you may just have to bend the rules on occasion.  That’s often where the fun is.  Just saying so makes me feel bratty again…

c 2013 Kathy Barthel