I remember what it felt like when I was still a girl who held my words with certainty between my teeth; like they were a sword I swung and I was Joan of Arc. These are things that we are taught when we are little girls. No’s are handed to us like weapons because we might need to use them one day.
Because somewhere down the line, they might not be listened to.
I remember what it felt like when I believed the world wanted me to be too much too. When my thoughts didn’t come in cages, and there wasn’t a price tag dangling between my legs. I did not think twice about which inches of my skin got to feel the sun, or if someone else’s eyes were hungry for more. I believed that the stars and the moon were within my reach.
Somewhere this all stopped.
Puberty happens and all of the sudden the world becomes scared of little girls, and they start to rub away the edges, clipping the wings of the words that once gave us so much freedom, taking imaginations and containing them with “ladylike.” Coloring us in like anything outside of our lines would make us less desirable.
(Tell me, why am I something that needs to be desired, instead of something that can just “be”?)
All of the sudden they cross our legs under our desks and our dresses become invitations to see us as someone else’s masterpiece. All of the sudden our raised hands become punctuated with question marks and our beauty becomes contained inside a sliver of glass that is supposed to tell me what my worth is.
When my no was misplaced and turned into a dirty four letter word that no one wants to say, but it spreads like wildfire on our college campuses, or at prom night, or in our own homes;
The girl before became the girl after. Where a no was once sewn into me like a body part, my words all lost their meanings and were replaced with sorry.
Sorry. Sorry. I’m sorry.
There are things that they don’t put in the pamphlets about how you’re supposed to move forward, leaving you to wonder why this is treated like a contagious disease that you contracted because you weren’t careful enough.
They take “raped” and press it back into our lips like it’s a secret that we need to keep, and pull “sorry” out from them instead. As I am standing in the shower trying to wash off memories of what unwanted hands feel like as they take parts that I didn’t know existed; they are asking me what was inside my cup, am I sure I said no, do I usually show so much skin, and I am answering with apologies like this has become a crime I have committed. I hear Sorry falling from my lips, and I wish I could grab it and stuff it back in, that I could scream no with the same power that I had when I first learned what walking on my own two feet felt like, before the world taught me to grow smaller.
There was a time when I understood what sorry was for. I knew it was a word I said when I had done something to hurt another living being, but as I grew older I watched as society placed it on the tip of a woman’s tongue as if an apology was needed for being an uncontainable swirl of life.
My consent is not a suggestion, it is not a question ending with an upward inflection.
I have spent so long making excuses for my femininity, covering up the curves of my body like they are sins, muting my thoughts like they are dangers to avoid.
Apologizing, like rape, is a punishment that happens when you are “too” much “woman.”
There is no such thing as too much woman.
I am still a girl who holds my words with certainty between my teeth; like they are a sword I swing and I am Joan of Arc.
I am not sorry.
I am not sorry.
I am not sorry.
Author: Chrissy Owens
Editor: Travis May