When I told my best friend about my how boss hated me, she listened. When I told her about how my roommate hated me, she listened. But I did not have a reason, I told her. I tried to find one. What did I do? She told me, “I have a theory. I have had this theory for many years. You have dark hair and red lips and you walk in the room like you don’t give a fuck. You’re strong. They’re intimated.”
I’m watching the newest episode of South Park. The high school’s
“greatest feminist” Wendy is trying to show people that Kim Kardashian’s photos are all photoshopped, and that, in actuality, she’s a “short, fat hobbit.” Wendy’s accused of being jealous, because South Park has to punish only the females, even though she’s attempting to highlight the idea that people fall in love with images–ideas–projections.
While Kim Kardashian surely hasn’t done much for society by way of mental prowess, she is indeed a sex symbol (some say she’s paving the way for body size and shape acceptance) and one that needn’t be hated because she, as South Park said, “makes all the other women feel bad about herself.”
Why not hate the culture and misogynistic system that oppresses, ridicules and punishes women for being themselves? But how can we start to chip away at that system? We need to stop objectifying one another. We need to stop hating others’ beauty or differences. It’s difficult, because it is socially constructed and validated and insanely easy to conjure. In fact, not objectifying other women might be considered “wrong” to some people.
I have been alone with a woman who says, “she’s a total slut.” This may or may NOT have been with regard to the woman’s sex life. And, at points in my life, I have agreed. Or I have agreed and felt guilty. Or I have tried to explain that it’s probably not right to use the term “slut” because who the fuck cares who she’s fucking? Some people never learn.
Women need to stop hating women. We need to stop blaming one another for our own deficiencies.
I’m 12 and skinny, it’s 1996, so skinny my veins look like their pumping under sheets of paper. My hair is wavy but giant, no discernible shape or place to fall. I am pale and quiet. I am always so pale, and so quiet. I smell like old people, they say, and I do, because I live in a senior citizen complex with my grandmother.
Because we are so poor, my sneakers are Asics, a real brand, but not the brand you wanted to wear when you’re 12 and the golden blonde girls, the beautiful ones, watch you from across the room, snickering. I cried everyday for a year. My grandmother gave them to me in love so I don’t say anything about how they will get me beat up at school.
The other kids wear something else-something I can’t remember-but something so important that everyone’s eyes had fallen to the floor to judge your heart. Kids.
These girls kicked at my lower back in gymnastics. Little black hairs had grown there because I was very Mediterranean, but these girls were like a simple winter day. I stood out. When a girl stands out, she stands out in one of two days; she is devastatingly beautiful, with full, round breasts and the face of a woman, or she is awkward and silent and too scared to speak. She is skinny. She is always sick because she cannot sleep. When she does sleep, she dreams she is being told she is ugly.
When you try to hide they find you.
I tried my best, walked through the hallways like a witch dodging rainwater.
I would sit in the cafeteria, or the library, writing in a little notebook. If someone said “hello” to me, I would remember them forever and they would be labeled “good.” But not Jessica.
Jessica would always find me, torture me and leave me to pick up the pieces. She wore blue long dresses and had hair the color of summer.
My mother tells me, “Pretty girls are jealous of pretty girls,” when I tell her Jessica has nothing to be jealous of. I still don’t know the truth.
A few years ago, my mother introduces me to her best friend, a nurse. A kind woman. I nod my head, I say “Hello,” and I stand there with my bags, having come off the train from New York City. My mother brags about me because I’m the one who “got away,” even though she still thinks I’ve turned into a “snob.”
I’m in a red dress with black shoes; I’m showing a little bit of cleavage. I’m beautiful because I am older and I have calculated my beauty; I have become who I wanted to be both organically and unnaturally (I have learned how to wear makeup; I have learned emphasize my hour glass). Everything good is a little unnatural. This woman says, “Hello,” and introduces me to her “sweet” daughter.
Her daughter is Jessica.
She stands across from me, squinting. “Lisa? I think I know you.”
Oh, I definitely fucking think she does.
I think she knows me crying, me hiding behind a pillar on a wrap-around porch. I think she knows what it felt like when she threw a handful of stones. I think she knew. My heart beats; I smile. I look at her long and hard and devastate her with the same silence that made her attack me as a girl. She is dead.
When the Ghost of Jessica re-emerged in my life I decided I hated that fear that built up in my stomach. Four girls could chase me home. One woman could stare me down. Another could bully me. But I had been building myself like a tower from a meadow; I had grown. I put my inherent compassion and goodness aside so I could became unnatural, premeditated–a predator, or so I thought.
My compulsion to fake myself and build my defenses, so insincerely, made me the victim. Again.
I don’t think many people hate me, but when they do, there is never a real reason. I was bullied by my ex-boss for months before it became clear that she just thought I “looked conceited.”
I believe they don’t like me because they haven’t reconciled something within themselves; the same would go for me. Because I am smart, successful, beautiful and unafraid to use my body as a method for storytelling. Your husband may notice. You feel jealous. You’re a little bored and I’m a little wild and it makes you uncomfortable. The way I sit tells you I don’t mind if you look. The way I move my hair says something else. It is unconscious, but you get the message like a letter in the mail.
You think you have everything, and you do, but so do I.
There is a point in time that you must brand yourself or forge an image. So you brand yourself with the one thing that scares people: a free woman. A woman who is unapologetic in all the ways a woman is taught to feel ashamed. What does it all mean? She is attracting only those who can stomach it. She is refining her social circle. She is testing the world around her.
Eventually, we drop the excess. We just become ourselves, or some amalgamation of who we are inherently and who we feel safe programming ourselves to be.
For me, I feel safe in my body, my face, my mind and my heart. I don’t feel bad about myself these days because I am being sincere. If I met Jessica again, I’d probably try to ask her how her day was and fight through that cage of anger to get to a decent place. She doesn’t–no one–can change how you see yourself.
Haterz take note.
I became a writer and write a lot. I noticed that not everyone understood. A woman who does something that maybe bases itself on observing others can be a threat. Sometimes you feel it is strange, or weird, or too open. Sometimes you say to your friends, “Why does she always write that shit?” Sometimes you think I’m too open. Sometimes you find it offensive.
My life looks like this: I write. I edit. I publish. I meet writers. We talk. We go to events. I have a boyfriend and family who I love. The writing continues. I live for it. I love everything about it.
So, as much as you think I may be broken or odd for writing, just think about all the things you like to do. What makes you happy? I promise that writing, for me, is just that and then some.
I grow up to find we are all too judgmental; we may be losing in our fight to be a person. I find that half the time we are wrong about everything; ten minutes with a person will show you everything you need to know–this is very different from ten minutes watching a person be who you think they are.
Some women become wives, mothers, lovers, strippers, fighters, advocates, assholes, saviors, bosses, assistants, painters, writers, CEOs or simply bored. Others become something less tangible.
I fall into a specific group. I am not a “typical” woman. I have grown to accept that. I hope you will too. Maybe you’re bored at home and you stopped having sex three months ago. Maybe you look at me like a threat. What you don’t know is that maybe I look upon your life and admire your stability? You’ll never know.
Because we’ve been taught to distrust a woman with a mouth, a disinterest in marriage and babies and conventional society, we assign her a new identity: the risk, the broken one, the one that offends us. Something happened to her.
I have been called an “alpha female.” I don’t like that term. I think that term has BACKWARDS ASS SEXIST written all over it.
It’s all a projection of me-or you-that they’ve created. If you got to know me for a minute, beyond the projection and maybe beyond a performance we’re both putting on, you’d know we’re not so different after-all.
I still want to love and be loved. I just want it my way, and I want the right to do that without judgement.
I want the right to be beautiful, or strong, or opinionated without the broken-record of your distaste and questioning; I don’t want to be ignored at work, or by roommates because I “come off” one way.
I don’t want my lipstick to define my personality. Red is red. It’s just red. You don’t have to like it, but don’t define it for me.
Let’s take a few minutes to get to know one another. Let’s let the armor down.