HOW TO: Defeat The Office Bitch (One Cat Marnell) And Make Her Smell Fantastic At The Same Time

"I know it may look like I was being like a bitch, but that's only because I was acting like a bitch." -Cady Haring, "Mean Girls"

Mar 5, 2012 at 3:01pm | Leave a comment

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Hi you guys! I’m so happy to be back. I took a break from writing last week. Because listen, man -- I was burned sooo out.


What does burned out mean for me? It’s different from being strung out, or even fried. It wasn’t even that my brain was scrambled. It was something different, and it had been happening for a solid two months.

How do I put this.

I was turning into the worst kind of bitch. I was being completely evil. I was trashing people to Jane. I was writing icy -- sometimes sarcastic, cruel -- emails; I was sneering at staff meetings. I was paranoid and territorial about my beauty department, my assistant, my “special” needs.

I fucked with Julie’s head too much. I got in a huge screaming fight with Emily one night in the office late after most of the office had gone home and the assistants sat outside our office listening in horror.

She cried. I can’t remember if I did or not. But I left the office feeling not sad or exhausted but just … demonic. Electric and turned-on: not sexy turned-on, machine turned-on.

I’m such a bitch, I thought to myself. I’m such a bitch. I’m such a bitch. I’m such a bitch I’m such a bitch I’m such a bitch.

Things that Emily had pointed out to me, crying, that I had said and done -- flickered a few times in my head as I walked down Broadway.

“You’ve just been so…” Emily didn’t call me a bitch; she didn’t call me any names. “Mean.” She was crying.

I just ... stared at her.

                                                              ******

When you're an editor, "mean" and "bitch" can be easily confused with "wildly opinionated, passionate, hot-headed, disagreeable because I believe in certain ideas because I'm supposed to be editing" -- and to some extent I know this is what sometimes happens. I'm not a particularly good communicator, especially via email, where I tend to be manic and strange and, uh, kooky? So that would lean towards biting when I disagree with someone.

In person, I think, it's easier to see how much my disagreeing with so much has to do with the work the work the work. My ideas about the work. All I've ever wanted to be was an editor with high rank and power somewhere -- and now, for truly the first time (I was mid-level at my last full-time job, Lucky);  here at xoJane I am one of few senior editors, and thus one of the few brains responsible for the direction of themes, content direction, messages and ideas.

It’s my job to offer ideas but also to disagree with other peoples’ ideas; it’s my job to say, “That’s an awesome idea!”, and it’s my job also to say, “I don’t like that.” 

Now let's get to the bad stuff. I’ve been saying, “I don’t like that” a lot lately -- and CC’ing everyone, including the originators of the ideas on the emails -- which is absolutely OK of me, and no, not insensitive: this is publishing, editing. My opinions about and ideas for the site are what I’m paid for in addition to my articles.

And I am very, very opinionated. Do I hurt feelings? Yeah.

This isn’t ideal, but it’s also inevitable. It’s publishing -- the industry I in which I've been bred and groomed for 10 years now. Or at least it’s the publishing industry that I know (maybe Conde and fashion mags are extra-ruthless).

On a few, and then lately, quite a few of these emails, my tone was getting bitchy. Disdainful. Impatient. Very frustrated; agitated. Harsh. I don't know. I wasn't attacking anyone, but I was making a big fuss about things I didn't like.

Also: what I was not -- and barely ever -- bothering to do is send around positive emails or speak out at the meetings about the ideas and things about the site that I do like. 

And that’s not bitchy exactly, but it’s not, you know ... not-negative. 

Things get pitched via email every day. And I’d say that for every “Awesome!” email I write back, I write five “I’m not doing that” emails. Or, “I’m not into that idea” emails. Or, “Cool, but here are my 15 ideas for improving that” emails.

And, you know. I always have to have 15 ideas for improving something. And I always do. CC: Jane.

                                                               ***** 

I’d say -- and I think that everyone I work with would say -- that eight months ago, at the launch of the site, I was very different.

Did you all notice that I didn’t participate in our “Say Something Nice Day”?

“I disagree with that stuff,” I snapped at Emily during our fight.

(“Say Something Nice Day” had been Emily’s idea; we’d been mutually passive-aggressive over some petty stuff for months. Did it inform my “opinion”? Possibly.)

“I’m a writer,” I snarled. “Negative is whatever; positive is whatever. I’m not some girly blogger that’s part of a sugar and spice and everything nice community, okay? I hate that. I hate that on principle.”

“You disagree on principle with one day celebrating saying something nice?” Emily cried -- literally, she was still crying at this point. “You disagree on principle with NICE?”

“Yup!” I said. And I started gathering up my things to go. Then I got the fuck out of there.

                                                            *****

In the black-tar stickiest awful depths of being sick you just want to stay there. The Nirvana line: I miss the comfort of being sad. Or in this case, mad. Or bad. To other people, sometimes.

Well, wah for me. Cause guess what, Cat, that's over now; you’re not that sick anymore but you’re not well, either, you just wanna stay there, too.

Getting better is work. Getting better means completely changing your values system. Your values system is what makes you a good person or a bad person. And it's much easier to stay an OK person.

(I was annoyed when I heard we were changing xoJane's current tagline, "Where women go when they are feeling selfish." It has been a comfort to me from Day One: I always feel selfish.)

So instead of taking moral inventories of those I've hurt -- it’s a Step, and I’ve never gotten far enough up that ladder to know by heart which one -- it’s much easier to repeat this “affirmation” however many times a day I need it:


In all these years, I've avoided relationships; I've never stolen or done anything bad in my drug life. I've never let anyone down. I quit Lucky because to spare my department and boss my addiction. Blah blah blah blah blah blah...

To paraphrase -- and you've heard this before:

 I've never hurt -- I'm not hurting anybody -- but myself.

Sometimes this was true for me. I don’t believe it is anymore.

Now listen and trust me when I say that drugs are becoming less a part of my identity by the second. I know this. So who is this new Scary Monster? This Super Creep.

                                                                    *****

I’m afraid I’ve turned into a narcissist. I’m afraid I am a narcissist and everyone who knows me and works with me or even reads me is laughing reading this, going, “Of course you’re a narcissist.”

I’m afraid that an editor called me -- off-handedly and not unkindly -- a narcissist, in a business meeting last week, only 40 minutes after he’d first met me.

“I never would have said something so rude if I didn’t think it was something you think about yourself,” he said, horrified when I reacted in, I guess, shock. “I’m so sorry. I just thought it was obvious.”

Then last night I had dinner with my friend Sebastian and told him that story, and he laughed and laughed and laughed.

“Kitty Cat,” he said. He’s called me that for nine years. “Is this a serious anecdote? Is this a serious question?”

What?

I didn't even push the issue. 

                                                           *****

I don’t know if I’m a narcissist, but I knew that I needed to step away from the people that I was hurting for a little while.

So I spent a week out with not-close friends -- a guy I date who was in from LA, our mutual friend who is not in my immediate circle (whom I have also been horribly bitchy to lately, but have left out of this article) forgetting myself, my job. My negativity.

So I didn’t get compliments from readers for a whole week telling me how awesome I am. I love you readers so much and thank you for the thousands and thousands of comments you have left like that: telling me that I am wonderful and amazing.

The truth is, sometimes I think all of that is feeding those bad things inside of me. 

So this is my comment to you: I am awful, like, constantly. All of the time. Also part of being an editor is editing your own Narrative, your own Truth, and I am always presenting a Cat that is far more loveable, generous and charming than who I really am lately. 

So I am here to tell you that I am trying to write a column today that feels more authentically Bad Me -- Bad Cat, in the manner of "Bad Santa" -- and less dishonest. I am here to tell the people I work with that I’m going to work on being less of a bitch. And I am here to tell all of you that I am going to work on being sorry.

I don’t know what’s happened these past couple months, you guys. And I swear -- I swear to you -- that’s the truth.

I do not know what has gone dark in me and turned outward on to others. When your own self-loathing goes away -- as mine has -- you don't start ... loathing other people, right? No!

I mean, that's crazy talk. So no. I don't know what has gone wrong.

                                                        *****

Here, you wanna beauty product tie-in for this? I've been neglecting beauty so much. OK.

It’s beautiful Chanel cologne called Platinum Egoiste:


Ordinarily I’d say buy it for your office Bitch, but nah. Buy something for yourself instead. She deserves nothing!

Or fine, do buy it. Twist off the cap. Wait for Bitch to flounce into the office at 4 pm in a fur coat and filthy jeans demanding two hours of private time with your boss during which Bitch will suck up hard and not mention to her that she hasn’t filed a story in two days.

Then when Bitch emerges from Boss’s office, open your desk drawer. Slip bottle of Platinum Egoiste into your sleeve.

Move in as Bitch approaches the assistants.

Julie? Hello? Are you wearing a pajama top?

She likes to show off for them.

And honey can you please change my Twitter password again? Because the one you changed it to is so stupid that the only thing I remember when I try to think of it is that my protégé is, like, literally mentally defective.

Uncap Egoiste. Inhale gorgeous but decidedly alcohol-based cologne fumes.

Bitch turns to you.

I can’t write a story today because my Internet got turned off and I can’t afford to turn it on, shrills Bitch. Again.

Then back to the assistants. Did someone take notes at the staff meeting?

It’s go time. She turns back to you. Ugh, I’m wearing my mother’s MINK today, she purrs. Don’t you sort of live for it and die for it at the same time? It makes me look like such a WASP, right?

Very WASP, say, and then don’t even hesitate, just go for it: Spray Bitch down like she’s a mosquito -- which she is, she's a bloodsucker, man -- and like the Egoiste is actually Chanel Eau de RAID.

Don’t worry about hurting Bitch’s eyes. She always wears her Ray-Bans indoors at the office, didn't you know? I mean, there's no Emotional Vampires In the Workplace Style Guide or anything but everyone knows: sunglasses at work.

Look at me but you'll never see me look at you.

Duh, babe. It’s just one of those things we do. 

Cat's on Twitter @cat_marnell.