Mother, I wore that dress you bought, it’s pink, with frills around the bottom. You did my hair up in that ponytail and made me wear some lipstick. You told me girls are supposed to look pretty all the time. I’m five, but I hope I’m more of a girl now.
Mother, it’s hard for me to sit with my legs crossed, I feel more at ease with them spread. You don’t tell my brothers to do that, mother can you tell me why? Oh. Girls don’t sit like that. Girls sit straight, tilt their body at an angle, and keep their hands on their lap. I’m seven, I’m looking pretty and sitting still. I hope I’m more of a girl now.
Mother, I’m not yelling, I’m just excited. Why do you tell me to keep my voice down during the football game? My dad and his friends are screaming because their team won, why can’t I join in? Oh. That’s not ladylike. I’m nine, I’ll be quiet, sit still and look pretty. I hope I’m more of a lady now.
Mother, there’s blood rushing out, everything hurts. What’s happening to my body? Oh. Things are changing. You hand me pads and tell me this is the start of my womanhood. So was I not one all those years before? I’m twelve, my underwear is stained crimson, and it feels like my insides are being ripped apart. But I’ll be quiet, sit still, look pretty because I know I’m a woman now.
Mother, it doesn’t seem fair for us girls to set the table and clean up after the boys. They’re playing out in the yard, and we’re here scrubbing their spit off our plates. Mother your hands are scarred from all the meals you’ve made dad, but has he done the same for you? Oh. That’s a job for the women. We’re supposed to be in the kitchen, supposed to keep the house tidy. Supposed to smile and have hot meals out for the men. I’m sixteen, I’ll make sure the boys get fed. I hope that makes me a proper lady now.
Mother, you’re looking to pair your daughter with a man. One that promises her a life in a cookie-cutter house, dog, and all. One that promises to make sure your daughter carries on being a woman. Because you’re terrified, she won’t be one away from you. That my womanhood was something I could lose. That I was only a woman if people around me agreed. What if that’s not something I want? Oh. Women are supposed to want this. Women are supposed to want to carve slices of herself out for the men to dig in. I’m twenty four, and I’m tired of supposed to’s. Mother, I am a woman, but maybe not the woman you want.
Mother, you tell me women are supposed to have children. We’re meant to continue this cycle. But what if I poison them with the wisdom you’ve taught me? What if I ruin them like how you’ve ruined me? I can’t blame you, but I do. For I’m a woman, looking up at the only woman that I know— a mirror of me. I’m getting old, and I’m being told my eggs are dying, that my purpose as a woman was fleeting. I’m a woman, but a wasted woman.
Mother, I have been a woman all this time, yet it feels like I’m not enough of one.
Written by Shaura Naeem
Design by Megan @caifng