My childhood was filled with simple joys,
raindrops dancing on summer-scented skin
and soaking my downy head to the scalp,
belly laughs for so long they hurt
as I gasped for breath between Jodi’s forgotten punchlines.
Mama took us to the city to play in the oily puddles
while she window-shopped for pocketbooks that her own couldn’t afford,
but it was good. We were happy.
At thirteen, I bought my first bra
because boys started to stare at my chest,
and new makeup
because they stared at my acne more.
My legs were hairy so they called me “spider,”
then “emo” when they saw the nicks up and down my sun-kissed skin because Mama couldn’t help if Mama didn’t know.
My hips widened so I was “fat,”
swayed so I was “sexy,”
collided with the corners of unsuspecting desks so I was “clumsy bitch” when binders tumbled to the floor in my awkward adolescent wake.
My favorite Tinkerbell T-shirt made me “juvenile,”
my new size 0 Hollister jeans made me “elitist,”
and my refusals of Mikey’s requests for kisses made me “uptight.”
Rumors spread like wildfire, always about me.
So many people whispered them behind cupped manicured broken-promise-ringed hands that even I started to believe them.
And when I brought my favorite stuffed animal to show-and-tell, they told me to grow up.
So I did.
Three years later, with C cups and a C average consuming my C list life,
I crouched on the chipped seat of a leaking toilet in a doorless stall in the corner of an abandoned high school restroom
and muttered Daddy’s favorite curse words as I stared down in disbelief at the most negative “positive” a sixteen-year-old girl can possibly dream of.
I blamed it on Mama for not teaching me how to be a lady,
on Jodi for bringing the world of boys right into our shared bedroom,
on God for not existing,
on my too-tight jeans and too-big tits,
on Mikey’s persistence and irresistible lips,
and on the rumors that made me out to be the slut that I became.
But maybe that was my error, blaming the world for my own childish mistakes when I was the one at fault all along.
They told me to grow up,
but I never did.