I experienced womanhood as a series of benchmarks I hated myself for failing to meet.
I disowned so much of my girlhood; I return to it now like a traitor. I was 11 when my mom handed me a pink molded plastic razor and told me I was “too old” for the tufts of wiry black hair under my arms. From one generation to the next, I inherited the notion that simply being a girl was a source of embarrassment.
I wore a bra to bed.
I sipped the chemical cocktail of acetone and peroxide. My innocence rang discordant with the sexuality now ascribed to my body. I felt my form became a cultural symbol, and I became responsible for the questionable intent of adults.
I will make myself into patriarchy’s Frankenstein monster. A woman crafted with shameless intent. The spectacle personified.
My nail art goes largely unnoticed. Hours of labor devoted to attaching one hundred iridescent baubles to the surface of the nail, delicately, with tweezers and toothpicks. The effect is not precisely sexual; there is no manipulation of evolutionary desire.
In middle school, I sat at my kitchen table from night into dawn with friends, coloring our hair and discussing crushes, our parents’ marriages, and street harassment. With time, our conversations became more abstract, forming a collection of preteen musings on death and purpose and god. The dye didn’t do it, but it provided the excuse, the time-consuming nature of beauty rituals a backdrop to reflection
It’s tempting to delight in a secret feminine language of symbols—our coded solidarity, the labor we share.
Labor unions organized in the break rooms of factories, enemy ground, but also physical spaces that people spent hours of their lives in.
We deconstruct patriarchal modes of thought crowded over a bathroom sink, shit-talking ex-es and sectioning hair for boxed dye.