“She’s shy,” I say
as she hides behind me because you asked her to smile.
But she doesn’t smile, she’s staring at the floor.
And right now, she doesn’t have anything to smile for.
She won’t do it just because you asked her to,
She doesn’t know you from any other Tom, Dick, or Harry
who asks her to smile.
Because to her, that’s scary.
And have you seen the world lately?
It should be.
She may be little, but don’t belittle this.
Stranger danger is real, and she knows it.
So I don’t teach her to smile when she’s asked to.
I teach to grit her teeth and look harder,
To squint her eyes and see farther.
To puff her chest and take her stand,
And plant her flag.
Because the same men that ask her to smile,
Will count her out in a while.
They’ll tell her she isn’t enough.
They’ll tell her she’s not tough.
Probably because she smiles too much.
The same men that ask her to smile will soon call her fragile.
They’ll deafen and sedate her, they’ll underestimate her.
They’ll see her winning and then move the finish line.
They’ll roll their eyes at her just for feeling,
They’ll see her flying and then raise the ceiling.
Now I know she has it better than some due to her heritage.
The color of her skin has got her pretty strapped with privilege.
But God flipped a coin and sent a girl down beneath him.
So no matter the color of her legs,
She will struggle because of what’s between them.
At this moment, looking at you, she has nothing to smile for.
She won’t do it just because you asked her to in the two seconds you’ve met her.
She’s “tired,” she’s “shy.”
…She knows better.
Because soon, you’ll tell her that her skirt is too short.
Or that she’s too pretty to play sports.
You’ll deny her rights, and jobs, and love.
You’ll explain something to her that she already knows, but you’ll ask if she’s heard of it?
And you’ll tell her, no matter what, no matter why, that she deserved it.
And one day, as she’s walking down the street, her “resting face” might look hostile.
You’ll see that thoughtful and beautiful face and you’ll ask her to smile.
And if I’ve done my job well, she won’t.
She’ll just keep walking. And pushing. Knowing damn well where she belongs.
But that’s my daughter, so don’t get me wrong.
My baby girl’s smile can fill you with belief,
The sun itself is jealous of her teeth.
She has a smile that can end wars.
Her smile can tear down walls and change the world.
Her smile will go right through you and sweep your feet up from the floor.
So, she’ll smile, when she wants to.
But, be careful what you ask for.
Author: Kayla Beardsley
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Jen Schwartz
Copy Editor: Cat Monkman