The Messy Me


Reclaiming the word “mess”
March 29, 2010, 2:46 pm
Filed under: Navel gazing | Tags: , ,

If a word is used in a disparaging manner against you, you can reclaim it and then it no longer has power over you. At least that’s the theory behind reclaimed words such as “bitch” (reclaimed by the feminist movement), “nerd” (reclaimed by technophiles), and “queer” (reclaimed by the LGBT movements). The tricky thing with reclaimed words though is that if you are not part of a particular community, then you shouldn’t use the word reclaimed by that same community. So, for example, if I am not a tech-savvy person, it can be offensive for me to refer to one as a “nerd.” But you might find that these same tech-savvy folks will self-refer using the word “nerd” in a positive connotation.

Since I was a kid living at home, I’ve been a messy kind of person. This drove my mother close to the brink, resulted in my university roommate avoiding my room like the plague, and on a nightly basis causes my husband to shake his head in wonderment as I gently work to exact a book from the ever-growing pile on my bedside table.

Recently, though, I heard the term “hot mess.” It was a young man being interviewed on television and he referred to his hair first thing in the morning as a “hot mess.” And he seemed proud. So I looked up this saying in a handy-dandy urban dictionary. Here’s the definition I found: “When one’s thoughts or appearance are in a state of disarray but they maintain an undeniable attractiveness or beauty.”

Sweet. I could really make this word for me.

Just consider:

Mismatched sports socks stuffed and hidden in fine leather business boots? Hot mess.

Passenger side of car knee-deep in empty Tim Horton’s cups? Hot mess.

Standing outside in housecoat while putting child on the school bus? Hot mess.

Always sporting a hat to cover un-showered hair? Hot mess.

Granny-panties showing above the top of Lululemon yoga pants? Hot mess.

Sure, I am far too old to use urban slang without looking like a desperate middle-aged woman, but I’m willing to risk it.

Family comes home at end of day to find mother exactly as they left her in the morning – pajama-clad, typing on computer, half-empty mug of coffee. They look at her. They look at each other.

She simply says, “What? I’m a hot mess.”