My mother never sat me down to tell me
that humans may run the world but
they don’t own it; that they are the assistant
managers to the hotel they keep finding
new ways to trash, that they build their
society over whichever insecurity is the loudest,
that we, as a race, crave power more
than food, that we will allow others to
starve in every way possible because of it.
My father was a psychology professor, in love
with metaphors and cognition, the way the
human brain could memorize the lyrics to a
song they heard once on the radio but forget
their wedding vows, the way memories are
held differently, like new parents meeting
their child for the first time compared to a
young woman gripping pepper spray by her
side while she walks alone at night.
My father was in love with the way people
formed their sentences, the way people
remembered whose birthday was on
which day, the way people played instruments
based on their lineage and ancestry.
My father was so in love with other things
that he was divorced twice before he
realized being a psychology professor
does not necessarily mean understanding humans.
My father was a psychology professor,
divorced twice, and raised a daughter to still
believe in the infinite nature of marriage.
My mother never sat me down to explain that.
My mother never told me that I had a right to be strong.
Instead, she put me in gymnastics and dance class,
insisting that playing soccer and drums were
simply my “brother’s things”, while I watched
dust gather on the hi-hat, while my brother
sat and picked dandelions on the field. She told me that I couldn’t watch action films because there weren’t any musical numbers.
That I couldn’t take karate because I wouldn’t
make friends. My brother was put into hockey
while I was forced to figure skate. I wasn’t allowed to
touch the knives while making dinner at fourteen but my
brother could play first-person shooting games
at nine years old. I was put in a box as a child,
covered in glitter with a neon pink sign that screamed
‘GENDER’. I tried to understand why it was okay
for the boys in kindergarten to play war but not okay
for the girls to draw with blue crayons. At seventeen,
I’m still trying to understand why, whenever I lift anything,
a man will say: “That looks heavy. Why don’t I take it?” as
if I haven’t been carrying the weight of society’s
prejudicial opinions of my strength on my shoulders for years.
My mother never sat me down to tell me that
not everybody makes it out as the good guy. That movies lie.
That the person I fell in love with doesn’t have to win
every argument just because I don’t know how to
stand up for myself. My mother never sat me down to
tell me that arguments don’t always mean makeups,
that sleeping doesn’t mean feeling rested,
that being scared of abandonment is not irrational,
that sometimes hot baths just make you sweaty and sad,
and that no species on Earth has learned to hate
each other as humans do.