Let me tell you the story of one of my first rebellions.
Have you thought of how complicated hair is? Its length subject to scrutiny and policing, as though one could ascertain an obedient daughter was being raised in a household because she had two long plaits swinging near her arms. When my hair was long and thick like shiny rope, all I wanted was to cut it off, because I was told I couldn’t, especially not on a Tuesday or Friday. Of course, now that my scalp peeks through with alarming frequency, I wish for the hair of my childhood – but that is a story for another day.
One Friday, I must have been about twelve, I was left alone at home. I cut off an inch with the paper scissors, hid the hair underneath assorted kitchen waste and threw a crumpled newspaper on top. I was sweating, throbbing, all nerves. I like to think nobody found out, or maybe my mother did and she decided against asking me if I had done such a ghastly thing. Or maybe my Good Girl alter ego didn’t allow for such inauspicious doubts.
To mark this rebellion and many more that have followed, here is what I’d like to tell the women I once knew as girls.
To those who believed silencing you was as painless as licking cake off their fingers
To everyone who told you
Do not talk back
Sit like a girl
They do not yet know
You are the laughter that erupts
You are the scorn that burns
You shall destroy and create
A thousand not unlike them
In one blink.
The women who know my heart, they weathered the years with me and emerged on the other side, their tears having led the way. They weren’t always victorious, but they were never defeated. Their bodies bear witness to the mistakes of their adolescent selves, the angst of youth, the shifting of loyalties that marks adulthood. They teach me what it means to be in possession of courage – not the brash kind, but the quiet fortitude that often gets overlooked.
They remind me that the rebellion has no end.