pretty

i’ve never been pretty
that word, all the feelings
all the expansive and burdensome landscape
it plays across in the great mind we share
has never been applied to me
i learned to wield it though, the word, clumsily
as a compliment to little girls
“pretty shoes”, “pretty dress”, “such a pretty girl”
and pets
“pretty girl”
and later, as a stand in for lust
“pretty girl”
or a dismissal
“pretty girl”, “pretty woman”
or a joke
“i feel pretty, oh so pretty…”
and much later, as a many layered thing
“he’s very pretty”

now its a word of the past
an engine for the baggage train of patriarchy and oppression
and a reminder of my own culpability
a word I don’t use any more
a violent word like “cunt”, “whore”, “slut”
a word that dies on the back of my tongue

i watched my daughter, in her battle against prettiness
shave her head and insert gold teeth
she wanted to feel what i felt
the absense of the priviledge and weight
my little girl
who delighted in her princess dress and sparkly shoes
who danced and sang with abandon on the back lawn at twilight
declaring to no one, in a voice like a forest stream
“I am so pretty”

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