Ecstatic that my poem, Neon Woman, is included in this winter issue of Pretty Owl Poetry.
Find my poem here– on page 43.
I have always been drawn to the fearless, unapologetic, strong women who roar: the ones that seek out adventures on their own, who carve their own path with their experiences, who shape the world with their ideas, and shake it with their voices.
I am honored to have a poem included here in this #MeToo e-Book- such an important project giving a voice to women everywhere.
I don’t know how to peel back the months of my life. When those moments I was in became days that drifted into years, how I stopped recognizing myself in old photographs or where the people beside me in them went, or how to get them back. (As if I could convince myself it would be the same.) When six year old innocence became sixteen angst, became the shell of this twenty six year old woman. I blazed through adolescence with bleached hair, a hungry heart, a kind of wild ambition I can’t even dream up now.
Graduation was almost five years ago. The night before, I stood on that dock ready to jump, ready for cool dark water, something to shock my body, something to wake me up, just something underneath that May moonlight to either bathe me or drown me, I wasn’t sure which. It’s a strange feeling to want to be consumed. To be ready for it. That desire, that ambition, meant long city nights were ahead, and I fought my way to see them through. To pay the electric, to keep the light on, to keep burning. I set myself on fire. I raked through a 9-5 like I was taught. I stopped looking for answers to the questions I forgot I’m allowed to ask, steadied myself against the current of the world and from reaching the bottom of the bottles on my shelf. I buried myself. Had milestones and mistakes on repeat. I bled trying to figure out just what it meant to be successful. A degree. A job. An apartment. Check, check, check. I did all of it. And yet…what for? And what now?
What happens when the supposed keys to happiness don’t twist and give way at the door in front of you? What if your wants and your needs and your reality don’t meet at this intersection and you look over to find nobody but doubt is sitting shotgun? I’m knee deep in my life and all of a sudden, I’m not sure where I am going or if I like it and who I am. I’ve stood in shadows and I’ve stood in the light, and I still don’t know how to love myself in either.
But I’ve loved. I’ve loved men who have seen all of me and yet never even knew my scars. What does that say about them? Better still, what does it say about me? I’ve loved the chase, the thunder of the unknown barreling through me. I love the hum of a heartbeat, the strength of fingers interlocked, the safeness of a naked soul. I clung to the notion I should romanticize busyness. I loved making calendars and planners fill up until I realized I was emptying myself. Running on coffee and the belief that I was making you, or at least someone, proud. That I was becoming something. Starving despite a full stomach, the appetite for my life lost. Maybe I’m repeating myself. Maybe we’ve all been there.
Women- how fragile and fierce are we? Too much this, too much that, but not enough. Crooked noses, big feet. Hair that frizzes in summer heat to swallow anything it touches. Clavicle bones that are never kissed, shoulders sunken with a weight we shouldn’t have to carry. The dripping curve of a lower back that forgot how it felt to be touched. Eyes an ocean of maybes. Stomach too soft, hips hidden from unwanted gazes (even our own), cellulite sliced into upper thighs as if it was a hot pepperoni pizza. Lips that beckon to tell secrets and inhale whatever a sunset is made of. Made of a million particles of “what ifs” and a swelling storm that rages even when we’re calm, even when we smile. Everything we are could bring you to your knees. We are composed of sheet metal our fathers molded from childhood, translucent glass that can never break, diamonds and teeth from past lovers, wood from the tree in your front yard, dirt roads and plastic bags, and stitched together with ribbon our mothers gave us- fragments of raw love, fraying at the ends. With bad posture and clumsiness and a beautiful brain and a lot of guts. I promise I am 75% fire and within me there is a real hurricane. I feel too much and I feel nothing at all. I’m trying to explain to you how that’s possible.
How do you learn to know who you are when the world is still telling you who to be? Where can you find what you love and let it kill you? Maybe we’re just the blind leading the blind toward this whacked-out definition of happiness. Will there ever be a moment you look in the mirror and you don’t feel even just a little uncomfortable? How do you make sure friends won’t be just a profile on a Facebook page and family won’t be strangers you feel obligated to see on holidays? Stop hiding behind filters and phones. Strip it all down, scream, do something. We’re so far removed from feeling anything and acknowledging it, revealing it. Too immersed in media and this illusion that everyone else has it together, and therefore so should we.
I’m here to tell you I don’t. I’m not exactly unhappy with my life. I’ve stood in crowds at concerts, feeling invincible. But when it ends, I wonder when’s the next time I’ll feel a part of something again. I’ve been told how envious people are of my accomplishments and experiences, like my life was this incredible dream they wish they could attain or trade something for. To some, that validation would hold meaning. But what do you say back, when they don’t realize the half of it? I’ve made friends in corners of the world, but those connections don’t reach across phone lines, probably for reasons that all lead back to me. I’ve stood on Machu Picchu, dined atop the Eiffel Tower, rode a camel in Morocco. I have traveled to cities where my tongue couldn’t speak the language, felt my skin burn from the fire of a different sun, and I’ve tried to soak my tired bones in all of it to find out what it means. Seeking fulfillment. I’ve crossed state lines and boundaries and crossed off bucket lists. I’m living but when do I start to feel alive?
And here we are already, another calendar year, another birthday looming ahead, emotions moving at the speed of light. How did we get to this place? I wish I could slow it down. These seasons are melting together so fast, memories always slipping through the tiny cracks in the palm of my hands as I try so desperately to hold on to them. And yet, I’m here still secretly hoping the leaves would just hurry up and change again, still wondering if there’s something more and measuring up just short of it, still waiting to find the word “yes” just so I can say it out loud, over and over again, to my reflection without flinching.
Yes, I am. Check out my new piece over at Odyssey here.
Then tell him #boybye.
“You’ve gotta tell him to shit or get off the pot. What is he waiting for?!”
or now, the occasional “Your niece is so adorable! When is it your turn?”
Stop asking me.
While your questions or comments about my life and these future events may seem completely harmless, consider what I’m about to tell you. Perhaps you meant it sincerely, or were just joking around. Maybe you were genuinely curious, or were making polite conversation. Regardless of your intention, rethink it.
1. It feeds into social pressures on females. It also reinforces the idea that marriage and childbirth are not only assumed next or future steps, but almost expected. As a result, we can be reluctant to speak of our different opinion, or choose a separate path than the one that you’re laying out for us. Furthermore, there’s enough pressure there already. I remember feeling the weight these types of questions carried. It started with, “What are you going to do after graduation/moving/etc.?” It felt as though my life was defined by this answer. Yes, it’s good to have a plan, and some people need these pushes as motivational benchmarks to figure out where they are at and move forward. But don’t you think I already have these things on my mind constantly? Might you be unintentionally pushing this individual toward something they weren’t ready for, but are now overthinking and rushing into? Whether it be a career, marriage, etc. Life changes take time. Everyone goes at their own speed. And, unless you had it all figured out by your twenties, don’t expect them to.
2. Is it really and truly your business? How does this affect your daily life? I certainly don’t mind telling my close friends and family, but we all know that one person that wants to know just because. AKA a shady individual that does not have your best intentions at heart, only the latest gossip. You must have a dull life if you feed off knowing what’s going on in mine. (Seriously, I wish I had that kind of time to kill.)
3. If the individual is single: asking them when they are going to get a boyfriend/get married is like asking, “What is wrong with you that you don’t already have a boyfriend?” First of all, thanks for the unwanted pity. Second, you are basically implying that they are not good enough on their own. Having a partner will not make someone complete. Believe it or not, some women have other dreams than just to be someone’s wife. There is nothing wrong with marriage being a major goal, but don’t assume that it is the only thing on every woman’s to-do list. Let’s set women’s rights back even further, shall we? We are still learning to love and know ourselves. That should always come first.
4. If the individual is in a relationship: Again, a ring on their finger is not going to make someone complete or “better.” Also, don’t assume they haven’t talked about it. You should have faith that the indivudual and their significant other have discussed the future of their relationship and will take that step when they are both ready, either financially, emotionally, or both. Even if they are already there, some couples are truly at peace with where they are and do not feel the need to slap that label on it just because “we’ve been together for ____ years, so it’s just time to take the next step.” Personally, I want my future husband to ask me that question because and only because he wants to marry me more than anything in this damn world, NOT because it’s “the next step.” I have seen so many of my own friends push their significant others toward engagement and it makes me cringe. Yeah, a diamond ring is pretty. But marriage is about SO much more than that. Parents, friends: I know you’re excited and anxious for them. But wouldn’t you rather them communicate about this big decision and take it at their own pace rather than wind up divorced? Also people- trust me, you will know when they get engaged because chances are if you’re related or close friends, you’ll be invited to the wedding. And if not, I’m sure like 90% of the population, it will be on Facebook for you to creep on.
5. You are being insensitive. Maybe they cannot physically have children. Maybe they are dealing with the loss of a baby that you never even knew about. Maybe *gasp* they do not want children.
The definition of a woman is many things. Specifically, Merriam-Webster defines the word as:
Do you see the word “mother” anywhere in there? No.
I have the utmost respect for mothers. They are some of the strongest females I know. My own mother is one of my best friends. And if your one and only dream is to be a mother, I think that’s wonderful! There is nothing wrong with that. However, I have never said to any of these women, “Why would you want to be a mother?!”
Yet, it is perfectly normal for me to hear a gasp of surprise or the words “Why don’t you want kids?!” in a disapproving tone when the topic arises and I state that I don’t. Let me make it clear: Not wanting children does NOT make me, or any other female, less of a woman.
*Note: I am not slamming motherhood, or those women who are/want to be mothers. However, I am slamming those who feel the need to tell people it is their duty as a woman to have children.
So again: NOT WANTING CHILDREN DOES NOT MAKE ME, OR ANY OTHER FEMALE, LESS OF A WOMAN.
And I am sick of brushing these remarks off and allowing them to make me feel this way. It is perfectly fine for a man to not want kids, but not for a woman? In this day and age, more women than ever before are leaning away from starting families and further into their careers. Yet, there is still backlash. Many of us still don’t feel comfortable talking about it because of the reactions we get. No, I am not a heartless human. Yes, I have a soul. No, I don’t hate children. And furthermore, let’s just put this to rest.
1. “I didn’t want kids either when I was your age.” I am about to be 26. Yes, I get that at sixteen I didn’t want them, but *newsflash* ten years later, here we are, and I still don’t. This decision can and does change with some women as they age, however, please learn to separate the idea that the more birthdays you have, the more likely you are to yearn for offspring. Furthermore, “Once you find someone you love, you’ll want to create a family with them.” Yes, that does happen! But I have found that person, and my ovaries are still just fine, thank you.
2. “You’ll get out of the party phase, and see that it can be fun.” I can say from personal experience that I do not go bar-hopping every weekend, and it’s been a couple years since I have. My life is currently filled with a full-time job, taking writing classes, working on a future chapbook, and training for a full marathon, all while maintaining friendships, a serious relationship, and fulfilling my passion for traveling. Sorry to burst your bubble, but I’m not partying, and I still don’t want kids.
3. “Your life will be so dull without kids.” I’ll just leave this here:
4. “The greatest joy in life is being a mother.” …for you. Does everyone like mushrooms on their pizza? No. Stop acting like every freaking female has the same itinerary as you. I know that I cannot actually comprehend the joys of motherhood since I am not a mother, but I do not for one minute doubt that it is an incredible and amazing journey. However, if I am not entirely sure that journey is right for me, perhaps you should hold your tongue before you tell me what would be the greatest joy in my life.
5. “You’ll change your mind.” You know what, maybe I will. But MAYBE I won’t. And what I can’t fathom (for the life of me!) is why others are so offended by the latter. People do not need to “grow” out of this feeling. We do not need to change our minds to fit a certain social agenda. This is the number one response I hear from people, and sometimes I just want to scream. “Okay,” would be a good response when I tell you I don’t want kids. Or, “Whatever you want is what you should do.” We say the phrase, “To each their own,” to nearly everything- why not this?
6. “Your biological clock is ticking…won’t you be lonely?” Oh, is it? Didn’t know I had one. Guess I better book that trip to Southeast Asia. Guess I better train for my next marathon. Guess I better write that book before my mind goes, too. Guess I better do all the other things in the world that I want to do that don’t include reproducing. For the record, you are never too young or too old to accomplish what you want. And if I really am feeling lonely, I will get a cat. Or a dog. Or a pet dolphin, whatever. I will visit my friends. I will spend time with my family and their children. I will go shopping with my niece. I will take care of my parents. I will go on dates with my husband. I will strengthen those relationships and give more time and attention to those I do have. I have never felt the urge to have a child or give birth. Also, if I can’t hold my iPhone for 5 minutes without dropping it, chances are I probably don’t want to hold your baby. Some people just don’t have that motherly instinct, and there is nothing wrong with that.
7. “That’s what a woman’s purpose on Earth is.” or “It’s how God intended it.” I honestly have to unclench my fists to type this. Just because I have all the necessary parts to give birth to a child does not mean that it is my sole purpose in life. I AM NOT A BABY FACTORY. While I may not know my complete purpose on this Earth, I do know that touching the lives of others, making a difference, and being happy can be achieved by a wide variety of different things that do not include bearing a child. Maybe my purpose is to be a writer, or a teacher, or a student, or a friend/daughter/sister/aunt/lover/wife. I do believe in God. But I also believe he made us all unique for a reason. Every individual has their own talents, desires, and goals. If it is truly a sin in the eyes of the Lord to not have children, then I suppose I am ready to risk that.
Get the idea out of your head that not having children is a selfish decision. Although my reproduction organs seem to be in perfectly fine condition, there are others who are not in the same boat. Sometimes it’s easier for them to say, “Kids just aren’t for us.” Those who have had miscarriages, or lost a child, may not want to bring the pain of that loss back to the surface. Maybe they are still struggling with the recent news that they cannot have children. Consider that before you jump to conclusions. Furthermore, being responsible is not being selfish. I firmly believe that we should let those who want to be mothers, be mothers. Bringing a child into this world when you do not want to be a parent can cause a plethora of problems, including lack of proper care for the child. It is much better to know you do not want children and not have them, than to not be sure and bring a child into that situation. “Is it because you don’t want stretch marks?” Well, I’m not jumping at the bit to get them, but no. Stretch marks would be the least of my concerns. Perhaps my career is taking off and I want to focus on that, or I am always on the go. My boyfriend is in the military, as my brother is, and although my brother and his wife have a baby and are wonderful parents, I am not the same woman as my sister-in-law. She was meant to be a mother, and has always wanted to be one. I love that about her, but I do not share this feeling with her. Plus, being a military S.O. can be hard enough, I do not want to be a military mom and feel like I am raising the child completely on my own. And yes, it’s true- I do like my independence and freedom, but there are more reasons than just that. I can also go into financial concerns, as affording rent and repaying student loans are their own beasts (even without adding the expenses of a child) but I won’t go there. Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand that despite these issues, it can be done. Schedules can be managed, and you can make it work even when the money is tight. I can go into the problems our country is facing and how I am reluctant to bring up a child into a world that terrifies me, but again, I won’t go there. I can respond to your claims that I am just being selfish, and my generation is lazy, self-centered, greedy, etc. But I won’t go there, either.
Because bottom line, I don’t think I should have to ever explain myself on this topic.
As long as you are not causing harm to others, be whoever and whatever you want. And don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it.
“Well, you’ll regret it someday.” Maybe you’re right. But I’d rather take my chances than regret giving birth to a kid I don’t want just because everyone else thought it was a good idea for me.