What "he" wants

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I remember being seven years old, grocery shopping with my mother.

I hung off the back of the shopping cart and groaned about how bored I was the whole time. When we finally got to leave, I picked up a magazine bright in color, opened to a random page that read “How to be the girl he wants.”

 

I was not yet old enough to realize I should have closed it and slid it underneath the candy so that nobody else would find it.

I was not old enough to realize that not everything I read had to be true.

Instead, I convinced my mother I was intrigued by the colors on the cover and she bought it to stop my whining.

 

I spent the rest of the day decoding every word inside.

I brought them into my home, invited them into bed with me, treated them like a part of me I had been missing for so long.  

 

Fast forward eight years and I am still being told these words.

 

They repeat in my head before any word rolls off my tongue.

15 years old and I cannot raise my hand in class; I know the answer.

I want to shout, like a clap of thunder, not caring who’s around to hear it.

But I’ve lost my voice before ever making a sound.

The men in my class never have to worry about not having a voice.

They’ve been taught that no matter how loud they yell it will still be intact.

 

I have been taught to shut up.  

I’ve learned to absorb, from generations of women in my family; it has always been like this.

I never thought I would replicate this, but I have spent hours sitting across the table from my grandmother, both of us silent, like a forgotten melody.

While we listened to the men, like a little boy practicing on his drum set.

Inheritance is accidental.

I guess I picked up her habits.  

 

If only they could hear me; I would tell them how I love the sound a train makes in the distance, how you can feel it, like a hand perfectly entwined with yours, without even seeing it.

I would tell them about the songs I sing in the shower, performing for my shampoo and conditioner like they’re broadway recruits and I’m auditioning for their next play.

I would tell them about my favorite picture: Jpeg 1206, with me and that man, laying in the middle of the road, so candid.

I would make a difference. Too bad, that’s not the girl “he” wants.

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