My mother should have punched me square in the face on the day Rihanna released her “Rude Boy” single.
Seriously now. She should have pulled over to the side of the road, parked the car and socked me good the moment the song started pouring through the stereo speakers.
“Come here, rude boy, boy; can you get it up?
Come here rude boy, boy; is you big enough?”
“These lyrics are absolutely disgusting,” she whined.
And me? I proceeded to defend Rihanna as if she were my best friend. As if we’d pledged blood to each other one summer night. I slipped on “feminist” like a fitted leather jacket and proceeded to rattle out all the reasons why Rihanna was fist pumping and rallying against the decades owned by rappers and male songwriters who objectified women and made us sound as sturdy and oiled as the Camaro that only comes out after 11PM.
“She is a voice for the women. She was sticking it to the men,” I raved.
Woof…. I repeat, Woof. You can come over here to little New Haven, CT, and sock me if you would like. I’d welcome your fist. Truly.
I have not grown up yet.
I truly believe that. I am still in the muds of this growing up thang and it is reckless & daunting & always reminding me that just when I think I’ve learned an inch of it, down in the distance lies another mile.
& so early I wake to learn how to speak. How to dance. How to live. How to live more fully than the living in the last sentence. & live more fully again, but with a breathless rhythm this time around. & I am learning what it means to value myself. The beauty of me. The body I’ve been given. In a way I never knew how to before.
I told a clutter of girls about my 9th grade hooker existence the other night. About how I think God clearly wasn’t grinning as I paraded around like a prostitute with a Lisa Frank binder forgetting the 50 states one-by-one to make everything one step easier for the boys. No brains, just body. Bye bye Alabama. So long Missouri.
& it continued that way for a very long while. I just got classier in holding it all together but, to me, it was still just a body. Something I should own. Make use of. Value it for the loopholes it could give me in a world that is already so drunk with sex appeal.
It used to be just a body.
Limbs & Legs & Leverage. And it was said to be no big deal to be abandoned in a bed with flannel sheets. & it was said to be “social norm” for a girl to grow up and be everything Rihanna sang out that afternoon on the radio. She should learn to swallow the words whole at college parties or when it blasted through her ear buds at the 45-minute mark of the workout.
It was said that those were the things she wanted to be… the things she ought to be if ever, oh, ever she wanted the latching of Pretty & Desirable & Good.
& what’s a girl to do in the moment when the whole world sings crudely but daily– with some kind of harmony– about her body & only her body? Her brains were never thick in those songs. Her dreams were never powerful. But her hips never lied & her junk was in the trunk & always she wanted to get dirty in those songs.
Enough of it would make the girl start to believe it after a while… that she is just a “the captain,” just expected to “ride it good.” Someone labeled as the “wild one” “saddled up” and “just begun.” Begun like a workday. Wrecked like a war zone.
Crying only when emotions got involved… only when feelings became entangled… but making sure, really sure, that they never did. It would just be a body & all that body could offer in exchange for the things her heart could not.
& it took you years.
Or it’s taken you years. Or it might take you y.e.a.r.s. to admit that it– all the parts of it– hurt you more than you could care to admit. That tears came, only & only, because he was lying beside a body all this time.
A body, a body, but he didn’t see the soul. No trace of the girl you ever wanted to be. With the brighter eyes. The brighter eyes.
& maybe it took you. Or it’s taking you. Or it’s gonna take you years & teeny, tiny lifetimes to see that you are so much more than just a body tethered to song lyrics—heartless & crude to the Beloved parts of you— that got away from the truth: Yes, yes, you were just a fragile creature all along. Made to be valued. Designed to worthy. Brewed & brewed & brewed to be so much more than a body stapled & tired with an image of beauty that only ran ankle-deep when the whole wide world should have flooded out– tsunami-style– over the worth & weight of you.
You were just a fragile creature all this time. You came here looking for love.
It should have stayed that way. It should have stayed that way.