i didn’t ask: things people told me anyway

my hair looks like i just stumbled out of bed,
my fingernails look like i eat them for breakfast,
my shorts attract men even though they cover my bum,
showing up to a reunion in bermuda shorts
on a day over 100°F
instead of covering my ankles
i have zero morals
in front of male relatives
who believe women
should know their place

somewhere —
in the midst of learning my shimmery purple nail polish is gaudy
in the midst of expressing myself outwardly so i wouldn’t turn it inwardly
in the midst of attempting to recover from self-harming myself
in the midst of yearning for a me that could fit in —
i forgot
one key thing:
i didn’t ask.

i didn’t ask
for these things
people told me anyway.

i don’t know of a woman
who ever truly asked
for the opinion of another woman,
who ever truly desired
the opinion of another being,
to share their disapproval and distaste
for what they saw before them,
to inspire anxiety in the brain among them,
to perpetuate the concept of women needing approval —
who refrained from wishing
their mere existence
could go one day
without setting someone off,
without turning on a man they knew not,
without feeling as if the world would crumble around them
if they dared scream their anger from the depths of their soul.

i didn’t ask.
they told me anyway.
i said i didn’t care.
they told me i should.
who made these rules,
deciding they should be followed?
i picture a grumpy,
man —
so unfulfilled in marriage,
so insecure in his being —
everywhere he turned —
inevitably alone.

i didn’t ask.
so why’d they tell me?

what part of me ever implied
i wanted to know?

i didn’t ask.
they told me anyway.

and so,
i wrote.

Part of i didn’t ask, a recent poetry collection I put together. I considered putting it into a book, but it’s a small, ongoing collection of poems about my past and who I am today.

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I’ve been gradually leaning to more androdynous clothing/haircuts over the years at family gatherings. My uncle’s partner (he/him) always seems to laser focus on my hair and/or jewellry. I dress the way I do on purpose so I DON’T get hair/clothes/jewellry complements. I’m just not brave enough to tell him my existence isn’t all about how I look, because he seems to be so happy and excited. 🙁

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