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Editor's letter: Stubbornness not just for mules

Andrew Williams

October 27, 2011 | 12:00 a.m. CST

Ali. Big Al. Peanut. Ali Cat. Al Pal. Pallie. Frallie. Jungle. I have had a lot of nicknames throughout my life. In fact, my parents gave me the full name Alison only to call me Ali on an everyday basis. The nickname that has the most insight, however, is the one my brother gave to me when he was a child — Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong. After hearing the popular Spin Doctors song on the radio, he swore it had to be about me.

Although he was about 5 years old then, he hit the nail on the head; when it comes to being right, I’m about as stubborn as, well, a mule.

This week’s Vox story about all things mules got me thinking about obstinacy and the reasons behind the inclination. As Missouri’s state animal, mules have a long history here, which gives us a chance to explore their motivations. Mules might seem simply tenacious, but the feature explains that they are stubborn for self-preservation measures.

For me, being stubborn is driven much less by personal safety and much more by genetics. Just as a mule is a hybrid of a horse and a donkey, I am a hybrid of my parents and their respective dispositions. I might have inherited my baking skills, empathy and knack for untangling knots from my mother, but I most definitely received, among other things, my need to be right from my father.

There’s no question that I was a willful little girl, a product of being my parents’ first child and the only grandchild at the time. Not only did I want to have things my way, I also believed it was the right way. And, to an extent, I still do. I have learned that maturity requires listening to and, even at times, accepting other opinions. However, I often find that, as my father says, I might not always be right, but I am never wrong.

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