Be gentle. Be gentle. Be gentle.
Remember that every time I enjoy ice cream, wear a short skirt, put on my favorite pink or red lipsticks, spritz myself with Prada perfume, fall in love, learn something from meditation, make a friend, or hold my head up high, I am doing it against all odds. I am doing it in spite of everything I’ve been taught and everything I’ve been told about myself nearly every day of my life.
Know that I learned how to walk and talk and dress like a bad ass from other people who have seen too much. This is not confidence. This is strength in its purest form. This is what it looks like when you refuse to be beat. This is fucking high art. This is making a dollar out of fifteen cents, metamorphosis, alchemy. This is my inheritance. This isn’t for you. This is for me. Never mistake this for the kind of shit that Cosmo is peddling to women in order to become more attractive to men.
Remember that all the gifts I have — resiliency, joy, creativity, compassion — I earned them.
They didn’t come easily, didn’t come cheap. See them as a ferocious gift that I’ve paid dearly for. They do not exist to improve your life. They exist to be shared with those who love me and who I love back. Some of my qualities and traits are innate, but most of them were raw material when my life started. I honed them over years and years of trying to disarm people, to prove I was worthy, to make someone laugh so that I could maybe stave off an insult, to articulate each syllable perfectly so no one would ever question my intelligence, to achieve so that maybe someday someone would love me, to be the smartest person in the room because of how I’d seen my immigrant parents treated as inferior.
See me. See me. See me.
I am not harmless. I am not grateful for basic decency or humane treatment. I am not someone from whom you can take without gratitude, recognition and reciprocity.
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Please know that I know how well I deserve to be treated. And that you cannot save me. I’ve already saved myself.
Know that I can always, always leave.
I’ve been taught that my fatness and my brownness make me capable of holding more pain than any human should have to. Each time I am treated with tenderness, I am restored. Racism, sexism and fatphobia have tried to mold me into someone who thinks she’s less than human. When I defensively demand respect, know that this is why.
Distrust feels like my native tongue. Vulnerability feels like a foreign language.
Each time that I ask for something that I need it’s a blessing. It’s a revolution. Treat it that way. Each time I say no I am defying history.
Every single moment that I am not vindictive, hateful, overwhelmed by sadness or anger, it’s a goddamn miracle. Imagine how far I’ve come and then quintuple it. That’s closer to the truth.
“Jaded” is a gendered slur meant to shut me up so I won’t share what I’ve seen and what I know to be true about the people around me and the culture that we live in.
When you disappoint me or hurt me know that I have been through a war. Treat me like I’m wounded. I am.
I will never, ever be sorry that I have needs again.
Take a moment to think about what you say to me. I deserve that. See the way that I show up in the world. Honor that. See my magic. Love me without agenda. Take no joy in the moments I am weak. Earn my vulnerability; do not expect it. Know that openness is too large an ask right now. Ask me if I will drink tea with you. Remember that I love nail polish and Chihuahuas and that my grandmother’s name is Esperanza and that I love jasmine the most. Hug me. Hold me. Know that sometimes it’s hard to accept the things I want the most.