I am woman

A poem

A poem

I am woman.

When I was 3 I loved my holders.

Mum and Dad were superheroes.

I was safe.

At 5 I was a princess.

I loved tea-parties, Hi-5 and preschool.

Finger painting and biking home with Dad.

I was safe.

When I was 7 the mirror became important.

I started noticing how my hair sat and the ‘cool kids’.

Boys would chase me and I’d chase boys.

Except they wouldn’t stop and I would squeal.

But ‘boys will be boys’ and in class I felt safe.

And at 9 I started mimicking celebrities.

Disney channel stars like Selena Gomez and the Jonas Brothers.

Cotton vests, fedoras, and hair with coloured streaks was cool . . . and I wanted to be cool.

Mum and Dad had to wait in the car and when boys tugged my hair and it began to hurt, Mum said it meant they liked me.

I felt safe.

At 11 I started wearing lip gloss.

Mum and Dad talking to me was embarrassing.

Straighteners made me pretty and the curtain of hair became an attraction.

Their teasing and sing-songing never stopped but I didn’t mind.

Because I knew I was safe.

At 13 bras were new.

And the ‘hair flip and laugh’ was a staple move.

I would giggle over Justin Bieber, my crushes, and window shopping escapades on the weekend.

They would pinch my bra straps from under my shirt but the marks at the end of the day showed their affection.

And I knew I was safe.

At 15 skirts got shorter.

Girls ran the gossip mill and the older kids were the main articles.

Texting guys and hanging out on weekends was the apex niche.

And when it was one-on-one and his advances made me uncomfortable, it meant I was special.

And on the phone at home I was safe.

At 17 alcohol is the new icon of interest.

‘Harmless fun’ revved the hormones into overdrive.

Curious hands would sink into the skin of my hips after having burned through my clothes and were impossible to abandon.

But the ushering of friends and the disillusioned haze of a vodka mask forced the whispers of conscience away.

I’d soon be safe.

At 19 I was young.

But he had followed me outside into the solitude of night.

The boy who tugged my hair and gave me harmless teasing was gone and instead someone else stood with a threatening promise lingering beneath the surface of his eyes.

He gave mocking encouragement, trying to lure me away on a worded leash.

I brushed it off and tried to move but his wandering hands latched on to my arm and blood vessels began to pop.

At 19 and 3 months I was woman.

No longer did the word ‘NO’ hold substance.

I couldn’t enforce the teachings of my mother and the teachers because I couldn’t move.

At 19, 3 months and 2 weeks I was woman.

My screams fell unheard on the ears of a deaf city.

He muttered that I wanted it. I wanted it because I laughed, because my dress was short, because of my siren red lipstick.

At 19, 3 months, 2 weeks, and 5 days I was woman.

They had told me ‘don’t go outside at night alone’, ‘always have a partner’, ‘pretend to be on the phone’.

It was only for a minute, and then it was my fault.

At 19, 3 months, 2 weeks, 5 days, and 21 hours I was woman.

I had been saved by protecting hands but I did not feel safe.

The helplessness still burned in my bones and his embrace though ripped away, still caged my frame.

If I had aged 3 minutes more, and strongly said ‘no’ would he have stopped?

At 19, 3 months, 2 weeks, 5 days, 21 hours and 56 minutes I was woman.

The soap did nothing but gloss over the dirt that I had felt on my skin, nothing but seal the remnants of his intentions . . . of his touch . . . into the very fibre of me.

Everyone knew and I had wished they hadn’t, because I had encouraged the desire I saw burning and going out at night by myself was silly.

I had been told, so even the pitch I could recite ‘it’s dangerous at night for a young woman’.

And at 47 I am still scared.

I have warned my daughter about the demons in the dark but has she taken heed?

The bruises have faded but their shadow remains.

And the presence of that night lingers in the pores of my skin, tattooed forever.

The self-defence classes, baggy clothes and strong husband haven’t banished the memory or fear of that night.

I am safe now but are we?

I am woman.

When I was 3 I loved my holders.

Mum and Dad were superheroes.

I was safe.

At 5 I was a princess.

I loved tea-parties, Hi-5 and preschool.

Finger painting and biking home with Dad.

I was safe.

When I was 7 the mirror became important.

I started noticing how my hair sat and the ‘cool kids’.

Boys would chase me and I’d chase boys.

Except they wouldn’t stop and I would squeal.

But ‘boys will be boys’ and in class I felt safe.

And at 9 I started mimicking celebrities.

Disney channel stars like Selena Gomez and the Jonas Brothers.

Cotton vests, fedoras, and hair with coloured streaks was cool . . . and I wanted to be cool.

Mum and Dad had to wait in the car and when boys tugged my hair and it began to hurt, Mum said it meant they liked me.

I felt safe.

At 11 I started wearing lip gloss.

Mum and Dad talking to me was embarrassing.

Straighteners made me pretty and the curtain of hair became an attraction.

Their teasing and sing-songing never stopped but I didn’t mind.

Because I knew I was safe.

At 13 bras were new.

And the ‘hair flip and laugh’ was a staple move.

I would giggle over Justin Bieber, my crushes, and window shopping escapades on the weekend.

They would pinch my bra straps from under my shirt but the marks at the end of the day showed their affection.

And I knew I was safe.

At 15 skirts got shorter.

Girls ran the gossip mill and the older kids were the main articles.

Texting guys and hanging out on weekends was the apex niche.

And when it was one-on-one and his advances made me uncomfortable, it meant I was special.

And on the phone at home I was safe.

At 17 alcohol is the new icon of interest.

‘Harmless fun’ revved the hormones into overdrive.

Curious hands would sink into the skin of my hips after having burned through my clothes and were impossible to abandon.

But the ushering of friends and the disillusioned haze of a vodka mask forced the whispers of conscience away.

I’d soon be safe.

At 19 I was young.

But he had followed me outside into the solitude of night.

The boy who tugged my hair and gave me harmless teasing was gone and instead someone else stood with a threatening promise lingering beneath the surface of his eyes.

He gave mocking encouragement, trying to lure me away on a worded leash.

I brushed it off and tried to move but his wandering hands latched on to my arm and blood vessels began to pop.

At 19 and 3 months I was woman.

No longer did the word ‘NO’ hold substance.

I couldn’t enforce the teachings of my mother and the teachers because I couldn’t move.

At 19, 3 months and 2 weeks I was woman.

My screams fell unheard on the ears of a deaf city.

He muttered that I wanted it. I wanted it because I laughed, because my dress was short, because of my siren red lipstick.

At 19, 3 months, 2 weeks, and 5 days I was woman.

They had told me ‘don’t go outside at night alone’, ‘always have a partner’, ‘pretend to be on the phone’.

It was only for a minute, and then it was my fault.

At 19, 3 months, 2 weeks, 5 days, and 21 hours I was woman.

I had been saved by protecting hands but I did not feel safe.

The helplessness still burned in my bones and his embrace though ripped away, still caged my frame.

If I had aged 3 minutes more, and strongly said ‘no’ would he have stopped?

At 19, 3 months, 2 weeks, 5 days, 21 hours and 56 minutes I was woman.

The soap did nothing but gloss over the dirt that I had felt on my skin, nothing but seal the remnants of his intentions . . . of his touch . . . into the very fibre of me.

Everyone knew and I had wished they hadn’t, because I had encouraged the desire I saw burning and going out at night by myself was silly.

I had been told, so even the pitch I could recite ‘it’s dangerous at night for a young woman’.

And at 47 I am still scared.

I have warned my daughter about the demons in the dark but has she taken heed?

The bruises have faded but their shadow remains.

And the presence of that night lingers in the pores of my skin, tattooed forever.

The self-defence classes, baggy clothes and strong husband haven’t banished the memory or fear of that night.

I am safe now but are we?

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Poll

  • Voting please wait...
    Your vote has been cast. Reloading page...
    Do you think the council should revisit its ongoing pledge to limit overall rates rises to 2 percent, to meet infrastructure spending requirements?