By Kea Yoshinaka, TIWP Student
I was trained from the beginning; we all were.
Sit tall, cross your legs, do your hair, smile. When I was five, it manifested as every new person using “she’s so pretty!” as a hello. It felt weird, because I would have never thought to use someone’s appearance as a conversation starter.
When I turned seven, it changed from the previous to “wow, you must get all the boys in school,” when in reality I hadn’t the slightest interest in them. They were too simple, too loud, too…much.
Then I turned ten, and had to change eye doctors because my old one would ramble on and on and would always pull my pigtails, smirk, and say “that’s what boys’ll do if they like you!”
Thirteen came, and I thought I was the shit. I had perfected the art of blending in with everyone else: same clothes, backpacks, shoes down to a T. I figured out how to take what other people said and repeat it back so it seemed like we had so much in common, when in reality I was losing myself completely.
On top of that, men started to notice me. Men, not boys. Evening walks became less of an escape and more of an adrenaline-inducing activity, where I took the keys that I couldn’t even use to drive yet and stuck them between my fingers in case anyone came too close. Every car driving by turned from a friend to a threat.
At the end of the summer, my family and I went to New York for my little brother’s baseball tournament. We took the opportunity to go a few days early and explore New York City. I remember walking a block or two from my hotel to a store that I had wanted to stop by, in a little black dress that I had never worn before. I saved it just for this trip. As I walked, I was cat-called three times and stared at dozens. That sounds stuck up, but it wasn’t because I was pretty or I had cool clothes or something. I realized as I sped up that it was because I was young. I was young and I was alone. And men took that chance to prey—like vultures to a deer carcass.
By sixteen, I’ve figured it out. Don’t go out alone, especially not past dark, don’t leave your drink alone at a party, even if it’s with your best guy friend. Sit tall. Cross your legs. Do your hair. Smile. If anything happens, it’s your fault. You owe it to the world to be whatever it wants you to be.