What I Have Been Taught

My mother stares at me as I finish the last of my dinner

I see her incredulity at the idea of being full

She has taught me from a very young age

Young ladies are meant to grow in, not out.

To appease her I often pushed my plate

Offered portions to male siblings

Gave copiously to our dog

But I could never make myself small enough

At night I snuck downstairs and stole

Those filthy calories I knew I didn't deserve

And cried in the kitchen for pounds gained, love lost.


A boy in my class stares at me as I finish an explaination

Of how I feel about oppression and hate

He tells me through a joke that I'm wrong

And how dare I break the rule of speaking for myself-

How it's limited to whether or not I want to be hated or fake

I want to retaliate, fire back something as hurtful

But since I was born I was taught to absorb

Leave no sign of aggression, and smile as though I don't feel

The sting of the words that will be true as long as people laugh.

As soon as I do anything to the contrary they will mock more

After all, girls are only heard if they are pretty.


My mother steps out of her closet holding yellow patterned capris

I liked them as soon as I saw them and asked,

"Are you wearing those tonight?" smiling.

"Oh no," she says, "they are too big on me, would you like them?"

I take them from her, giving her triumph she needs

An undermining comment or two

Ought to keep her happy, and keep me away from midinght calories

And as I eat and cry and wonder why I can't grow out

Like my father and my brother and the men that take up space

I realize that I can't occupy what they are born to fill in

And still the guilt I feel for the fat and the thought are absorbed


I have problems that too many face

It's not limited to body image or self-esteem, 

It's the way that I can't feel comfortable, no matter where I am

I can't be confident no matter who I'm with or what I'm wearing

I am told simultaneously that I have a voice

And yet I cannot speak; I will be ridiculed.

At every instance I defend myself, I only hurt more

The girl who doesn't know her place will be sneered at

And I have learned to be careful when I speak

I have learned to control what I think I deserve

Why is this required of me while others expand and yell?



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