I remember her very well. Dyed hair. The made-up face, nature hiding behind the stoic artifice. Drinking too much. Smoking too much. She had always been against both as a young girl. She would hide her father’s cigarette packs in the chimney. He would scream at her and threaten her. She cried when she saw a photograph of her mother holding a cigarette. She would drink excessively because she was born into a culture where people drowned themselves in superficialities and materialities, never fulfilling their calling, grasping bottle after bottle out of boredom and deeply rooted and muted despair and emptiness. As a young girl, she would want to walk up to her grandfather, the mother’s hands would hold her back with a power and alertness that had roots as thick as sinews, and she would not understand why her body was withdrawn, but the mother knew, the stench of alcohol and the danger attached to it were unfamiliar to the girl. The mother would never want to see her children in a drunken state. The empty bottle would always remain a terror in her mind, the weaving and clumsy body of suppression, the reeking mouth and derailing gaze, the offensive mind and entitled hands.
The daughter would sit amongst vulgar and pretentious alpha males, one girl next to her, and decorate the room with her perfume, her body, her hairdo and make-up. She would be engulfed by the pedestrian energy in the room, the cheap surroundings, the uneducated and off-putting minds hollering their ignorant opinions against each other, thinking that they are the greatest men on earth. She would look up to them, so it seemed, so she tried, so she lied to herself, convincing herself of their importance and their power. Because they were loud. Because she thought that was a sign of confidence, of dominance, of rightfulness. And she, in contrast, must be the exact opposite: obedient, silent, submissive, docile, absorbing, amenable, pretty and never more overtly intelligent than the boys in men’s bodies. She would get ready for hours to vanish into the world of immature boys who completely ignored everything about her. She had been taught that she was small and so she let them be the big guns.
She would listen to them, wanting to say something, contradict them, argue against something they said, offer her opinion and knowledge, but as often as it happened in the classroom as well, she kept her mouth shut, her thoughts active, and forbade herself to speak, turning over every phrase, doubting herself, afraid that what she might say might be wrong, that she would not be heard or that they’d laugh at her, that she was unable and unqualified to contribute her reflections. They inherited freedom and she was born a prisoner growing miserably comfortable in her chains. Her nodding and laughing and attention made them feel like kings who were always right, so irresistible and impressive. The girl next to her did the same thing. Smiling, Mute. Observing. Availability. We elevated them instead of ourselves. We nurtured their unchallenged high opinions of themselves. The sad truth was that they had nothing to offer. No spirit, no values, no conversation, no inspiration, no love, no eloquence, no knowledgeability, no culture, no ambition, no purpose, no substance, no eroticism, no charm, no passion, no empathy, no depth, no intellect and no integrity. They were rotten to the core, treating girls like dirt and trash. And we admired them and latched ourselves onto them. We were brought up thinking that they are everything and we are nothing, boys and girls. We were made misogynists.
When I revisit this girl with the low self-esteem, I shove away my disappointment and shame, (because I am done attacking myself), and encourage her in her everyday life to open her mouth, speak her own language, never hide who she is and what she looks like, never dumb herself down for the comfort of others, liberate the parts of her inner life that need air and energy, contribute what she has to offer, excavate her talents, put her power, agency and autonomy on the table, make her own rules, follow her own advice, learn from her lessons, dance to her own rhythm and tune, follow her own borderlessness, stick to her ethics and ideals and values, speak her mind, be in total alignment with her body and soul and mind, take fear by the hand and jump into the adventure together, not waste time caring abut embarrassment or what people think, be selective about the people entering her intimate circle, do everything with the intent to create, not destroy or numb down, and feel rich in her own skin, contradicting and counteracting everything she was taught about herself and her sex that has been proven to be untrue and never set in stone.
“Nude woman, seated, wearing a mask” by Thomas Eakins (1844-1916)