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.
“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.”
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.