“To play with the big dogs, you can’t piss like a puppy.” That’s our family motto, at least for men. Men are tough, determined, strong. They don’t let anyone see them sweat. That’s why they’re big dogs. Women are puppies by default. They show the world when they’re hurting. They cry. In public.
For a woman to be a big dog, she has to fight harder than a man. She has to be like my father’s mother, who owned her own sweatshop where 25 Italian women sewed snow suit pieces that were shipped to factories to be assembled into finished products and sold around the world. Grandma Sartor always earned her own money. She was ambitious, manipulative, aggressive. She was also extremely feminine, handsome instead of beautiful, with a gorgeous figure, always exquisitely dressed, her nails done, hair coiffed, as if she wanted everyone to think she was just another puppy. Which she did. She wanted her appearance to deceive, so that people would underestimate her. Once they did, she would find a way to best them, then pay them back tenfold. She believed in grudges and revenge, the harsher the better.
She was a big dog, as big as a woman could get.
I wanted to be like her. I would play with the big dogs, not piss like a puppy; like a little girl.
So I tried not to let people see me sweat, to put on a determined, I’ll-get-you-next-time-motherfucker mask. To put on the face of a winner, a big dog.
A game face.
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“Getting Rid of My Game Face: How I Learned That It’s Okay to Show Emotion” was originally published on my blog as “Game Face.”