Shame

by TL Milligan

shame because my belly is soft and round and hangs over the waistband of my underwear
shame because I have stretch marks on my breasts
shame because I’ve had cellulite since I was a preteen
shame because I’m always told, in so many words, that I’m not good enough – “lose weight, dye your hair, suck in your tummy, put on makeup, get a grip”
shame because I started my period and the evidence is on my clothes and people are staring at me, whispering about me, laughing at me
shame because to talk about my period, to mention tampons or pads in everyday conversation, is indecent
shame because I don’t want to be touched that way but I feel guilty when I say no so I say yes, even though I don’t want it
shame because I don’t have a boyfriend and that makes me feel ugly
shame because I have a boyfriend and he makes me feel ugly
shame because his hands make me feel dirty
shame because, “Hey, baby! That dress would look better on my bedroom floor!”
shame because I’m not allowed to have control over my own face, much less the rest of my body – “Smile, smile, smile. Why aren’t you smiling? Men don’t want to look at your face unless you’re smiling.”
shame because when I choose to be quiet in order to be kind, I’m passive and weak; shame because when I speak up, I’m loud and angry and need to check my emotions – “Stop SHOUTING! How dare you have an OPINION!”
shame because close your mouth, close your legs, close your eyes, and pretend you don’t exist – this is how to properly be a woman
shame because feminism is unbecoming
shame because independence isn’t ladylike
shame because not wanting to get married makes me a weirdo, a loser, the object of pity
shame because I like being childless
shame because I like being single
shame because I’m paid less than a man due to my possession of a vagina
shame because I’m not considered as valuable, as smart, as strong, as capable, as brave, as respected, as important, as worthy as a man
shame because being a woman is degrading and silly
shame is the clothing I wear every day, as a woman
shame is my shadow, my burden, I carry it on my shoulders, it’s heavy, it weighs me down
and when I get up the gumption to shove it off, to set myself free, it settles on my shoulders again, and I struggle to stand up under its weight
I don’t want your shame
I don’t deserve it
there’s nothing shameful about being a woman
so I will take ownership of that shame
and wear it like a crown, a badge of honor
I will fashion my weapons and suit of armor out of the shame thrown at me
I will smear it on my face like war paint
and I will hold my head high
and smile, because I choose when I smile and I have much to smile about
your shame doesn’t determine who I am
I do

TL

TL Milligan has been making up stories and playing with imaginary friends since she was a little girl. She stubbornly refuses to grow up and insists the colorful, chaotic world inside her head is much better than reality. She enjoys writing both poetry and prose, but her first love is fiction for children and young adults. She devours all types of literature when she isn’t creating magic with her pen, and she looks forward to the day when her books are available for everyone to read. She’s a self-proclaimed Potterhead, Disney princess, believer in Wonderland, grammar nerd, and fiery feminist. She has a BA in English, and she currently resides in a small town near Atlanta with her mischievous rough collie, Stella. Follow her on Instagram at @bunnytleigh to see snapshots of her everyday life, glimpses of her writing and what inspires her, and dozens of photos of Stella.

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