Everything I Need to Know

Emulation of the chapter Everything I Need to Know in the novel Sold by Patricia McCormick.

Everything I Need to Know

Before today, mommy says, you could wear basketball shorts, run around and get as tan as a piece of burnt wood,

Now, mother says, you must wear dresses, be neat and act elegantly,

Never get your knees scraped up,

Never climb trees because you will rip your dress,

Never be too bold around boys and get too touchy-freely with them,

And never act differently around girls,

Otherwise people will think you are not normal.

Once you are old enough, wear make-up and more mature clothes, speak softly and do not express yourself too aggressively,

If your girlfriends talk about boys and clothes, always look like you’re interested,

If they ask you if you like anyone, just smile and shake your head,

If you hang out with a close male friend, the usual rules about boys apply.

If you hang out with a close female friend, laugh with her and hug her, but don’t hug her or hold her hand for too long, or people might get ideas.

If you have a crush on a boy, you must quietly and secretly send him signs,

If you have a crush on a girl, it is not real and it’s only a phase. You will get over it soon.

If you do not have a boyfriend by age twenty, you must change yourself,

If you are in a discussion, don’t sound too assertive,

If your job demands you to be at work ten hours a day, quit, because a woman should not have her career as her priority,

If someone ask you what you want to do in the future, tell them you want to get marry and raise a family.

I ask my mother “Why,” I say, “must I lie so?”

“This has always been the way things work,” mother says, “You need to act the way that is normal. To fit in, simply, is to be happy.”

Commentary: My intention with this piece is to describe the kind of perceptions, ideas and stigmas that I grew up around. I come from a very traditional and conservative country. I was told that being a tomboy, being an independent, outspoken woman, being unmarried at 35, being gay, being anything that is not accepted as “normal” is not alright. I was told that I have to be all of these characteristics that are given to me, and only if I follow the instructions will I live a happy life. Of course I could never allow anyone to dictate how I am supposed to live my life. Maybe I don’t want to be normal, maybe I want to make a difference. So here’s to all the lies and stereotypes and “normal”.

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