Kipling for Girls: The Other “If”

If you can keep your worth when men about you
Are gaining theirs by lowering that of you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
And give no quarter to their doubting too:

“"I Don't Want Her, You Can Have Her, She's (Gotten) Too Smart For Me!"”

If you can no more wait in silent, fruitless waiting
But, being lied about, throw back the lies,
And, being hated, pay in measure for the hating,
While looking clean and good and acting wise;

If you can dream – their dreams not be your master;
If you can think – their wants not be your aim,
If you can meet with each of their disasters
And on those sad imposters lay the blame:

If you are sick of hearing the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted for slaves to make false traps by fools,
Or watch the women you shared your life with, broken,
And stand tossed out aside, like worn-out tools;

If you are on the heap of all the losers—
You risked it on a piece of human dross
And lost—no start again at your beginnings;
(He gets to start again with a new toss:

He gets a girl-child ready-made and new
To kowtow to him after you are gone),
And so you must hold on with nothing in you
Except the will which says “I’ll carry on!”

If you can act for good but lose your virtue,
But of their virtue men need never care,
If words of foes or loving friends can hurt you
But reputations of men can be bared:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds of fair treatment’s slaughter,
Then you now know that women ARE the n#ggers,*
And—which is more—you’ll be a Woman, my daughter!

Told It Like It Is

* Yoko Ono’s famous quote, Woman is the n#gger of the world was in reference to the underdog status of all women everywhere.
The original Rudyard Kipling’s “If”:

2013/11/25–added an explanation of Yoko Ono’s famous quote when I learned today that many younger women are unfamiliar with it.

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  1. Effing brilliant! (HI, Paul!)


  2. Bwahahaha! I see you sneeking aournd in 2011. Are you starting to comment on your own blogs?


    • Yup. I need to give myself some strokes. so…

      I am quite proud of the job I did on this poem, and more than a bit put out that it is one of my most-despised posts. Dunno if it’s because of the vitriol, that the Kipling original is no longer known, or what the deal is. ‘Course, people don’t read “classic” style poetry any longer, period.


      • honestly OB, i read 3 or 4 of the other posts that have popped up from this time period – and i found them all dripping with anger and hate. Obviously not a good time in your life. Because they are all years past and there is no chance to add anything of value and you have obviously found a happier place in your life – I was not interested in internalizing such anger to comment. I just see and i delete. I responded to the comment you made on one but did not read the post.


        • Wow. As much as I know you from your writing, and comments to myself and others, I have found you both open- and fair-minded, so when you said “dripping with anger and hate”, I listened–but was honestly shocked. This poem and the buttered toast story are the only two pieces I could imagine anyone thinking that about.

          I am as proud of this piece today as when I wrote it. Any hate is directed more toward sexism than at men, which I believe is clear in the poem. Anyone who interprets it as one woman’s lashing out at men who cheat–that, I THINK–I could be wrong–is a sexist interpretation.

          The buttered toast story? My ex-spouse stole money from a CHURCH.    (“Allegedly”.    Charged for same by the LAPD.    Also civilly sued by the church.)    We are talking EVIL.    (“In my opinion.”)    He was, and is, as I portrayed him.    (“In my opinion.”)    I was trying to capture some of that, and think I did.    I can see, however, that out of more context, that post might just sound…”off”.

          But more than those two? I still don’t see it. Surely, you don’t mean those teaching stories, Paul?


          • Paul

             /  2015/01/26

            I’m sorry OB. i didn’t notice the date at first and I thought someone else had written the posts (a guest perhaps). They were so, so different from what you usually write , in terms of attitude, delivery and even vocabulary that i could not even believe they were yours. When i said hate and anger, i meant hate and anger at the situations, not at the world and not as an attitude but rather as a reaction to the situations.

            You painted the teaching situations as hopeless, with no recourse and with continual exposure to emotionally disturbed children who should not have been in your care and who were big enough and strong enough and seemingly hateful enough to be dangerous physically. This is not a sustainable situation – obviously. And it would generate hatred (for the system, for the management, for the lack of care of employees, for the poor and inappropriate care of the children) in me as well. And if cours etheanger would follow accordingly.

            I’m sorry i was abrupt – I should not have been. That was partly from feeling your fustration through your writing about the situation and partly my own fault as today was not a good day for me – but it got better. The holiday stretches are a hard tme for me to cross both emotionally and physically (finances meaning that there is a food shortage ) but i made it to my next cheque and now have some groceries.

            So, i apologize for my comment, please rest assured I meant no disrespect.


  3. Paul, thank you for clarifying which posts you meant and what triggers in them caused you to feel what you did. I respect that gut reaction you had. I hadn’t thought about them in that way, but encountering those classroom experiences all at once, I can see how they would be overwhelming. I was certainly overwhelmed. Within two weeks of being inside that classroom, my hands, the inside of my nose, and my mouth, inside and out, were covered with what we now know were Behcet’s sores.

    And I taught for another 4 years and ten months.

    So I think you were giving a fair assessment. They probably ARE dripping with hate and anger. I hadn’t seen it that way before, but yes. Well, no. Perhaps not hate, but quiet fury and disgust, definitely.

    I don’t know why the holidays in particular are difficult for you–if you’ve written about it. I can, of course, understand–I think you know that from my blog. That food situation–I have been there, and it’s simply awful. I lived solely on three tiny nickel dough twists a day from a local bakery for THREE MONTHS. I’m truly surprised I didn’t drop over from some vitamin deficiency. But why are YOU there? I mean…Canada. I thought that was the land of milk and honey, compared to f#cking America these days. It’s easier to get an Iphone–which I have–than food or medicine down here.

    i am terribly sorry you are ever in that situation. You are not responsible for any reasonable decisions when you’re stressed like that, or when your body is ill-supplied like that. And for you, Paul, it’s dangerous. I know you’re a resourceful man of wisdom, experience, flexibility, contacts…I could go on. But: Have you tapped all of those contacts, on- and offline, to see if there is a way to avoid these lulls in your food/money pipeline?

    Always wishing you well (in all senses),

    Your friend, O. Babe



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