I’m going to turn twenty years old in two days on April 28, 2015. This birthday hasn’t snuck up on me, though. It’s an age I’ve thought a lot about. Twenty. It’s heavy, significant, learned, a little intimidating, challenging, thrilling, youthful, and new.
I’ve always felt that you grow into an age. The day after your birthday you don’t feel the weight of that extra year yet. You feel the age you were yesterday, and for a while you catch yourself hesitating before you reply to: “How old are you?” It takes a while for this number to settle into your bones and for your mind to fill it out. Twenty feels significant, and it’s a place I’d like to sink into for a while.
I’m on the brink of twenty. Optimistically, this means I’ve lived roughly one-fifth of my life. In this fifth, I’ve become increasingly aware of what it means to be a young woman in this world, and in the last year or so, I’ve found that a good way for me to share my experience is to write about it. I love being a woman and I know I’ll dedicate my life to fighting this feminist fight. I’m just beginning. Here’s to twenty years, and 80 more. Before the celebrations begin, here’s a gift poem from me to you. My sixth grade English teacher first introduced me to “gift poems,” and now I’m paying it forward with a slight variation—a gift of prose. Here’s a little thing for all my fellow feminists, and most importantly my mom (because twenty years ago on April 28, she was doing a hell of a lot of work).
The Collective We
We get distracted by pronouns used in class. We search for faces in rows of gold-framed portraits hung on university walls. We see our bodies in movies, magazines and we learn to hate the angle of our nose, the touch of our thighs. We leave the house, a spectacle, delectable, daring to ignore those calls, those alleged compliments. Can we fight this together? We hear our abuse in lyrics, click the radio off. We feel the gaze, it’s hot on our skin, scalding. We avoid mirrors, forever unsatisfied because we don’t reflect what’s been constructed. We fear age, fear clocks, fear late night walks. Alone. Can we fight this together? We fold our bodies inward, self-conscious origami, make ourselves small, feel we are flawed. We don’t raise our hands, our voices, our chins because courage looks ugly on us. We are leaders, just like you. We are emotional beings, but so are you. We work and we want pay, the same as you. Let’s put our faces up next to yours. Let’s write with voices as strong as yours. Let’s solve this problem, because it’s also yours.