by Grace Kelly
To Be A Woman
To be a woman is to be sexual, to be revealing but still leave something for the imagination. To fold myself into an inverted and twisted reflection of whatever the male gaze sees fit. To carry myself with enough confidence to draw the attention of a man, but not enough to threaten a man's facade of being the one in control. I shove these thoughts away, telling myself I am strong in my stance as a new age woman who turns the mirror onto the men themselves. I tell myself these things like I am a wise woman who has seen behind the curtain of toxic masculinity, but it is a lie. I lean into the submissive role of being an object, of being a pool of water for people to look at and call to however they want. I am a woman.
I was twelve when I confidently walked down a dim street in November, feeling beautiful and feminine in my knee-high boots and tight sweater dress. They were uncomfortable and itchy, but I wanted to be a woman. I wanted to be like my mother, my sister, my aunt and cousin. I wanted to be a woman like them. Pretty and grown up. To giggle and blush and catch the attention of a man on the street. To receive a “compliment” from them. No one had told me it was wrong, that being cat-called was not a compliment. They never told me it was demeaning or dangerous. They never told me the difference between a compliment and harassment. Ignorance was supposed to be bliss, but all it brought was danger. From all these small things, I learned that I should seek this: recognition as a “real” woman, or what I was taught to see as a true woman.
Leaves blew down the street as a black car full of loud frat guys began to slow next to me. They whistled and yelled, calling me sexy and beautiful. I was twelve. I had always wanted to be beautiful, so I smiled. Basking in what my innocent mind had seen as a compliment. I remember being so happy to be seen, to be treated like a woman, to be a woman. This continued on for some time whenever a man noticed me in this way until I heard about sexual assault, rape, abuse, and everything else my parents wouldn’t be able to protect me from.
Sometimes I think about that first time I was viewed as something sexual. I wasn’t viewed as a girl, a teen, or even a woman. I was viewed as an object. It wasn’t a compliment like I had thought all those years ago.
The more I experienced and heard, the more I began to have fear in my heart. I anxiously take precautions against looking weak or becoming a victim. I fear what could happen if an encounter didn’t end with just the odd remarks and catcalls.
To be a woman is to fear dark streets, and carry keys between your fingers. To be a woman is to be strong and collected when you face the toxic dominance of a man who views you as nothing more than an object. To be a woman is to ignore uncomfortable comments in order to get a tip and do your job like you have to.
I try to be strong, to be confident, and everything a woman today should be. I have made strides in become more, but there is still more growth left. I learn and struggle and fall back into my old thoughts but I am no longer an object. I am a woman.
A single shriveled date.
Placed on the table to the left
of a shadow of jagged leaves,
cast by a small rose.
Contrasting in scale
to the excessive thorns that came to a razor-sharp point.
I felt his eyes dig deep into me at that point.
Just one date.
Cold eyes weighing me like a scale.
The night darkened as the moon and stars left.
My heartbeat rose
as all the luminous light leaves.
A bitter wind toys with the leaves.
A sharp point
collided with me as I rose,
reminding me of the date
with the man to the left.
Like the thorns to the rose, he was too large in scale.
Unbalanced was the scale,
but ignored like the dead dry leaves
that were pushed aside to be Left.
That wasn’t the Point
Of this one Date.
To him, a thorn was equal to a rose.
shifting the scale
by reaching for the long forgotten and withered date.
He turns and leaves,
but makes one final Point.
“You are the one who will always be left”.
The moon glowed towards the left,
illuminating the weakening rose
and each of its thorns that came to a minuscule point,
casting a shadow three times its scale.
The unaware jagged leaves
casted sharp and irregular shards of light onto the sole date.
All that was left was that lone date.
The rose had wilted and blown away just like the leaves,
finally understanding the point of the years spent balancing that unseen scale.