As a woman known for her "candor," I feel a special connection to HBO's Olive Kitteridge, a miniseries about a cantankerous woman in Maine who does nothing to soften the strength of her personality.

We tend to look for an essentially kind nature in people, particularly women. But some of us just aren't that kind. Some of us are like my Great-Aunt Edna, who used to work herself into such a rage that the only way to soothe her was to go to the drive-through liquor store or for her to tell you exactly how she felt in that moment. And when she dies, the way she lived—not giving two fucks what anyone else thought—you realize you miss that awful, unrelenting, unapologetic honesty.

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Sometimes the essential nature of a woman is a bitch. This is the type of woman that Olive Kitteridge celebrates.

The miniseries, based on the Pulitzer-winning book by Elizabeth Strout of the same name, opens with a wrinkly Kitteridge (played by Frances McDormand) standing in the woods as boisterous classical music plays. She is working up the nerve to kill herself, as her father, a fellow depressive, did before her. But she doesn't go through with it.

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Then the story flashes back to her middle-aged life. She is a hard-boiled math teacher, shooing away parents who try to extricate their spoiled, ill-behaved children from detention early. "Detention ends in 20 minutes. You can wait if you like," Kitteridge sternly tells a wealthy mother in one scene.

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At home, Kitteridge is married to the thoughtful and sweet town chemist Henry Kitteridge (the ever-downtrodden looking Richard Jenkins) with whom she has a son Christopher (played by John Gallagher Jr. as an adult) of sizable wit but moderate determination. That last bit drives Olive nuts; depressed and intelligent, she's always saying things like, "average people are happier."

One night when Henry tries to shield Christopher from his mother's mental illness, she defends her affliction. "Happy to have it," she says. "It goes with being smart."

"Is that why you're so mean all the time?" Christopher asks.

"Absolutely," she replies.

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Christopher, like many people around her, grows to resent his mother. Olive Kitteridge doesn't quite know how to be kind. In one scene, Henry buys her a Valentine's Day card and she tosses it the same day because she's already "read it" and "doesn't like clutter." On another day, Olive takes the time to encourage a young mother struggling with depression to pull herself together and cook dinner for her teen son, whom Olive's given a ride home from school because she couldn't get off the couch.

This is Olive's dichotomy. On one hand, she identifies whom she feels deserves care and special attention; on the other, she detests those who she feels are just lazy "saps" who require this care too much.

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Edna, my Great-Aunt DeeDee, was just like Olive. Where other women in my family were patient, Great-Aunt DeeDee was unyielding cantankerousness personified. Once she was so full of "candor" that I hid under my bed, and then my Granny found me and said, "What in the world are you doing, girl? Get up from under that bed, you can't hide from people you don't like."

That lesson is why I am glad that I had Edna in my life. You can't hide from bitches, you can only learn to appreciate them.

As a kid, my cousin, her grandson, and I would push on Great-Aunt DeeDee's buttons. One time we disappeared into the elevator of a Houston skyscraper without supervision, and while I was spanked in private with stern talking-to, my cousin was smacked in the middle of the hallway. She was a tough critic at home, to say the least, but she was able to pair this sternness with softness when she needed to: she worked as a special education instructor and took great care and interest in the growth of those with disabilities. If any one around her used the word "retarded," they would rue the day they learned to speak at all. Routinely, her students returned to her classroom to thank her for her work.

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People aren't always going to be nice to you, and I'm glad I learned that lesson early in life. I'm glad I learned that some women are just bitches, and some bitches were just born that way. I visited Great-Aunt DeeDee several years ago, before she died. I took great pleasure in talking shit to her, just like she'd done to me as a kid. I was grown enough to fight back.

But soon I realized I didn't even want to. I sat back and listened to all her unfiltered opinions about what I was wearing or doing with my life. I knew it came from an honest place without any sugar-coating—the same place Olive Kitteridge lives. That place is special; it's the place where you learn that there are no substitutions for the cold, hard, painful truth.

Image via HBO.