Do not weep when your daughter first learns the word “pretty.”
Weep when she discovers how to spell it backwards until
the word “ugly” is the only shape her mouth knows.
But do not blame yourself. Teach her how to forget it.
Because when she tells you her skin is the
crumbs of an old language no one wants to learn,
her body left in pieces instead of at peace
after wars no one should ever have to fight,
tell her that “ugly” is a four-letter adjective
her name should never wear. Say to her that her spine
isn’t supposed to be a piano for boys to play sonatas on,
that the king vertebra of our spines isn’t called Atlas for no reason.
So the next time your daughter says
she isn’t pretty, do not say she is only that. Say this:
there’s nothing wrong with wits.
She does not have to love you.
There is no rule that she must laugh at every one or your jokes.
She will not spend every moment dreaming of you.
She does not have to worship you.
This is a world with freedom of religion.
It is her choice alone.
She does not have to revolve around you.
She is not the earth, and you are not the sun.
It is not in her being for her heart to beat for you.
She does not have to obey you.
You are not her overlord.
She has thoughts of her own.
She will defy you with every bone in her body.
She does not have the freedom to do any of this.
You keep it from her.
She fights tooth and claw to regain it.
One day, she will achieve everything.
She will love you, and she will hate you, and she will do it of her own will.
She will scream it from the rooftops until her voice gives out.
When I was 12 boys slid their hand up my thigh and slapped my butt. I smiled and took it because I didn’t know it was okay to say stop. I didn’t know that I could say no. So, when the principal calls telling me my daughter is suspended for punching a boy who wouldn’t stop touching her, I will cook her favorite meals. When she tells me how she cursed at the boy who wouldn’t move his hands off her knee even though she asked him to, I will smile and pull out her favorite movie to watch together. I will celebrate the fact that she accepts her body as her own and knows she has the right to say no. I never want my daughter to think her body belongs to men, because it is her own and my god should she be proud. I will teach her it’s more than okay to say stop, something I wish I had known when I was that age.