‘When boys hit girls, it means they like you,” she told me,
and it all went downhill from there
over time, i learned my place
much as any dog learns the rules
i did what was expected every time
reached inside his pants pocket to retrieve the money he owed me for babysitting,
let him touch my legs in exchange for a few extra bonus points on a quiz
gave him that blowjob so he wouldn’t break up with me.
I didn’t know what to say or do back then,
when he told me he’d put something in my drink to help me relax
and another he pushed himself inside me even though i told him to stop.
and years later
when he said the length of my skirt gave him the impression i wanted to have sex
and he groped me in the kitchen while his wife was in the other room
and he sent pictures of his penis before i knew his last name
i automatically lowered my eyes, like a puppy who just shit the rug
as if i’d done something wrong
because i accepted all of this as normal
different from all the hes before him
brought me to an isolated place by the water
a romantic gesture, i thought
until he casually mentioned
his ex girlfriend’s body
had been found
in the exact spot
we were sitting
and i knew he was going to kill me, too
unless i figured something out pretty damn fast
and in that moment
who I was
& the game changed.
my silence made me complicit
made the hes think
I was saying yes when what I meant was
GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME, YOU CRAZY PERVERT!
and I fought for my
in a way that I never did before
because my pain should not be linked to anyone’s pleasure
(especially not his)
and what the hell kind of madness is that?
steeping our daughters
from the moment we are old enough to walk.
Cross your legs, that’s not ladylike, girls don’t act that way, stop embarrassing me.
We take on the burden of being a woman, the guilt
we carry when our hips curve too much, when our skin
is too soft, when our eyes hold too much light
and our voice is louder than the softest timber. We teach our daughters
the way they dress, the way they walk, the way they hold themselves
are the things that could offend the kind of men who will violate them.
We teach them to gussy up and subdue themselves
until they fit into a box.
And then we teach them that girls who do not fit in that box
are the kind of girls that men like to hurt.
We use words like slut, and whore and tramp to teach our daughters
what could happen to them if they are too wild, too free, too spirited.
We teach them to treat their bodies like a crime scene before a crime has even been committed.
We teach them we live in the best country, a fair country, a country with equal rights for all.
We teach them they are lucky to live with such wonderful freedoms.
We teach them this is Truth.
But these are lies.
And none of it is harmless.
And all of it leaves a mark.
• • •
I was brought up to believe that men and women are equal, that all of us are as strong or as weak as we believe ourselves to be. The thing is it’s not true. Not yet, anyways. As women, it’s easy to feel powerless. (Nearly all of our institutions are designed to make us feel that way.)
It’s hard standing up on the daily for what is right. It’s downright exhausting.
Women, remember who you are are.
Who you were born to be.
Stop being a doormat.
And keep speaking up until you get what you want.
What were you brought up to believe about men and women? If you leave a comment, I promise I’ll respond to you. Eventually.