I wish I would have grown up in a world where being beautiful wasn’t the most sumptuous thing I could be. That the words I dropped from my tongue held more weight than the color of my hair. Or the measurement of my waist. And I wish I hadn’t spent so much time hating the traits that were deemed my flaws. Loathing the fact that I never grew a set of big breasts or that I felt more like myself with a basketball in my hand than a lipstick.
And I hate that I grew up being told what women could and couldn’t be. That if you wore too much makeup you were a whore, but not enough labeled you plain. That we should memorize the words in our Cosmos, and not in our history books. That I could make a man genuinely laugh until he was blue in the face, and in his next breath he’d remind me that women are just simply, not funny. And it makes my skin crawl recalling high school math class, listening to girls talk in baby voices and pretending that they understood nothing because being dumb meant being cute. Now, I can’t help but wonder how many of us knobby-kneed, plaid skirt wearing girls would be in a different place, if we didn’t try so hard to prove that our brains were the least attractive parts about us.
Now, as an adult, I’ve begun to shed the repression that once covered my epidermis. I’ve locked eyes with the power that lives in my own throat. And I’ve used my words as a weapon to fight this war. And still, I’ve had men try to bully it out of me because they didn’t like the sound of my melody. And women have rolled their eyes at me and whispered that I wasn’t a lady. I’ve been too much. Not enough. I’ve been called every name in the book…and then some. And I don’t have regret, but if I only could have strung these words together when I was 17, like I can now, and screamed them at the top of my lungs,
That I don’t give a fuck.
Because I don’t need to be anything for anyone, except myself. And I can’t stop thinking about the skinny 10-year-old little girl I was. Wearing basketball shorts, and a tangled ponytail on top of my head. And I hurt for her. Because I wish someone would have told her that it’s okay not to fit in. To feel and be different. That other people’s judgment has nothing to do with her, and everything to do with them. That the reflection in the mirror didn’t mean anything compared to the strength coursing through her veins, and the ideas she had dancing around in her head.
So my hope is that this world continues to change. That my two nieces grow up knowing that they can be anything they want to be. And they can do it with a full face of makeup on, or barefoot with dirty hands. That women continue to make noise. To be a force. To stomp out any doubt with muddy combat boots, or new red bottoms. That no one can tell us what we can or can’t be, because together we are everything.
That is the world I want to continue growing in.
That is the world I will fight for.