To you. You who made fun of me, but told me it was really because you liked me. To those who were family friends and grabbed on me because you thought I was going to be quiet. Why did you act surprised when I fought back? Did you not feel the infant sparks of this fire?
To you, you didn’t catch me.
To my high school “friends”. You cornered me at parties, made game plans involving my name, and tried to set me up with your friends so you could watch. Often gave me that “friendly” squeeze around the waist. To you who would speak about me as if I couldn’t understand your innuendos in front of me. I knew. To that boy, you, the one who held my heart for some time. You isolated me from the friends you said were “a bad influence”. Isolated me from myself. To you who touched me without permission, in public, in private. Then ran away like a sacred cat, leaving me to gather myself. You cut me. You all cut deeper into me each let down. Yet none of you severed the chord. That chord of fibers, embedded within them, my fight.
I say to all of you, you didn’t guilt me.
To the boys who whistle at me on the street. In jeans, leggings, shorts, dresses, nothing stops you. When you think you’re in power, just know it is I who is in control. Remember, you called to me, I never whistled at you. To those of you who follow me home and try to grab on my body, or take photos of me on the train. I see you. I know about you, and I know how pathetic you are. You add those photos to that private collection your wife doesn’t know about. You’re not slick, I see the exit of pride in your eyes when I call you out. I will always stare into the lens of that phone of yours. Go ahead, take the picture, and look at it. See me, seeing you. Forever know that I know what kind of human you are.
To you, you didn’t intimidate me.
College. To my college boys. The ones who thought a photo of my midriff was an indication that I’m open for business. Do not get your majors in criminal justice, for you jump to conclusions without further investigation. To you who would make fun of me because I won’t come out on Thirsty Thursdays with you. Calling me a prude and a tease because you couldn’t get me to follow you. Pushing me, to try to get me to give in, or get worn down. Please. Thinking a follow on Instagram is asking me out, or an invitation for explicit photos. Telling me I’m a waste because you couldn’t use me, or my name, to get you higher on that undiscussed ranking system of yours.
I write to you, you didn’t break me.
You will realize one day. In that moment when you take your loved one for a checkup, desperate for answers, and it is me in the white coat. When you walk into that high-rise office, resumé in hand, and it is my name on that desk. C.E.O. I hope you feel caught, guilty, intimidated, and slightly broken. Not because I actively set out to hurt you, but because you know what you did. I hope it helps you.
For now I will not yell, I will not protest sign in hand, or talk about you. I will never be that “woman, hear me roar”. I will rise in silence. I will keep working and striving to succeed. I am already above the “glass ceiling”, as I wasn’t raised to believe one exists. I will run circles around you like a shadow, and when you look up and see my name, my face, me, drawn in the sky, you will ask “How did that happen? How did She happen?”. It happened because I do not deal with boys like you. I would never give in to your attempts at persuading me with the fact that you are a “rich man”. I will be the rich man.
I will stand in front of that mirror, admiring the halo of my triumphs. You should know you will not cross the pathways of my thoughts. While you were waiting for the elevator to take you up, I sprinted up the stairs. I will have done it by myself, like I always have. In that glorious moment, I will break that silence. I will validate my power out loud and say:
My God, what Woman am I.