By age six, the world’s mysteries open up and offer this pearl.
I’m a girl.
Sometimes I wear a dress that floats above my knees and lifts when a gust blows in. Or at times I play with dolls. Or god forbid, mommy combs my hair vigorously, then tightens two clumps of hair on either side of my head to create pigtails. And the ribbons, she never forgets those. I’m told to never talk to strange people. It’s unclear how that word translates into the crosswalk patrol near my elementary school, or my first grade teacher who smells of stale cheese and wears coke bottle glasses. I chalk up “strange” to mean people with goitres, maybe some other unspeakable deformity that will terrify me.
More rules follow when I’m twelve. Don’t wear such a tiny shirt. Cover up. Ooh, those jeans are all wrong. We have to fit you for a bra or everyone will notice. I peer down at my chest. Notice what? That I breathe? Exist? I begin slouching, caving my torso in on itself. It seems to work, people notice me less.
At fourteen, things turn surreal. You know, you and your people. I snap my head around to see who else is with me. Nobody. “My people” begins to form shape: dark hair, flat nose, almond shape eyes and full lips. I seethe at my reflection, wish my face could spontaneously combust into sparkling blue eyes, regrow hair that’s golden and shiny. Boys rarely look my way. My mother nags me to stop slouching, even pressing my shoulders back with her palms. My chest disobeys.