I crouch behind my desk, one hand on the hilt of my (fake) sword, and watch my co-worker as she walks back from the snack room. Through the lens of my spyglass, I spot two bags of potato chips in her hand: salt & vinegar and barbecue. A veritable treasure trove of flavors. I snarl excitedly to myself, waiting for her to approach.
When she arrives at her desk, I leap out from the shadows like the brigand that I am and snatch the booty from her hands. “Ye won’t be needin’ this anymore! Consider these the property of Captain Corlisse Pegfeather.” I tear open a bag with my teeth and spit out the piece that comes off in my mouth.
Let me back up a little bit.
A few days ago, I was an ordinary non-pirate human being, just minding my own business, when Captain Morgan invited me to sample its Cannon Blast in honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day.
As I sipped rum in my living room, I started thinking about old-timey pirates. Who were they? What were their lives actually like? Was swabbing the poop deck actually a thing? Before I knew it, I was deep in the thralls of an internet wormhole (or a maelstrom, in scurvy parlance), reading everything and anything on pirates: their habits, their legends, and the many pirate clichés that have developed over time.
Throughout my very ~academic~ research, I made a fascinating discovery. Guys...it turns out female pirates are a thing. Not wives of pirates who followed their husbands out of duty, but badass lady pirates, taking names and stirring things up. My little feminist heart was singing.
For instance, there was Sadie the Goat, a ruthless gang leader from the 4th ward of New York City, circa 1869. Known for biting off the ears of her opponents and storing them in a jar of liquor behind the bar (for real), this girl did not mess around. Her other go-to move? Head-butting people in the stomach, hence the nickname “Sadie the Goat.”
Sadie was out by the waterfront one day when she spotted some hoodlums trying (and failing) to steal a ship, so she offered to help them out and be their leader. Cut to: Sadie and her horde of pirates making their way up and down the Hudson River on a stolen spittoon, raiding and pillaging everything in their path.
How. Baller. Is. That.
I’ll admit it: I became a little obsessed. The image of a lady pirate fascinated me. Powerful, merciless, masters of their own ships! I wanted a piece of that — though, I might have taken it too far.
To channel my inner pirate, I first needed to sound like one. According to TalkLikeAPirate.com, the top four terms pirates use are "ahoy," "avast," "aye," and "arr."
When my manager chatted me online later, I decided it was the perfect time to try these classics out.
Clearly a success. I felt brash! Reckless! Untouchable! I was ready to take this to the next level: my wardrobe.
For my pirate look, I drew inspiration from my second-favorite lady pirate: the Lioness of Brittany.
When Jeanne de Clisson’s husband was murdered by the French, she did what any proper wife does when the shit hits the fan: Girl sold off all of her lands to purchase a fleet of three ships, painted the ships black and red to intimidate “the enemy” (great branding tbh), and took her revenge.
Her “Black Fleet,” as it was eventually dubbed, patrolled the English Channel for French ships and executed anyone they came across, sparing only a crew member or two to report to their king that the “Lioness of Brittany” had struck again.
That kind of attitude was definitely going to serve me in the workplace (or it was going to get me arrested — nbd). I decided the “Black Fleet” would be the theme of my wardrobe: black and red and absolutely lethal.
To complete my outfit, I really got it in my head that I wanted a parrot. There are countless clichés about pirates that are false, but I was surprised to discover parrots really were a companion for pirates back then.
Getting my hands on a real parrot was a challenge, but I did it!
(Just kidding — nobody trusted me enough to lend me their bird.)
With my pirate look complete, I immediately felt more powerful. People looked upon me with awe, respect, and just a little bit of fear.
And having a pirate sidekick turned out to be a real ace in the hole. Now I had a second brain to bounce things off of!
I decided to name my parrot Red in honor of “Back From the Dead Red,” another female pirate with an incredible story.
Born in the 17th century in the Caribbean, Jacquotte Delabaye turned to piracy when the death of both her parents left her in charge of her ailing brother. To evade the government, she faked her own death and proceeded to live in disguise as a man for many years before returning to pirating under her new alias, “Back From the Dead Red.”
Just like Back From the Dead Red, I was ready to live in disguise as my new pirate alter ego, which I dubbed Captain Corlisse Pegfeather. I could now fulfill my true pirate purpose...
I couldn't become a pirate without trying my hand at a little playful pillaging. I admired these female pirates for unapologetically going after what they wanted, and now, with my look complete, I felt the rush of that power.
I decided to set my sights on our most valuable resource: the company snack room. It’s a thing of beauty. We’ve got salty, sweet, healthy, junky...the works. A treasure trove of snacks, if you will.
But, Jo! I heard myself thinking. These snacks are free already.
Shut yer trap hole! Captain Corlisse Pegfeather snarled.
I didn’t overthink it.
And just like that, I had achieved full piratedom. My fleet of one was taking no prisoners.
By the end of the day, I found myself rich in treasure (highlights include: TWO staplers, business cards that weren't mine, and a mug shaped like a toilet) but poor in friends ("Give me my mouse back" was the general consensus around the office).
I decided a pirate is only as good as her mates, so I returned my pirate's booty to its owners and made amends by inviting everyone out for drinks after work. But these were no ordinary drinks. These were pirate-themed drinks. And what, I ask you, is more pirate-y than rum served out of a cannonball?! You see where I'm going with this...
As we made merry after a long day's work, I toasted to pirating and to the incredible (-y terrifying) women who inspired me:
To Sadie, whose head-butts taught me never to take “no” for an answer.
To the Lioness of Brittany, whose fleet was on fleek.
And to Back From the Dead Red, for teaching me to embrace my alter ego (and very cumbersome nicknames).
There was a lesson here after all! It wasn't about wearing a three-cornered hat. It wasn't about my parrot (who was definitely real) or the way I pronounced my R's. Maybe being a lady pirate is all about confidence, knowing who you are, and taking what you want.
Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day, mateys, courtesy of Captain Pegfeather and Captain Morgan® Cannon Blast!