it’s not about that i know how to do laundry. it’s that when i was four i knew how to fold clothes; small hands working alongside my mother, while my older brother sat and played with his toys. it’s that i know what kind of detergent works but my father guesses. it’s that in my freshman year of college i had a line of boys who needed me to show them how to use the machine. it’s that the first door they knocked on belonged to me. it’s that they expected me to know.
it’s not that i know how to cook. it’s that the biggest christmas present i got was a little plastic kitchenette i never used except to climb on. it’s that my brother used it more, his hands ghosting over pink buttons and yellow dials. it’s that when my work needs cake for a birthday, they turn to me. i get it from costco. i don’t even like cooking. a boy burns popcorn in the dorm microwave and laughs. a week later, i do the same thing, and he snorts at me, “just crossed you off my wife list.” it’s that i had heard something like this so many times before that i laughed, too.
it’s not that i don’t love being feminine. it’s that i came home with bruises from trying to be a trick rider on my bike and heard the word “tomboy,” felt my little mouth say, “but i’m not a boy, i’m a girl”. it’s that they laughed. it’s that until i was sitting in my pretty dress and smiling with a big pretty smile and blinking my big pretty eyes, i wasn’t given back the title “girl”. it’s that until i wore makeup and styled my hair i was bullied; it’s that when i don’t wear makeup i’m a slob, that my mental health diagnosis hangs on the hook of being dressed up. it’s that my therapist sees me returning to bright red lipstick and tells me i am looking happier and i have to explain that i am more sad than i have ever been. it’s that i dress myself in as many layers as i can every time i ride a train because it’s better to be laughed at than harassed.
it’s not that i know how to clean, it’s that my brother’s chores were outside where i wanted to be, and mine were inside. it’s that i would have weeded the garden better than he did if they had just let me. it’s that i am put in charge of fixing other’s messes, expected to comply without complaint.
it’s not that i can’t open the jar. it’s that you ask my brother first every time. it’s that i am pushed into docile positions, trained to believe that my body when it’s strong and healthy is ugly, trained into being less, weaker. it’s that the jar is also science, is also engineering, is also every job, every opportunity. it’s that you laugh faster when he tells a joke, that you take him seriously but wave off me, that when he raises his voice he’s assertive but when i do i’m hysterical. the jar is getting into a car with a stranger as a driver and wondering if this is our last ride. the jar is knowing that if something happens to us, it’s our fault.
it’s that i’m weak and i don’t know if it’s because i just am or i was trained to be. it’s that we need to sit pretty with our pretty smiles and our pretty words trapped pretty and silent in our throats, our hands restless but pretty when idle, our bodies vessels for nothing but a future white dress. it’s that we are taught someone else needs to open the jar for us.
here’s the secret: run metal lids under hot water, they’ll expand faster than the glass they’re around. here’s the secret: when you keep us under hot water, we do more than boil. we expand over our edges. and we learn how to open our mouths, our claws, our screams hanging in kites over cities. just give me a chance. give me a chance when i am four when i am seven when i am twenty-three. i promise i can be amazing. give me the jar. i’ll show you something.
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