Actually

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Mary Oliver, Wild Geese, 1986

Actually, I don’t want to be a woman. I know I’m not supposed to say that. I know I’m supposed to say that I love skirts, and I love makeup, and nail polish, lip gloss, bras, candles, romantic comedies, flowers. And actually, I don’t want to be beautiful. I know how ungrateful I sound, but sometimes, I just don’t want this feeling of obligation to the whole world. Sometimes, I don’t feel like having this constant pressure on me to say “no” if I don’t want something. Sometimes, I wish people would just know because there are a thousand ways to communicate, and speaking is arguably the least effective one. Sometimes, I don’t want to be looked at. Sometimes, I just want to be held.

Actually, I am scared of everything I know I am capable of doing. That’s why I don’t do them. I know I could be kind, healing, brilliant, and giving. I know I should earn much more than I receive. I know I could live some wondrous life in which I escaped all of what was expected of me. But on some days, I get tired of fighting and I give in. I don’t care. Just give me a job. Get me married, give me children. That’s what I get for living, right? It’s fine. Let’s just get it over with. I’m done searching. I’m done pretending there’s something else to try for. Why raise my hopes? Why work so hard?

Actually, I don’t care about social justice. I don’t care about feminism, or any fucking -isms. I just want my paycheck. I just want my diploma. I just want my stupid piece of paper that says I’m worth some money because I’m smart. I just want to keep a roof over my head. I just want transportation. I just want health insurance. Oppression is fine, I’ll survive. I come from a long line of survivors.

I don’t want the only reason that people respect me to be because I am more oppressed than they are. I’m not supposed to say that either. I’m supposed to say I demand that you respect me because women are humans, too! Because brown people are humans, too! If that’s really the only reason you could find to respect me, than you can keep your cheap respect. I’ll get by without it. I’ve already been catcalled all my life. I’ve already had things stolen from me all my life. I’ve already gotten by with disrespect all my life. You think you’re going to solve all my problems by recognizing oppression? I don’t need your cheap respect. I don’t need your charity to make me feel like maybe some day I’ll make it to “real person” status. I’m not going to beg for a shot at your back door. Give me the fullness of your life, and I will give you mine. I don’t do half-ass.

Actually, I just want to feel like someone is there for me, not because I achieved something or because I’m “hope for the future” or even because I’m a good person, but because they actually want to be there for me.

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