I’m a Woman (Story by R.C. Peris)

They think they know what’s best for me. Everyone. They all think they know what’s best for me. My parents, my teachers, my neighbors, people in City Hall. Yesterday I went to get the mail in my tank top and my neighbor, a forty-year-old from Pakistan, chided me.

“Don’t walk around like that.” He was very unhappy. He pointed and I looked down at my nipples poking through my thin shirt. I hated bras. I looked across the street at Marco, a seventeen-year-old Puerto Rican who dropped out of school. He was lounging in his yard without a shirt on. I knew if he stood up his pants would be baggy and I could see the top of his boxers. No one told him he couldn’t walk around like that, but because I hated the confines of a bra I was chided and pointed at.

“Fuck you, Sajid.” He slammed the door. That was the last time he made eye contact with me.

I read my mother’s romance books. Lots of sex. Sexy sex. I read the sexy sex parts over like a hundred times. One day my mother noticed I was reading them. She snatched the book from my hands.

“Not for girls,” she said.

It was a well-known fact that Ms. Morgan was banging Rodrigo. He was a sixteen-year-old Mexican boy. I sat behind him in biology class. I was jealous. He was having sexy sex. We got a long-term substitute in US history. He was cute. Old. Like probably thirty years old but he was cute. I wanted him. I wanted sexy sex. I flirted. For two weeks. I flirted.

“You’re a girl.” He was accusatory.

“I’m sixteen.”

“A girl,” he said as he cleaned the whiteboard.

“Rodrigo is fucking Ms. Morgan.” I folded my arms across my chest.

“He’s a boy.”

“Fuck you.”

I’m a girl. That means you can tell me what’s good for me and not good for me. You can tell me how to dress and make judgments. I told my sister all this. She’s twenty and in college. She laughed at me.

“It doesn’t stop. We are always girls. People will always treat you like a girl. You just have to do things and not give a shit what other people say. You’re a woman when you learn not to give a shit when you do your own thing.”

I hung up the phone and chucked my bras. I’m not a girl. I’m a woman. I don’t give a shit.

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