Monday, November 2, 2009


Her little sister possessed something that she lacked. The girl couldn’t say, quite, what that thing was, but obviously, her sister was more acceptable. Her sister didn’t mind wearing dresses. Her sister didn’t prefer playing with boys.

Her sister did the things their parents expected her to do.

The girl didn’t do certain things because she didn’t like them. She hated how dresses looked, she hated how they felt compared to jeans, and more to the point, she hated being told to act like a lady. Wearing dresses meant you weren’t to run, jump, shout, fidget, or climb trees. Why would anyone choose to wear a dress, given the attendant restrictions? The little girl accepted the limitation of being a girl; that didn’t mean she must become a lady. It didn’t indicate any compulsory girliness. She was a case in point. If she had been meant to be a certain way—for instance, feminine—wouldn’t she just naturally feel, behave, embrace that label? And not being feminine, didn’t that mean that she wasn’t all the other things they thought she should be, and shouldn’t try to fake it?

Why would they force her to pretend to be something she so clearly wasn’t? They told her lying was wrong, and then they told her to lie to them.

When her sister came home from first grade insisting that she needed pierced ears, the girl wasn’t surprised. Of course her sister would want pierced ears. They were ladylike.

Her little sister got her ears pierced and proclaimed herself pleased with the results. Their parents asked the girl several times if she didn’t want her ears pierced too. The girl was emphatic that she didn’t. It didn’t even have anything to do with not feeling like a girl. Primarily, she despised needles in any form. So she really couldn’t see the point of having instruments of torture applied to her head in order to become more of something she wasn’t in the first place.

Her little sister had her pierced ears for a few months, long enough that she could take out the gold piercing earrings and wear whatever kind of earrings that she wanted. Their parents kept asking the girl if she didn’t really want pierced ears. The girl kept telling her parents she really didn’t want pierced ears. She didn’t care for jewelry, and she didn’t need one more thing to clean. She was, overall, scared of the process. She was not interested in suffering for beauty.

Her parents decided she would get her ears pierced.

She resisted, argued, complained, screamed. She tried logic and she tried volume. They took her to the mall anyway. She fought them all the way to the booth where they pierced ears. She cried.

Her parents said, “Don’t be a baby.” They compared her, unfavorably, to her little sister. They said even a first-grader could do it; there was nothing for her to fear. The girl repeated her objections: she didn’t want pierced ears, she didn’t like needles. Her parents reiterated their argument: she was a big girl and she needed to act like one.

They pierced her ears.

Coda: When the girl got to be a teenager, she horrified her parents by adding six more piercings, five on the left ear and one on the right, using the post of the piercing earring that had inflicted the original insult. She spaced them out over a period of years, snickering to herself as their horror mounted with each new hole.

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