My all-girls high school taught me how to be a woman:
To be a professional.
To be strong.
To not need men.
I want to work. I want to defy, outwit, conquer the pantsuit and the work week so hard that I can walk into the office in old sweaters and Crocs if I feel like it, because I’m good at what I do, because I love what I do, because I’m the best man for the job. I won’t ruddy my face, but I’ll outperform any ruddy-faced man who tells me I can’t, and I’ll send corporate America spinning on its head.
I have to.
Because Fox News is mourning women becoming breadwinners.
Because my roommate chalks up any fault I find in him to my own PMS.
Because my sister’s teenage friends are slathering themselves in self-tanner and self-doubt.
I have to be the woman to stop this kind of thinking, to keep women safe from men, from other women, from themselves. I have to be a woman that keeps women from being shut down shut out shut up.
But, shit, I really want to be a mom.
I want to buy Shells and Cheese and lice Nix at the grocery store, to carry an extra quarter of my body weight on my tilted hip, to measure hours in Barney videos and years in candles.
I want to make aliens out of finger paints and popsicle sticks and googly eyes, to clean nasty cuts without wincing and to cover them with Elmo Band-Aids, to take tiny sundresses out of the dryer before they wrinkle.
I want other kids to tell their moms that our house is coolest because we’re not the cleanest and we don’t have the best toys but we have forts made out of Little Mermaid blankets.
I want to hang report cards on the fridge no matter what they say, and to only have chocolate milk as a sometimes food.
I want to stay up late watching Little House on the Prairie reruns, to mend chiffon dresses with jelly stains the night before prom, to make poppy seed chicken three nights a week because that’s her favorite.
I want to fight about which words are okay to say at the dinner table, about what constitutes “boyfriend material,” about whether or not I’m expecting too much of my daughter.
I want to cry, say goodbye, send her across the country with my old sweaters in her suitcase, to Skype once but the Wi-Fi’s not good enough in the dorm, to send texts that I know will be ignored or laughed at. I hope they’ll be laughed at.
And after that, I want to die, knowing that somewhere in the world there’s a fresh-faced woman who can be the woman I wanted to be.
Shelby Dale DeWeese is a poetry editor for both Fractal and Teen Ink. Originally from a town on the Kentucky/Tennessee state line with no name, she currently lives and studies in a city with quite a long one – El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reyna de Los Angeles de Porciúncula