Always wear headphones, never listen to what they say. Don’t let yourself hear them hurl their compliments at you.
Hide behind sunglasses. Deaden your eyes so you can’t see their stares,
so that you can’t see what their mouths are saying at you,
so that you can’t see what they’re bodies are proposing,
so that the memories can’t form clearly.
You can later pretend it never happened.
You can pretend it doesn’t happen all the time.
You long to be friendly.
Inside you are friendly. Inside you are fun and bubbly.
But every day, before you leave, you layer on the armor. You have to protect yourself in this world.
When you get dressed, do it for yourself. You are glorious and stubborn. You deserve to feel that way.
To dress that way.
Not that you need to earn that right, but you have.
You’ve been through it.
Now you know you’re strong.
Go outside. Throw your shoulders back as if to exert confidence. But they are not the shoulders of a queen they are the teflon shoulders of a young but well-seasoned warrior.
If you stand tall and walk quickly but forcefully, you can’t outpace them. You can escape their gaze, trying to transform you into a body.
Remember the times when men and boys have crossed the line with you.
You thought silence would protect you. You were raised to believe that you could choose whether or not to engage. Examine the scars, in and outside of your body. From the times that the world tried to beat that agency out of you.
Remember how you fell silent.
Remember how you screamed.
Grow to fear your own feelings. Because really, they are the reason you are here. Grow to resent them.
Remember how he, they, ignored you, remember when for a moment you stopped being you.
Remember becoming a body.
Remember what happened to your friend. Your friends.
When did you learn that you couldn’t hide anymore?
Who was the first person who tried to teach you that lesson, and did it come from a place of kindness or greed? Some lessons are learned through pain.
When you go out, when you’ve been itching to dance for days!
Do you cut loose, do you feel free? Do you even try?
Just under the surface of your skin, you can feel the burdensome knowledge. You cannot be free.
Or rather, no matter how free you feel, at any point, someone else can snatch that freedom. They can cage you, they can penetrate your sense of safety and self.
He can destroy your illusion of freedom if he so chooses.
You wonder if you really want to be pretty.
You held on to the weight for a while – who would willingly strip themselves of armor in the middle of a battle?
You have begun to trade the fat for muscle.
You are more beautiful than you’ve ever been before.
A past version of you, considered this body, to be a goal.
But you feel more exposed than ever.
Every day you try to be less silent, to take up more space, to be more unabashedly you.
But boldness is a fight.
Sometimes you forget to take the armor off around friends. Around lovers.
Then you remember navigating the world before you knew you needed armor.
You remember the grown men who propositioned your naive, teen self. The milestones in your life, marked by disgusting men.
Your first high school party, when your guy friend, your hot guy friend, jokingly offered to trade you to a stranger for alcohol. You remember the ravenous look on that man’s face.
Your Junior Prom, when on a man on the street asked to borrow you. You remember freezing up. The gratitude you felt for the amazing friend who stepped in front of you, who spoke when you couldn’t.
Your first crush, who took advantage of you.
Your first love.
You remember how the shock turned to disgust, hatred, and numbness over the years.
Your life is a winding path to a freedom sold as ‘loving your body.’
Yet along the way, you encounter a million reasons to see it as your prison.