Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sweet Sixteen

They threw her the best sweet sixteen any girl ever dreamed of, a dinner dance with fifty friends, a chocolate fountain, and an ice sculpture carved with her face except it was an angel with wings. Her parents bought her a Miata and her boyfriend gave her a gold monogram on a gold chain and everyone said she was the luckiest thing ever.

But that Monday, in chemistry, her lab partner gave her a CD. “I heard it was your birthday,” he said, even though she had never even thought of inviting him to the party because he didn’t hang out with any of her other friends. “I’m not into, you know, conspicuous consumption. It’s cheesy, but anyway, I like weird old music. Maybe you’ll like it too.”

And there were all these songs she’d never really thought about before like “Rain on the Scarecrow” and “Downeaster’ Alexa” and they made her cry and she couldn’t understand what she was crying for, because her father was a surgeon but the next week she gave the gold monogram on a gold chain back to her boyfriend and she skipped prom and went with her lab partner to look at the stars in the back of his pickup instead and that summer they volunteered at the shelter and she decided to be a lawyer for social justice instead of a fashion designer, which her mother thought she’d be good at, or a pediatrician, which her father encouraged her to do. She thought they’d be disappointed but they said a lawyer was acceptable even though she’d never make any money in social justice, but it was her life and if she made it through law school, more power to her.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


That Monday, and every school day for the next three months, a bully they called Zombie, who wore size fourteen Nikes and had three black gaps in his lying smile, stole Greggie’s lunch money. Greggie didn’t tell anyone, because there wasn’t anyone to tell. He didn’t have a father or a big brother, or even a tough cousin. It was just him and his mom, and she worked as a colorist for minimum wage. After school and until his mom came home around seven or eight he stayed with Mrs. Freeman, this old lady in their building, and she gave him cookies and muffins and pretty much anything he wanted to eat, so he only had to be hungry between approximately one p.m. and three p.m. and Zombie gave him nightmares anyway.

But then in school they read this story about this little kid who tricked the Nazis and brought information to the French resistance and that afternoon he went down to the salon where his mom worked before he went to Mrs. Freeman’s and he stole a nail file, the metal kind. That night, under the covers, he filed his nails into claws like Wolverine.

After that, the kids gave Zombie a new nickname, which was One-Eyed Jerk, which stuck even after he didn’t have to wear the patch anymore, and even after the scars were just a few puckery white seams down one side of his face. Greggie had to go to counseling for the rest of the school year but that didn’t bother him much and no one ever bullied him anymore.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Girl Power

And then there are those of us who embrace the message and eschew the media images, who call ourselves feminists at the age of nine and play football and don’t allow boys to dictate anything. We believe we can grow up to be president. We control our own sexuality and correct old men who address us with terms of endearment. We don’t let anyone define us. We don’t get sidetracked from our ambitions. We go to college and go to graduate school and take women’s studies classes even though they’re not required. We take control at work and we don’t get married because we are more than nurturers, more than helpmeets, more than relationships. And still we look around us and see that someone needs to do the dishes, someone needs to look after the children, someone needs to make a pot of coffee, even if they’re not our dishes, our children, our caffeine cravings. And we choose to take care of it anyway.