Do you remember the first truth you told?
Not the first lie. Not, "I ate my vegetables" or "I'm going to bed right now!" No, the first truth, the words you spoke that resonated through your body like the words were just as likely to condemn you as to act as your saviors. The first sentence, phrase, or chunk of word that simmered inside your soul.
Mine was as follows: It should not be disgusting when women bleed.
These words buried themselves into me on a sickeningly warm July day when I was eight. I had ridden my bike into a tree and, in desperation, thrown out my hands to control my fall. At home that day, I proudly boasted Hello Kitty patterned band aids crisscrossing on my palm - these were well received. At school, they loved the pink, thought it was quaint and pretty. Then, the ruse began to drop. As they peeled off and my palms began to suffocate, I tore off the bandages. Immediately, I was met with frowns. Boys with knees scarred and bloodied side-eyed me like the blood dotting my skin was a shock. Teachers looked disgustedly at me, at the dirtied red on my skin. My friends would no longer hold my hands, not until they healed.
I had not done anything wrong but bled. In the rawest sense, I had not done anything wrong but live. But it is these reminders of life that many hate; these testaments to women being the pretty and ugly parts of human. When she becomes flesh and bone rather than an object to be admired; when her skin becomes a canvas of all she's fought through and how she's grown. Battle scars are, apparently, a manly thing to have.
How, then, are we meant to conquer this plight? Society would have us approach it delicately, pluck it from the ground like a rose. Maybe there is a reason, people would say, that we don't like to see scars on women. Maybe it is because they are not beautiful. Don't you want to be beautiful?
But, say they weren't beautiful. Say these scrapes and sidewalk-chafed thighs are the ugliest things to manifest on anyone, ever. Is all we are meant for beauty? Is that to be our great purpose? To position ourselves with poise and femininity and never remind anyone that we are breathing with hearts that ceaselessly beat?
If beauty is all we are meant for, we would not cry. We would sit with faces frozen into grimaces. We would never grow into wrinkles, I suppose. Our smiles would never give us crows feet. We would be perfect in that doll-like manner, pretty in that put-on-your-shelf way.
If beauty is all we are meant for, Zora Neale Hurston would have never written that "love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place." Emily Dickinson would never have read that "love is the thing with feathers."
If beauty is all we are meant for, Joan of Arc would not have adorned gory armor and led armies defending France. Florence Nightingale, I'm sure, would have stayed away from nursing broken legs and fractured spines. Marie Curie would have known better than to devote her life to science and give up her life to radiation.
If beauty is all we are meant for, I'm sure the world would stop spinning. The women who kept the land above the sea and the constellations shifting in rhythm would be too busy smiling prettily, just enough to prevent wrinkles. And maybe, as the world devolved into terror, men would realize how much beauty is worth.