I am eight years old.
I am eight years old and my two front teeth are crowded and framed by toothless gums. I am eight years old and I adorn my girl scout uniform to school,
My soft belly protruding from the tiny brown skirt I had ordered two sizes too small.
I am eight years old and my fingernails are painted neon green
and due to my refusal of being within one hundred feet of a comb,
My thick brown mane looks like a picker bush.
I am eight years old
And I stand in front of my mother’s full-length mirror
Flecked with rust and bits of concealer that flew from her perfectly manicured fingertips and I stare at my oddly shaped body.
I am eight years old and I do a tiny twirl in front of the reflecting glass
Like the one I saw in the shopping montage in Pretty Woman.
I am eight years old and I whisper into the mirror:
“I hate you.”
I am nine years old and my pudgy fingers cling to a love note I have written
Addressed to the boy who played Jesus in our Easter play at my Catholic elementary school. I am nine years old and I am shaking
With the fear of imminent male rejection.
I am nine years old and I am sitting in a large leather chair with the school counselor.
She wears a habit, and I wonder what her hair looks like underneath.
I am nine years old and I am being interrogated for my use of mature language.
I am nine years old and I am being told that boys don’t like that kind of language.
Boys don’t like it when you’re too smart.
Boys don’t like it when you’re too forward.
No more notes like this one, Sarah. Ok?
I am thirteen years old and there is a ball of fire in the pit of my stomach
That roars and screams inside of me
Whenever I see a girl with blonde hair.
I am thirteen years old and my veins are pulsing with the kind of jealousy that is easily translated into rage
I am thirteen years old and tiny bits of white bread are stuck in my braces
and the only boy that will talk to me is the only boy in school lonelier than I am.
I am thirteen years old and I hate my mother because she is prettier than me.
She is a natural blonde.
I am fifteen years old and the charm of a small and soft and girlish belly has vanished.
Words like chubby and soft and round have been replaced with fat and ugly and cow.
I am fifteen years old and I cry every time my mother tries to take me to the mall.
I am fifteen years old and I am mean.
Not in a typical fifteen-year-old girl kind of mean, but in a way that would make you cringe.
I smile while making other girls tear up on the bus,
and take pride in knowing I am stronger than them.
I am fifteen and it is Christmas-time.
I am fifteen and I am home alone and my parents won’t answer my calls and
A boy I thought I loved won’t answer my texts.
I am fifteen years old and the tiny sphere in my belly is growing into a forest fire –
I am burning from the inside out, and the only way I can put out the flames
is by letting go of some of that hate and spite
and learning to transfer it into love.
But I am fifteen years old and not rational enough to see that
I try to kill myself instead.
I am seventeen years old and I am a fragile shell of myself .
I am seventeen years old and I am sneaking out of my house
to sleep with a man who calls me stupid and simple and crazy.
I am seventeen years old and I doodle his name in hearts in my notebooks.
I am seventeen years old and I choose what to hear and what to dismiss.
His voice reverberates through my spine when he says I am beautiful in my prom dress.
I am deaf when he tells me he once threw his ex-girlfriend onto the pavement after a fight.
There are no other noises in the world when he tells me nobody could possibly learn to love me
And I am lost in a cacophony of symphonies and broken garbage disposals and extra loud vacuum cleaners When my friends tell me they worry he will
I am nineteen years old and I have just started college and I am newly single and I am reckless.
The burning in my stomach is still present
but now I dull it with large cans of alcohol and attention from boys at parties.
I am nineteen years old and I wake up in an apartment I don’t recognize,
Smelling like wet cigarettes and sticky flat beer.
My head is a cloud and my hair is matted with sweat and vomit.
I am nineteen years old and he is sleeping next to me.
I am nineteen years old and I see a used condom on the floor.
I am nineteen years old and I don’t remember what happened to me.
Just tiny bits and pieces from last night
Drink Drink Drink Black
Cigarette Drink Black
He plays me a song on his guitar Drink Drink
Black. Black. Black.
I am unconscious.
I am twenty years old and I finally have words for what happened to me.
My new vocabulary is explained to me by a friend
While we eat french fries in an overcrowded food court.
I am twenty years old and
The words are assault and the words are date rape and the words are maybe you should press charges
and the words give me a stomach ache.
I am twenty years old and my friend gently whispers
not your fault
I am twenty-one years old and I am imperfect but holy shit I am beautiful.
I am twenty-one years old and I am a feminist
and I am a survivor
and I am learning to love myself a little more every day.
I am twenty-one years old and I am
Learning how to be kinder to others
Learning how to be kinder to myself.
I am twenty-one years old and I don’t whisper “I hate you”
into the mirror anymore.
I am now twenty-four.
I am scared.
I am broke.
I am a feminist
and I fight.
I am twenty-four years old and I march with one million women in our nation’s capital.
They raise me into the stratosphere and we hold each other up and I weep.
I am twenty-four years old, and the fire in my belly has dwindled.
Stoke it as long as you please,
It will never burn in the same way.
I am twenty-four years old and I see
That the world is so much larger than my belly.
The world is so much more than I’d ever imagined
Because the world is feminism and the world is kindness and the world is a fighter.