Cauldron Anthology Issue 8: Untold Fortitude cauldronissue8changes - Page 20

Womanhood Ly dia H. St uc ki I hate kale, especially when baked. Its bitter stench sits on the floor and stares grumpily at me. I hiss back before the crisped leaves are tupperwared. “Don’t worry,” the stench says, “it’s women’s food. You won’t have to eat me.” Ages change irregularly, as you earn them. I turned 21, not with a burning gag, but a couple bags of groceries and a list of personality traits. Does that make me a woman now? Was the crying twelve-year-old with blood on her sheets, in fact, a woman? Or will it be the bride? Does it still count if a woman’s fingers do the breaking? The woman who bore me knows the bright side of the moon. She burns and I wished never to end up like her or the mother who bore her or the mothers she sits beside. A list, from my mother: • Some girls pluck the hairs from between their eyebrows but you don’t have to. I mean, who needs that kind of pain? • It’s normal to want to get married someday and I’ll be happy when you become a bride. • I’m so glad you’re not like those other girls who are into boys and sleepovers. • It’s okay to struggle through things and I’ll accept you no matter what you believe. • Why do they have to shove that revolting gay stuff in our faces? We don’t want to see that! • I fell in love once upon a time. • I’m so, so happy! Don’t cry. You’re a woman. This is a good thing. On my hips grew a forest of stretch scars when I was eleven. They’re shiny veins—I’m sorry. I was un- aware all girls didn’t inflate so fast their skin couldn’t keep up. It’s been four hundred years since my body was considered beautiful. I have never felt like enough of an object. Never an orange still-life, always living, always breathing. Maybe I was simply never beautiful enough for second looks or whistles. Or maybe I’m socially awkward, swimmingly oblivious, to what my sisters lament. I snuck into the Art Institute late at night, to the marble courtyard, to the statue of the breathless woman and I kissed her. Breathed life like fireflies into her stone mouth, held her strong arms and stood, balanced on one foot on her pedestal, missing the serendipity of another’s moving lips. And He regarded the lowly handmaiden who couldn’t stop her pen writing about sex and those seven devils that will surely eat her and me alive. There are pearls in our ears, the beatnik-bohemian aesthetic with heeled black boots, yes? But wait. Her spindle-fingers and stop motion waist are actually beautiful, along with her voice and her poetry. Here’s the rub: one must have matching beauty in relationships. Those are so beyond me. Hang a tapestry over kitchen chairs, climb inside, sing ye ladies sigh no more. Us girls can survive with only each other. Are we drawn to inconstancy because it is superfluous? Our whispers bind us together as we strip bracelet by sock by bra before each other’s eyes. A whispered confession: “There are too many kinds of wetness between my legs. It’s damn irritating.” Paint your face and conceal yourself in immodest butterfly wings. Rip the skin from your legs and pull hair from every nerve-tied pore. Sand off your callouses and starve off curves necessary to house your insides. 20 Cauldron Anthology