I remember when I was thirteen, and a doctor told me
“You’ll catch more boys if you dumb it down.”
Her degrees decorated the walls
like shiny dreams for a little girl telling me I could do anything.
But apparently “anything” began and ended with
“catching boys,” as if love and marriage were all I could aspire to;
and that outward beauty was somehow a gauge of what I was worth–
I was not beautiful. Not at thirteen.
The first boy to ever broke my heart told me so,
and I spent so much of my life believing it,
that the first time I was called “Beautiful,” I started crying:
it was so foreign.
I had been reduced to longing to be seen
because that was what mattered.
Because beauty opened doors.
Beauty was worth a diploma on the wall.
Beauty was short skirts and black ankle boots
and mile-long legs in a denim miniskirt at thirteen;
black and white photos of half-made curves and pouted pubescent lips
plastered on a public Myspace page. An entry
into HotOrNot.com. I was a seven.
I held that score to my chest like a firebrand, scarcely remembering
being four years old and after closely inspecting my chubby child’s face, thinking “Beautiful.”
Seeing a sunset and saying out loud, “Beautiful.”
Hearing a Disney song and wondering how love could be “Beautiful.”
Long ago beauty was many things, and not just
healthy-skinny, red lips, five-inch heels,
party girl with a perfect smile,
and eyes that don’t look older than the rest of my face,
or his voice in my head telling me I am prettier when quiet.
Now I will not be quiet.
I am a storm coming, a hurricane roaring,
someone who has seen things and survived things
and wears the evidence like a silk dress.
Let them hear my voice saying I am not a construction
of your convenience, made to be seen and held and not heard,
because beauty is heard just as much as it is being seen.
And it is felt.
It is a sum total of degrees on the walls saying “limitations can never hold me.”
It is poetry.
It is all that we are or could be.
It is possibility.
It is the past with its vanquished demons whose skins we wear as armor.
It is the future, burnished bright, that we can hold in our hands.
It is a face
in the eyes of the child we’ll always be:
The four year old who still thinks
You just have to remember.