In third grade
a boy once told me
that my hair was ugly
and my eyes resembled mud.
I went home that day
with tears in my eyes
and told my mother,
to which she chuckled, assuring me
that he simply liked me.
When i gave her an incredulous look
she explained that boys showed their feelings
differently than “us girls” did.
That new knowledge
followed me to middle school
when none of the boys would dance
with me at the sixth grade social
because I wasn’t pretty enough.
I told myself with a sly smile that
they probably secretly liked me,
but inside my heart sunk
at the sight of all my friends
intertwined with their easily acquired dance partners.
When my best friend
showed me a bruise-scattered arm
during our first year of high school
I praised her, expressing
just how lucky she was.
Looking puzzled she pulled
her sleeve back down,
to which I recited the words
my mom had given me years before:
“Guys show their feelings differently than we do”
and claimed that if he hurt her that badly
then he must really like her.
For some reason she didn’t seem quite convinced.
When I got my first real boyfriend
that same year he told me to change
and I happily obliged,
cutting off my hair and all my friends.
But when it wasn’t enough
he pushed me down the stairs,
giving me a set of bruises
that would match my old best friend’s.
Still through swollen lips I whispered
that I loved him, telling myself
this was his way of showing me he cared.
The following year I witnessed
my dad hit my mom four times
when she got laid off from work.
I observed from the side of the room,
watching the way my mom shrunk
in fear, tears staining her cheeks.
I told myself that he was simply
expressing his love, but secretly wondered
why (if that was true) my mom looked so sad.
In that moment "
I wondered if what she told me
at eight years old was ever even true
and finally questioned the silly excuse
that I had been giving to boys for years.
Sure, they show their love differently.
But that doesn’t give them justification
to inflict pain upon the ones they care about.
Real love isn’t supposed to hurt.
Why do we allow it to?