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Bad ass or badass?

I'm a badass. Can you tell? Photos taken by me: Ireland, Summer 2015.

I don’t literally think that my ass is bad – at least not in terms of naughty or disobedient. But it is currently faulty and making my life difficult. Having butt cancer is almost too much for this mom of a 10-year-old boy who does nothing but talk about poop, farts and all things stinky. It seems ironic to get this diagnosis during this stage of my son’s interests and sense of humor. Thanks irony.

A cancer diagnosis probably has its inexplicable things in any case, but there is a special kind of bizarreness (at least for me) that comes with this particular cancer. The word colon or colorectal cancer is often used interchangeably by doctors and patients, even for rectal cancer probably because this vocabulary feels more palatable. I agree that it sounds better. But ultimately, what I have is rectal cancer and I am choosing accuracy over what might be preferable or more pleasant to hear or say. Plus, colon cancer and rectal cancer are quite different in treatment and outcomes. They are different parts with different tissue strength, boundaries, and purposes. One is not the other and I have come to understand that every detail matters. For instance, the difference between 1 cm and 4 cm is like a football field when it comes to tumor distance within the rectum and saving valuable parts. In the colon this kind of measurement is not a concern.

When working out a few days ago, the word badass came into my mind and simultaneously out of my husband’s mouth as he referred to me. I’m lifting weights and boxing with him and it is empowering. I have good body mechanics and coordination so this might be why he called me a badass that day. But this isn’t a word I would typically assign to myself and it got me thinking because my first blog post was about language, its use and inflection toward the bottom or rectum as negative. But this term “badass”, inverts the negative and has a positive spin which I appreciate.

It’s generally used to speak of someone that denotes a certain coolness, and is tough, strong or rebellious. It might also infer, on occasion, a callousness. Meaning that a badass sometimes does not care what others think and behaves as they wish regardless of outside opinion. If one were to be less thoughtful about the ideas or opinions of others, this can be negative in some contexts, but surely, it is positive in at least an equal measure. This non-caring could be a choice for growth in ways that are needed. Or maybe it is an experiment in operating at a higher frequency of attunement rather than an obliviousness or recklessness toward others. Perhaps it is a type of coolness that is basking in bravado for a period of time. This can be useful.

Either way, I am far from cool or callous. I don’t have swag or the ability to not care at all. I’m much more likely to be attributed adjectives such as: intense, caring, driven, ambitious, nurturing, organized, bold, or risk-taker. And if I am embracing my bad ass through appropriate naming and specificity, is this also how I can embrace the badass potential within me?

I say yes!

The word ass originates from arse which meant “buttocks” in old English. Before this ors was used in several languages to mean tail or rear. So how does this become ass? There are a couple of theories about how the “r” got dropped out; one is that it just fell away, the other has to do with sounding more polite. Using the word ass (associated with a donkey) was less rude than saying arse (associated with the butt). I find this hysterical. Again, this idea that the rear end of a human is so hideous or disgusting that it becomes unspeakable. Not unlike what I mentioned earlier with the interchangeable terms of colon, colorectal, and rectal. Rectal is the least used - rectal is unutterable. Colon is much preferred…by some, not me.

There is power in naming correctly and I always appreciate accuracy when it is possible.

We all know that ass refers to a donkey and so the disappearance of the “r” in arse or ors brings about the relationship between buttocks and donkeys in the 1800’s. I absolutely love this link because donkeys have always been a favorite animal of mine. I plan to have a pair when I retire. Donkeys are social creatures and do not do well alone. They are small and cute, also considered stubborn which might more accurately be labeled determined. They are sometimes thought of as dumb because they can be cautious and strong willed but are smart and love to learn throughout their life.

When there is a will, they find a way. This is everything to me right now!

Wikipedia says, “donkeys were portrayed in the bible as symbols of service, suffering, peace, and humility.” So, some of the negative associations in mythology or literature became less prominent with Christianity’s use of the donkey. Also, donkeys bear a dark stipe - horizontal and vertical - in the shape of a cross on their back. It is no wonder they are in bible stories. And we must mention Eeyore; he is probably the most famous donkey in contemporary culture, and isn’t conveyed in a great light though endearing to some. The least badass ass of all asses one might say, so he is not the donkey I am channeling if I am going to be a badass. Rather, I will be like the chocolate girl below, unafraid of an ass and ready to take on what is before me.

This donkey is not shy about asses at all. I like her the best!

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