I Do Not Yet Know What it Means to be a Woman

They say some girls never grow out of their awkward frames,

walking around in bodies that still haven’t yet filled,

that they thread their hands in and out of each other

until there is nothing left to unwind and wind up

They say some girls never stop looking down because cracked pavement and playground rhymes is all they know,

and who would they be without it?

How could they even begin?

Tell me that you are not utterly afraid

of the vast expanse of blue that can swallow you whole,

see everything you are,

nowhere left to hide

They say some girls never bloom,

never blossom,

always clinging to their transitional periods

like the last leaf of autumn,

like winter into spring,

but without a thaw;

A girl frosts over-

a bud before her time

They say women are beautiful and girls are pretty

Girls are halves of somethings;

Women are complete and resolute

The difference between a girl and a woman is that a girl has no balance,

always too much or too little, a girl spills over or dries up

Sometimes her throat overflows with emotion, sometimes tears fall too fast-

other times her voice cracks,

and the flame in her chest is snuffed out by the arid presence of emotion

She is forced to choose,

forced to absolutes

How is it that a woman can keep her footing on the bridge that keeps her on the periphery of society, on the edge of consciousness, so that she can maintain the ambivalence that keeps her alive?

Maybe the bones of a woman are hollow, like a bird’s

A girl’s are leaden, weighed down with a burden she can not yet shed

Or a burden she must learn to embrace- such is the sacrifice of taking flight

The girl grows,

she learns.

She stops searching for what will make her whole;

never stops feeling like a half

But what is felt no longer matters as much as what is seen

She looks ahead of her,

holding to the ground, one foot forward until she can properly walk

with the gait of a woman

bites her tongue and carries her heart with practiced ease

It is her dance-

All the world is her audience

They say a girl is a woman at the first draw of blood-

from chewing the inside of her cheek

or sown to the blades of a razor,

crimson against bathroom tile

It is a story of self-inflicted pain,

the hands of a girl are guided by the trembling patterns of those before them

It is all but innate,

It is only muscle memory:

done by rote until perfected.

That is the story of girl into woman.

They say that such a transition is graceful, caterpillar into butterfly,

but the only true similarity is that metamorphosis is largely unseen,

it is a process of breaking a former self down

and rearranging it into another, smothering pain into a cocoon’s folds,

waiting for it to emerge fully-formed and beautiful

There is beauty in every girl, so I am told-

I have yet to find my own

Idols that are beautiful renditions of fully-realized women

are people who are nothing like me

Beauty is what makes the woman whole,

there are already pieces of me that are supposed to make me a woman,

and yet, I still hesitate

I still cling to what was; what can still be

I am the last breath of autumn, on the precipice of transition,

trembling on the tendrils of change and wind,

I am still afraid to bloom

I am allowed to be many things

I am allowed to be pretty, unassuming and standard, I am allowed my humanity,

but I am not allowed to be beautiful

because I do not yet wish to give up my girlhood

They say, woman and girl, though separate stages of evolution,

share in that they exist in relation to everyone else-

Dipping their fingertips in their own worth so that it rubs off on everything

and everyone around them

I am tired, my bones are still heavy

I am tired of being forced to choose

between beauty and humanity

I am tired of how arbitrary the choice is treated- how am I expected to shatter myself and pick up the pieces?

How am I expected to lift my chin at the correct degree, just so the sky will not swallow me whole?

To go your entire life constantly fluctuating with the whims of another?

Or to live on your own accord, unfulfilled and halfway to everything?

It is a cycle easily adopted, told from the tongues of ancient Helen of Troy to my grandmother’s betrothal

It is the greatest choice-

Do I break or embrace convention?

Is that what it means to be a woman?

To pick one or the other, and live by it?

I will decide for myself, without fear to hold me captive.

The sky has never seemed lighter.

Cover Photo Source: Dazed