I was born beautiful. I was born capable of conquering the world with tiny feet and cheeks blushed over with dreams. Chunky monkey, you have it all. I believed it. I believed in everything. Hands filled with stars that I threw up in the sky myself… and I watched the first one fall when I learned that perfection wasn’t something that stayed as an unconditional promise of inner beauty… no. Fingers pointing at me like a built in radar alerting me to the fat. The fat. Fat. Fat. It’s ugly. It’s gross. But fat wasn’t fat on the football team. Big fat ass… muscle! Power! Man! Roar! Tough guy… run that ball. Worship you. You don’t see any fat cheering on the sideline, do you? Of course not. But if you did, you can bet that’s what everyone would be talking about. And the sluts… the sluts that can’t stop fucking everyone… they’re not just fucking anyone, they’re fucking the studs… the macho studs… the cool boys getting laid tonight- varsity style- high five… you whore. Now you know the lesson of wham BAM, thank you, slut.
I used to babysit for a couple whose love could’ve conquered the world, until he looked me over hard enough to take my virginity with the repulse in his eyelashes
and his hands made wishes that never came true.
Waiting for the school bus was an open road of cat calls in Spanish with words I didn’t understand but gestures that taught me they were trying to collect more than the garbage two days a week. Suburbia. My Dad waited for the bus with me one day and the only noise was the garbage being collected. So, I learned about a power I would never have.
Safe place of white suburbia, where taking a freshman ride home from the dollar theater with one of those muscular senior varsity studs could make you and break you in about ten minutes. Maybe one day, he’ll carry a badge of some kind to keep that stud title, but you’ll still be the whore he doesn’t remember. Remember? I do. I do. Remember those hands that throw the football are the same hands that hold the secrets they keep finding in your pants… whether you said yes or no… it was a go. It was a fucking play… hometown hero… worshipped. Remember the boys you never talked to? The quiet ones. The ones who didn’t have rape in their pants as a pop up surprise… the nice guys… the ones you didn’t look at twice. Now you wished you had. I wished I had. Remember the girls who called other girls sluts because their boyfriends wanted to fuck you, even if they never did, you were still a threat competing with the slut they were hiding under the name “girlfriend.”
I knew a girl like that who came to my house in the middle of the night to write the word “slut” with shaving cream across my bedroom window because she believed I slept with her boyfriend, but I was still a virgin at the time despite her boyfriend calling me non stop… I always wondered why she went through all that trouble to write her own name on my window. Those are the girls now saying Amen over and over, thinking maybe someone has forgotten who they are. The girls who always said yes to anyone.
Remember when you grew up from that hell and realized that the way you learned boys were allowed to treat you was the wrong way? But the damage was done. And you weren’t forgiven for the sins that weren’t yours anyway. Remember when you learn the unfairness of it all and the way it never stops?
Remember the time you fought the law and the criminal won? Remember how you were taught… that’s life. Remember when you settled for that? Remember the birth, the stars, the fat, the studs, the badge, the muscle, the sluts, the football games…
everyone remember the football games. I remember the road lined with the eagle claws leading all the way to the football field. They are not there anymore, but I still see them. I see the road paved with claw marks from the ones whose No fell on deaf ears because the applause in the stands was so fucking loud.
You’re talking about a hero, girl… you’re talking about a legend… who are you to have a voice louder than that? Know what you’re good for is the lesson I was learning. Well, thank you, Sir for pounding that lesson into me until my No was silenced. I learned it. And I know I’m not the only one who learned.
Everyone remembers the high fives and all those plays that made the fucking paper.
Remember how you were taught you couldn’t be good enough if you tried? Remember all the stories that didn’t make the paper? I do.
© Stephanie Bennett-Henry 2016
Stephanie is a Southern Girl through and through. Sweet as candy, sharp as a blade, and talented beyond measure, Stephanie’s poetry is raw, unfiltered, and unforgettable. You can find her exquisite words at Stephanie Bennett-Henry, on Instagram and on her website.