For me, “Thank you.” these two beautiful words became my lifeline. My reassurance. My therapy. In order to remain calm before a potential storm, the words slips out of my mouth without a thought.
There are some individuals, bless their soul, who continue to give compliments. One right after the other. I know they are well-intentioned but I cannot help the feeling of panic that starts building up within. It brings more into focus the physical attribute that a pervert might like. Because unfortunately, when I am told I have nice legs my first thought is, “Another thing they will like.” When I am told I have nice hips, “Another thing they would like to hold.” When I am told I have nice breasts, “Another thing they would like to grab.”
I refer to “they” as all those men who had sexually assault me growing up. To the ones I get catcalls from on the street. To the ones who follow me when I walk alone. To the ones who sends me marriage proposals or lewd jokes on the internet. To the ones I have yet to meet because there will always be one or two or more.
So for long, I stuck to the girls, less with the boys. I stayed away from tight, revealing clothes. Even with people I trusted, I was uncomfortable to be anything more than conservative.
Once I was walking with one of my closest friends and all of a sudden he went, “Selina, stop swinging your hips. You walk like a girl. You should walk like Krystal(random name to protect privacy). She walks like a boy. If you keep walking like that the guys will look.”
I did not think that I should be disturbed that he pointed that out. I just felt grateful. That right, though I was a girl, I did not want to walk like a girl. I should walk like a boy. To this day, my body gets confuse on how to walk. Sometimes I walk with my hips swinging more and other times it is more restricted.
Another time a friend was walking towards me and she went, “Eeeyyy Selina you have a very sexy walk. Its the hips.” I immediately became stiff in my walk and smiled at her.
Meanwhile repeating in my head, “Do not think about it. You are not a target. She did not mean anything by it. No one will come after you. You are safe.”
Being pretty, beautiful, and gorgeous is burdensome. It is scary. I never understood my friends who wanted to be ‘beautiful’. Who preened at the number of boys who were crushing on them. The mantra that was going on in my head, “The more there are, the lesser you are safe.”
So many times I wanted to yell and scream at them. You should be lucky you never had to be cornered by a group of boys in the classroom all threatening to do something to you. You should be lucky you never had a man walk up to you in the street and asked if you wanted to have sex with him. You were 13 then. Or a man who walked past you with his arms out, his hands “accidentally” brushing your breast only to grab ahold of it and squeeze it in front of the church. Or a man who is one of your dad’s drinking buddies trying to touch your private parts. Or his other friend who asked in front of your older sister, “How old are you? What grade are you in?” and when you said you were in 10th grade and fifteen he sighed and then said, “Well I guess I have to wait more.” And what does your sister do? She laughs. And then couple others asking for a kiss. Or two of your cousins. One would block your path as you walk from school at your age of 12 trying to make you kiss him. And his brother trying to drag you into the dark until you called for your uncle and he immediately let you go and walked away.
I abhorred it when one of my sisters would come home and tell me, “Oh this and that guy is asking you out.” I would get mad at her.
Yell at her. “Do I look like I want anybody right now? I don’t even know them. If you come again and tell me these things I will not speak to you again. If they ask you about me, say either you do not know or that I said no.”
Back then, I thought the only solution was to be ugly.