Life Doesn't Fit in a File Folder


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‘When boys hit girls, it means they like you,” she told me,

and it all went downhill from there

because slowly

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


another he

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

I remembered

who I was

& the game changed.

I realized

my silence made me complicit

made the hes think

I was saying yes when what I meant was


Hell no.




so 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

in shame

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.

Speak up.

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.


  1. Thank you. You have a remarkable gift for expressing the truth.
    As a survivor of one of the “oldest professions” from a young age your words ring so true.

    1. Hi KAS. Thank you for sharing a bit of your story with me. Honestly, I wasn’t trying to be eloquent or even articulate. Sometimes, i have these flashes of clarity where I just get furious. It’s STUNNING to me, how we all have our different blindspots, how some people just do not see what I see so obviously before my eyes. We are truth all on our own paths in this life.

    1. Thank you Kassandra. I appreciate that you’re still out there, reading and commenting. Most people are content to hit LIKE and move along. Thank goodness for you or I’d feel like I’m in an echo chamber.

  2. Renee, I hope #metoo and #blacklivesmatter significantly change the game… As I watch my granddaughters and great-granddaughter, I see how far off real change is. I recently read that young women today are more vocal, less willing to allow men to do to them what prior generations of women have had to endure. Perhaps some young women can and do tell men to get lost, to fuck off. But–I’ll be glad when there are no more buts–until the playing field is level for every single woman, every girl child, every frail, elderly grandmother, walking upon the earth, change will not come.

    1. I believe that what you say is true about this younger generation of young women. I saw how outspoken my son’s girl friends could be, and i felt pleased about that. The thing is…I was JUST LIKE THAT…until childbirth. When I became a mother, everything i had fought for burned away. I had to take care of my son, and if that meant I had to acquiesce, I did it. I see the cost of those actions now and I’ll NEVER go back to that again. Ever. It is my most profound hope that young women can start to enjoy the freedoms we haven’t even realized yet.

  3. I guess there’s something positive about not being pretty or popular. You’re ignored or teased, but not propositioned. In my case, anyway. I guess I was lucky in one respect, I had an older brother who would say if anyone hurt his sisters, he’d “take care of them”. I believe he would have, too.

  4. I’ve just found your blog (I’ve sent you an email explaining how) but I just had to comment on this because now I’m a grown-ass woman crying into my dog’s fur. This really touched something so painful inside me that I think is inside all women, most of us just don’t know it because it’s so normalized. I recently released a psychological suspense called The Burning & it’s basically me roaring at the world on this very subject. Enough is enough, we need to step into our power, and I feel that change coming. Sharing this poem on twitter!

    1. Hi Shannon!Thank you for this beautiful and thoughtful comment. I have read your email, and I promise to get back to you in a more thoughtful way. This weekend has been a little crazy for me; things get a little calmer next week. I PRMISE I’ll get back to you! Thank you so much for taking the time (and the energy) to write. I know how difficult that can be when you’re feeling cognitively scrambled. XOXO

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