Read an Excerpt
YOU TELL ME HOW TO BE A GIRL IN 2010
Questions, doubt, ambiguity, and dissent
have somehow become very unmasculine.
Authoritarian maniacs are
premiers, czars, and presidents.
Each one is more righteous than the next.
Each town they bomb
each human they kill
is done for “humanitarian” purposes.
People don’t own the water in their own village
and they certainly don’t own the diamonds and gold.
Millions are forced to make dinner out of garbage and dust
while Russian businessmen and movie stars
are buying 500-million-euro villas on Côte Sud.
Bees have stopped making honey.
People are drilling in all the wrong places.
The U.S., Russia, Canada, Denmark, and Norway all claim the Arctic
but none of them seem to care that the polar bears are drowning.
They are fingerprinting, photographing our licenses and teeth.
Big Brother is now in our phones, our pods, our PCs.
Not one of us feels even a little safer.
New Age mental health providers turn
out to be former war torturers with beards.
And the pope in a dress showing off his
ermine trim and cuffs
is telling everyone that
people kissing people they love is the greatest evil.
A woman running for U.S. vice president
believes in creationism
but not global warming.
Why is everyone so much more afraid of sex
than SCUD missiles?
And who decided God wasn’t into pleasure?
And if the hetero nuclear family is so great
how come everyone is fleeing it
or paying their life savings just
to sit in a room with a stranger and cry about it?
The Iraq war cost nearly $3 trillion.
I can’t even count that high
but I know
that money could have
ended poverty in general
which would have canceled terrorism.
How come we have money to kill
but no money to feed or heal?
How come we have money to destroy
but no money for art and schools?
The fundamentalists now have
billion-dollar private armies.
The Taliban is back
but never went away.
Women are burned, raped, bludgeoned, sold,
starved, and buried alive
and still don’t know they are the majority.
Water is clearly nearly running out
but even in the desert where there’s serious drought
the golf courses are green and lush
and the swimming pools are full of water
for the twelve rich people who might decide to come.
Special people adopt hand-picked babies in faraway lands.
Their flights there cost more
than the babies’ parents made
Why don’t they just give it to them?
Slavery is back
but never went away.
Just ask anyone who’s been whipped
how deep the legacy.
Six million dead in the Congo
and they never made the news,
and don’t tell me it doesn’t have
to do with color
Poor folks are dying first
just put up fancier super-electrified gates
on their private perfect cities.
Everyone’s having “benefits”
and throwing fancy parties
with lots of swag
so the rich people feel good about giving
away the tiny little bit of the whole lot they have.
But no one really wants to change anything.
If you really want it
you have to give something up
and then those that have, wouldn’t,
and then who would they be?
And that’s too complicated
so they write checks
and keep doing the same old things.
Making revolution profitable.
Corporations own everything anyway
even our hippie jeans, memory cells, and rain.
Why do so many women leaders look like Margaret Thatcher
and act even meaner?
Why doesn’t anyone remember anything?
And how come rich bad people
get paid lots of money to give speeches
and poor bad people are tortured
and in prisons?
Is there anyone in charge?
Or is this whole thing spinning out until it explodes
And if there is something we can do
why aren’t we doing it?
What happened to fury?
What happened to accuracy
What happened to not showing off your wealth?
What happened to kindness?
What happened to teenagers rebelling
instead of buying and selling?
What happened to teenagers kissing
instead of blogging and dissing?
What happened to teenagers marching
instead of exploiting and using?
I want to touch you in real time
not find you on YouTube,
I want to walk next to you in the mountains
not friend you on Facebook.
Give me one thing I can believe in
that isn’t a brand name.
Girls younger than me are giving blowjobs
and they don’t even know it’s sex.
They just want to be popular
and get some respect.
Most girls my age are taking pills
or not getting out of bed
or eating or starving
or getting nose jobs or implants
or getting cut
or twittering away
or covering themselves
or desperate for a way
to be awake without faking
to be alive without freaking
to be serious
to be true
to even think of loving someone
when we’re already doomed.
You tell me how to be a girl in 2010
I say let’s go for it
if it’s all coming down.
I say let’s speak it
let’s fight it
let’s right it
there’s nothing to hold on to
if it’s already gone.
They left it to us.
It sucks but it’s true.
It’s you and me baby.
LET ME IN
Oh God. I hate it when they act like that.
“Sit down. Shut up. Stop embarrassing me. Please!”
I don’t say this out loud. God no. Only in my head. These are my friends . . . supposedly.
“Oh God. Please stop. You are so utterly immature.”
I hate it when all those people look at me.
Not like them. They’re always showing off. They’re not so sure of themselves when they’re alone. But in the posse—giddyup.
It’s hopeless. I can’t keep up. I’m always one Marc Jacobs, one Juicy Couture behind.
“Hi hi.” Kiss kiss.
She hates my guts. Look at her cruising my once-something-now-so-over boot. I wish my feet were leaves. Blow away. I bought the brown leather riding boots like you said. Even though I’m allergic to horses and I didn’t have the money. Or I should say my mother didn’t. She’s a temp secretary and sometimes for weeks doesn’t even get called. I got hysterical in the shoe store. Started hyperventilating on the floor. My mother was so embarrassed that she paid.
But then they changed right after that. Julie says riding boots are so pre-Britney. It’s all about purple UGGs. My mother will not even consider it. She doesn’t get it. She constantly jeopardizes my position. I mean she’s the reason I can’t keep up. I hate my mother and I hate these painful riding boots even more. To be honest I didn’t like them in the first place. Now I just look like a stupid girl without a pony.
Oh God, Julie just can’t stop.
“Cut it out, okay? I got the drop circle earrings like you said and the . . . Just stop checking me out.”
Don’t worry. I don’t say this out loud. Only in my head. They are my friends . . . supposedly.
Julie now hates every bit of me. It happened yesterday. I completely blew it. I was accidentally nice to Wendy Apple in front of them. I forgot and hugged her right there. I lost myself. Wendy is so out. She’s got wild hair and her family lives in this ugly house and she has the dumbest laugh. She can’t help herself and she really doesn’t care. To be honest, I sort of like Wendy. Well, I admire her. She’s pretty sarcastic and draws these amazing pictures of slutty angels who are always falling from somewhere like outer space. But it’s familiar.
Julie says she’s not like us. Well, them. Julie saw me hug Wendy and did the big eyeball roll in front of all of the posse like I was demented or pathetic and then she turned her back on me. So did they. Like her backup dancers.
So I got mad at Wendy. I shoved her a little and turned my head and told Wendy to stay away from me. She just looked at me, stared in shock like I was an alien. Then she started crying. That made me feel pretty shitty because I kind of like her a lot. But it made Julie like me again. Later Julie gave me the same kind of glitter lipstick that Beyoncé wore at the MTV music awards. Julie only used it for two weeks.
But she is suspicious. So are the others. The word is out. It’s because of my clunky boots and my tits. Well, my lack of them. Julie is stacked and that’s why all the greatest guys are after her. She and Bree rule the posse. They don’t go anywhere apart. Even to pee. I saw them go into the toilet together. They were laughing real loud and we were all wondering if it was us they were laughing at. Wendy told me they had padded bras and went all the way. That’s why the guys like them so much. But Julie is genuinely pretty and very skinny. Her stomach is totally wholly abbed and flat like Gwen Stefani’s and she’s got that “I can’t help it if I’m perfect” smile. Bree’s hair is actually a little frizzy but she’s got perfect breasts and the coolest voice all deep like Miley and she doesn’t even have to fake it. She was born like that. Bree brought me into the posse ’cause I helped her with her history exam. She definitely regrets it now. I am the contaminator. Loser-girl virus. It spreads so fast, and once you get it you’re forever dead and ugly.
Oh God. Look at them. They can’t even go to the vending machine without each other. Aren’t they happy?
I shouldn’t be telling you this. Breaking confidentiality. Totally illegal. We signed this posse agreement, really cool like
Angelina Jolie’s personal assistants do.
But sometimes I want to say:
“Grow up. Be real. Stop pretending. Leave me alone.”
Don’t worry, I don’t say this out loud. Only in my head. These are my friends . . . supposedly.
But the reason they hate Wendy Apple so much is ’cause she was one of them once. Higher up than Bree. I mean, she could have been a Julie. What Wendy did was like a revolutionary. She just gave it up. I mean, she walked away. She said it was stupid. And she told everyone their secrets. Even the ugliest and fattest girls know about their padded bras. Julie and Bree tried to sue. But the posse agreement didn’t really hold up in high school court.
I can’t believe it. Julie and Bree are all over Amber. That’s because of Amber’s older brother who Julie is suddenly dating. Amber made this happen, and so now Julie is just worshipping her. I mean, God, you would think Amber would be embarrassed. Two weeks ago Julie and Bree humiliated her in the locker room, did the posse circle in the shower when Amber was naked and we all laughed at her body.
You know Wendy wrote me a note in third period and said she wasn’t crying for herself. She said she was crying for me ’cause I started out so nice and now I am so desperate. But I’m not funny like Wendy or talented. I am so tragically in the middle. Not one outstanding characteristic. I have nothing going for me . . . but them.
Wait a minute. There’s no more room at the table. Tiffany was supposed to get there first and save me a seat. But Tiffany is sitting in between Julie and Bree.
Oh God, look at my boots—?they are so stupid. And my hair, I hate it. My mother can’t even get work as a typist. I’m just a pathetic blob of middle girl.
“Please don’t do this. Make room at the table. Tiffany, what about my seat? Don’t squeeze me out. Tiffany, stop pretending I’m not here. Oh look, look. Julie is braiding your hair. So now you’re Julie’s friend. Tiffany! Tiffany, turn around! I am here. I am not dead. What? What?”
Bree is motioning them to cut me off. They’re giving me the posse slam.
“Don’t do that. Bree, remember I helped you pass the exam? I gave you the answers and risked my ass. Listen. I don’t like these riding boots. I bought them for you. I know you were really generous to let me in because I am so utterly insignificant. I know I don’t have breasts. I’ll get the UGGs. I promise. I won’t be nice to people you hate. I’ll do whatever you want. Please. Please just let me sit down. Make room on the bench. Let me in. Let me in. Let me in!!”
Oh God. Everyone is looking. I must be really screaming. It’s in the cafeteria and not just in my head.
“Let me in. Make room on the bench.”
“I can’t do it, Julie. I can’t keep up. I will never be invited. I won’t ever get the guy. My hair is stringy and ugly and my breasts don’t exist. I am a piece of shit shit shit. Let me in. Let me in.”
(She wakes up.)
I wake up at Wendy’s. There is incense burning that smells like fruit. Apples, I think. Right. Wendy Apple. I don’t remember how I got here. Wendy is sitting next to the bed, drawing a picture of me as an angel in transition. She says I have hit bottom. And that it feels terrible now. But I am lucky it has happened so young. She says she will be my friend if I can stop worrying about being popular. She says there are others who don’t fit in and I will like them better. She says there is another world and the door is open. She says she can help.
Wendy laughs and it’s too loud. I want to be pretty. Wendy is incredibly kind. I want to be skinny. Wendy is on the outside. And I am no one. Wendy is by my bed and she is drawing my picture.
WHAT DON’T YOU LIKE ABOUT BEING A GIRL?
Girls can’t control anything
Boys can do anything they want
My brother is adored,
I am ignored
My boobs, people talking about my boobs
People assuming you can’t do something
My boobs, it all changed with my boobs
Blood, cramps, seven days
People thinking you are weak
A girl can get pregnant
You have to do your hair
You have to remove your hair
Wash and iron clothes
More chance of being raped
Have to take care of husbands and kids
Girls can’t work even though
they are educated.