Luck, Be a Lady (What Does That Even Mean?)

Something just occurred to me.  Like just this minute.  Okay, maybe about half an hour ago.  It’s this: for the past several years, very few people have called me “lucky.”

You would think people would be saying it all the time, right?  I get to hang out with the cutest kids in the world all day every day, I don’t have to have a stupid job, nobody makes me wear socks or long pants or shirts with buttons on them, and my wife doesn’t yell at me for spending all my “down time” goofing around on the Internet.  Let’s face it–my life is a beautiful dream.

And no, it’s not just that I haven’t been listening carefully.  I would have noticed if people had been calling me lucky.  Because I used to get that shit all. The.  Time.  And I did not like it.

From as early as I can remember, people have been telling me how lucky I am.

“Your dad gots a GTO?!  Lucky.”

“Your mom let you watch Saturday Night Fever?!  So lucky.”

“You get paid ten bucks an hour ?! You lucky fucker–why don’t you loan me $6.00 so we can go see Saint Elmo’s Fire at the mall?  Then you can buy us some ice cream at Farrell’s afterwards.”

“You got into UVA?  How the fuck did you do that, you lucky bastard?  You almost flunked out of high school.”

“You’re marrying a doctor?  Lucky.”

“Argentina for vacation? Lucky.”

You see how it goes.  It’s annoying, right?

My so-called friends had no idea how hard I worked as a kid to train my parents to be cool, to convince them that I was responsible enough to see R movies and listen to profanity-laden records (which I totally wasn’t); and they had no idea how many hours I logged waiting for side doors to be left ajar so I could slide into schools, jobs, and relationships where I had no business being.

The one incident that really made me examine how I felt about the concept of luck and being lucky was a conversation with a family friend right before my wedding.  This old buzzard said that the one thing that struck him about me, ever since I was a kid, was how lucky I had always been.  I wasn’t sure why, but this really vexed me.  That’s when I figured out why being called lucky was an insult.

The implication is that all the good things that happen to you are because you have a golden horseshoe lodged in your rectum, and not due to all your hard work and agonizing over every decision life puts before you.  You don’t deserve the happiness you have, because you haven’t earned it.

That’s what psychologists call “some passive-aggressive bullshit.”

Thinking about it hours later, I formulated the response that I should have offered the dear old family friend:

“Yes.  I’m very lucky.  With little going for me but a face that people seem to think looks vaguely like about a dozen different famous people, and a pretty affable nature, I managed to stay alive long enough to snare a smart, beautiful wife with a bright future.

“But if I’m lucky, then so are you.  You might look like Ernest Borgnine, but you have the good fortune of being smart, motivated, hard-working, and competent, and you have a lifetime of achievements to show for it.  You think it’s easy being a charming, devil-may-care slacker?  I defy you to walk a mile in my shoes, pal!  You wouldn’t get around the block before you started begging to return to your high-pressure career and the comfort of your vast constellation of responsibilities.”

That would have been pretty cool to tell him, no?  Of course, It would have also been really rude and not at all affable, which is not my style.  Plus, I would have had to wake him up in the middle of the night to tell him, and he would have been confused and not remembered the conversation that elicited my impassioned response, and the point would have been lost.

But I’ve got that response all ready for next time.  If there is a next time.  Which doesn’t seem likely.

And that’s odd, given that I’m about to celebrate my ten-year wedding anniversary and, two days later, the second birthday of my twin girls. Do my friends think I’m a poor sap now, stuck at home with a family?  Or have they realized that my great “luck” is actually the product of a grand scheme I hatched years ago that has fallen in to place exactly as I planned?  Either way, I kind of miss getting pissed at my friends for simultaneously insulting my intelligence and expressing envy for all the luck I have cobbled together out of what has drifted into my path.




About BetaDad

BetaDad is a fortysomething stay-at-home dad who is sometimes allowed out to build stuff out of wood or teach college students how to write. Most of the time he just chases his toddler twin girls around though. He Dad can also be found at his personal blog as well as Daddy Dialectic, Dad Centric, Insert Eyeroll, and Man Of The House


  1. Great piece. And you’re lucky I deleted my original rambling comment.

    Another criticism in disguise that I love:

    “Wow, you’re really photogenic.”


    “You are way uglier in person.”

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  2. BetaDad says:

    I’m not lucky that you deleted your comment–I used the power of subliminal suggestion to make you do it.

    Here’s a funny “compliment” I’ve gotten from antagonistic a-holes: “Your wife is much cuter than I thought she would be.” Nice.

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  3. Leila says:

    Having been the quintessential “loser” all my 19 years of life, I’m prone to thinking/saying how much luckier everyone is compared to me. And you’re right, it’s what psychologists call “passive aggressive bullshit.”

    All throughout elementary school and middle school (and some high school, but people were politically correct by then), I used to be bullied for being the fattest kid in class. I was always fat. Ever since i was a baby. As a 3-month old, my mom had to feed me 3 bottles just so I can stop crying, and another 3 to put me to sleep. So even my family teased me about it. What would have been my witty retort? “You’re just lucky you’re not me!” You realize how pathetic that sounds, especially when you hear it from a child.

    Now, as a 19-year old, I see attractive women, I see debonair men, and I see all these things I don’t have, and I just tell them, “You’re lucky.” Even in music (I’m a violinist), I tell my competitors “you’re lucky you started the violin at age 3 because my parents didn’t have the money to let me play back then.”

    So, like your family friend, my way of explaining my shortcomings was thinking that I’m just unlucky and everyone else is luckier. In the end, it became a flawed philosophy that blinded me from realizing my own achievements and just how plain lucky I am that I have a doting family and a comfortable life. I wish you HAD told that remark to your friend. It may have been rude, but it would have opened his eyes a lot sooner.

  4. Paul H says:

    I’m very surprised it took you so long to reach that conclusion, because I’m fairly sure that I used to complain about this very thing quite a lot in college. Of course I was always nattering on about something that you had to tune out to maintain your sanity, but still. And of course, many of the comments were along the lines of, “You’re so lucky you didn’t get arrested for drunk driving” (which I now feel horrible about, but I was only 15!). But even then I would think, Yeah but how much time do YOU spend practicing field tests and walking straight lines? Can you say the alphabet backward? I can! And learning to do that was WORK.

    When I moved to San Francisco, everyone my ex and I knew said we were lucky every time we saw them. But we were overpaid, lived in an amazing place that our DC employer subsidized, had a landlord who encouraged us to get a big dog, put in a hot tub, and gave us fancy things, got to work from home (or not—no one saw us)….Hmmm, I guess we were pretty damn lucky. But we also did work very hard to get there.

    The other day someone told me I was lucky not to have aged. And someone else said I was lucky not to have died in a few accidents, muggings, and hospital visits over the past year. Now those I don’t attribute to work. I think of some of it as payback for years of excessively good luck. But it was still good luck. I’ve lost a tremendous amount of blood over the past year and have no long-term damage to show for it.

    In case you can’t tell, this topic has consumed me for more than 20 years…Sorry to ramble!

    • BetaDad says:

      I’m sure you told me that before. It’s just another example of my not listening, or having a great revelation that turns out to be perfectly obvious to most people. I think you’re another one of those bastards who are lucky to be smart and able to type fast.

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  5. chris says:

    My neighbor was in your shoes up until this year when his fraternal twins have graduated from h.s. He was envied by his wife who would sit and listen to what he found out in our ‘driveway convos.’ He witnessed the progress of his twins as well as his older girl…. U know well that most men miss out on what you are ‘lucky’ to have experienced.. yes it is hard work but something I bet u would not trade for…

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    • BetaDad says:

      You’re right. I can’t think of anything I would trade it for.

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      • Alynn C. says:

        Lucky? It’s funny that when women stay at home they are not “lucky” they are all oppressed, frustrated, unfulfilled, dependent, miserable, unequal, wasting their education, lacking adult contact, financially vulnerable, no identity, and in need of liberation. But when a man stays home, he is “lucky.” Shouldn’t the people who are so intent on eliminating gender differences, also work to destroy this one? Funny how the genders can differ when it suits us.

        But anyway, since staying at home is so wonderful and so lucky, I’ll be sure to encourage my daughters and any and all other females to pursue such a life, rather than a career. I’ll them that you said you wouldn’t trade it, and surely if it good for a man, it’s equally good for a woman. Who needs a career? Right?

  6. muskrat says:

    I’m lucky, too, but my luck is in that I tend to be pretty decent at winning games of random chance that require no skill or intellect whatsoever.

    So, clearly I’m better than you.

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  7. Interesting topic. Luck. We all are inescapably subject to it (meaning accident or chance).

    I never thought of it as an insult, but you have laid out the argument clearly. It is indeed possibly an insult.

    I typically think of it as a compliment, an expression of envy. When I call someone lucky, I generally wish I was in their position.

    • BetaDad says:

      I also call people “lucky” when I’m envious of them. But I usually mean to imply that they don’t deserve what they have. I’m passive-aggressive like that.

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  8. IzzyMom says:

    They’re all secretly seething with jealousy and they’re too ashamed to let you know. That’s what I’d be telling myself :)

    Also, while I have you here, how is it even remotely possible that you’re not following me on Twitter?

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  9. James says:

    This annoys my wife when people tell her how lucky she is to be married to me, and it also annoyed the lovely Kate Middleclass* when she married Prince William. Her response was that he was lucky to have her, and she’s right, of course.

    The other one that annoys my wife is whenever I do anything with our baby, like change a nappy or get him to sleep, everyone says how ‘good’ I am. Bollocks. I’m only barely as good as my wife on a good day, and a fair bit crapper on a bad day, but nobody tells her how ‘good’ she is. I’ve challenged a few people about this. It’s fun to challenge people. I can’t wait to get funny looks for being a man over 30 hanging around outside a primary school…


    * I should stop calling her that, particularly now she’s the Duchess of Cambridge

    • BetaDad says:

      To point #1–I don’t think anyone has told my wife that she’s lucky to have me. At least she hasn’t reported it to me.

      To point #2–I agree. Some people (women especially) act like I’m a superhero for doing the bare minimum of caring for my kids. But my wife is expected to do that and more.

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  10. Somebody told me once that philosophically speaking, lucky people are the ones who recognize an opportunity before everyone else and take advantage of it. Not sure how well that holds up, but it makes sense …sorta.

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  11. michelle says:

    You know I take it as a compliment when people say I’m lucky…and I often think it to myself–which doesn’t mean I haven’t worked for what I have, but I’m lucky to have had the capacity to do it. Have you ever heard Warren Buffett’s speech about the birth lotto? You come out on the right side of that and you ARE lucky. Everything you work for after that stems for one lucky accident.

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