When I was 13, I let a boy violate me. I let him. Because I thought that was the only way he would love me.
When I was fourteen, I let a boy abuse me. I let him. I opened my arms and heart to him and let him crawl around and rearrange things. Because I knew it was the only way he would love me.
When I was 27, after I had lost a bad husband and over 100 pounds, a boy who I’d been sleeping with on a semi-regular basis told me that if I lost 25 more pounds, I would be marriage material. I let him take me home that night. I let him. Because no one else was offering.
When I was 38, I let a man think I was stupid. When a man with beer on his breath and Trump on his tongue challenged me on politics, I pretended not to know all nine Supreme Court justices. And once he made his points, I let him stare at my breasts and sip his beer with a victorious smile on his face. I let him. I let him because I was afraid that if I opened my mouth and too much “smart” came out, I would seem less “sexy” and more self-aggrandizing.
That instinct was the echo of a language learned long ago.
Of these four infractions, it is that last one that bothers me the most. That time, only one year ago, is the one I would crawl back to. That’s the girl I would slap and shake and yell at the loudest.
Because that 38-year-old version of myself? She has become a feminist. And as a feminist, that one hurts the most.
That 38-year-old version of me? She is a mother. She is your mother. She should know better. You will know better.
You should know that boys will press, and other girls will pull, but if you can manage to somehow stay put-to stand your ground, you’ll be okay.
You should understand that the voice inside you may be small now but remember one, tiny stick will break easily, but a whole bunch can hold a fire on their shoulders and light up the world.
You should know that the power of your breasts is in what they protect, in what lies beneath them, the thumping, softness of your heart and the secrets it will hold.
You should know that this world will test you, your strength, your love, your will, your metal. And you will need to be equal parts squish and steel to survive.
You should know the nine justices.
You should know the 27 amendments.
You should know the first seven places of Pi.
You should know how to change a tire, dress a turkey, and replace a fuse.
I don’t know how to stop the waves from coming. I don’t know if I’ll ever be strong enough to face the ocean alone. But together, we are an unmovable force. But I know I can hold you against me, protect you with my body, shelter you from the crash, for as long as it takes.
I know better now.