GIRL CODE 101
By: Blythe Bird
We are the finaglers. The exceptions. The girls who have not run
the mile in four years,
who layer deep V-necks with excuses. Eyelashes bat
wiffle balls at the male gym teachers.
We are the girls taught to survive by using our bodies
as swiss army knives,
calculated scrunched nose giggles and friendly forearm lingers
We convince ourselves there is protection in being polite.
No, you go first. Girls: we have to be nice.
Male kindness is so alien we assume it is seduction
We remember age 9, the first time we are catcalled.
12, fraudulent bodies calling us women before
we have the chance to.
13, the year dad says wearing short skirts in the city
is like driving without a seatbelt.
15, we are the unmarked tardies, waived detentions, honorable
mentions in lush floral dresses.
16, we are the public school mannequins.
17, we know the answer but do not raise our hands.
Instead, we are answering to guidance counselors who ask us, Well,
what were you wearing?
Their voices: clink-less toasts.
We are let off the hook from hall monitors, retired football coaches
who blow kisses and whisper
Little Miss Lipstick into our ears in the high school cafeteria. We shiver,
but hey- at least we still get away without wearing our student ID’s.
This is not female privilege; this is survival of the prettiest.
We are playing the first game we learned how to.
We are the butts smacked by boys who made welcome
mats of our yoga pants.
We are easily startled. Who wouldn’t be?
We are barked at from the street.
We are the girls petrified of the business school boys
who were taught to manifest success
by refusing to take no for an answer.
And I wonder what it says about me that I feel pretty in a dress,
but powerful in a suit.
If misogyny has been coiled inside of me for so long
I forget I will not stand before an impatient judge
with an Adam’s apple, hand grasping gavel, ready to pound
a wooden mark. Give me a God I can relate to. Commandments
from a voice both soft and powerful.
Give me one accomplishment of Mary’s that did not involve her vagina.
Give me decisions, a wordless wardrobe, an opinion-
Give me a city where my body is not public property.
Once, my friend and I got catcalled
on Michigan avenue
and she said **** You
while I said Thank You, like I was trained to.