the beauty in differentiation

at age ten,
a weasel-faced blonde boy calls you fat
because you consistently get
better grades than him
& insists a brown girl doesn’t belong
at a school with (superior) white kids.
you quip that you live in
a nicer neighborhood than his,
but the real reason you’re better than him
is that he’ll always be a covetous jerk.

at age twelve,
a freckled ginger boy scrubs your arms
with a pool brush after swim practice
& claims that he thought the white splotches
(of sunburn) on your dark skin was dirt.
you shove him into the pool
& watch him sputter,
coughing water in surprise.
your coach’s punishment is that
you have to swim extra (victory) laps.

at age fourteen,
a thin brunette girl snidely snickers,
“you’re not pretty. you’re cute like hello kitty.”
you weren’t allowed to wear makeup
or dress like her eighteen-year-old sister.
after braces straighten your crooked teeth
& your only growth spurt sheds baby fat,
you decline her offer to be friends —
even then, you’d rather be alone than have
catty friends you didn’t like (& vice-versa).

at age sixteen,
(until almost a decade following)
a parade of basic white guys marvel
over the fact that you’re the first Asian girl
they’ve admired who defies stereotypes —
you’ve inherited your mother’s feistiness
& your father’s no bullshit attitude.
though your temperament mellows over the years,
you loudly continue to refuse to be fetishized
& mock white guys who should check their privilege.

at age twenty-three,
your handsome ivorian friend becomes more.
you’ll never look like models in magazines,
but you’ve learned to appreciate that
your black hair is unruly
& your skin’s base tone is deep tan.
the ways that you look different
no longer (solely) define you.
he knows all of you & loves you
because of (not in spite of) it.

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(actual) nice guys (don’t) finish last

The doorbell chimed and woke Bea with a start. She slid from the couch to the floor, adjusting her blanket cocoon. (A blanket cape gave her more mobility.) She wiped sleep from her eyes and ambled to the front door. Not bothering to check the peep hole, she unlocked and opened it.

“Hey…?”

Bea couldn’t blame her confusion on her waning fever. A vaguely familiar gangly guy stood on her front porch. His name escaped her (or had never been committed to her memory).

“Hey Bea!” The disheveled hipster thrust a cup of melting ice cream into her hands. “I knew you were craving it, so I thought I’d stop by with some.”

Her eyes widened. “Are you psychic?”

“You tweeted about it this afternoon.”

“Do I know you?”

Ice cream dripped from the paper cup onto her hands. Her fingers stuck together as she gripped the cup tighter.

“I’m Miller. We met at The Cults show a couple weeks ago?”

Bea squinted and cocked her head.

“Your line was when you asked if I was named after the shitty beer –”

“Oh. You’re that guy. For future reference, that wasn’t a line.”

“Sure it was. You were negging me.”

That was your justification to stalk me on Twitter?”

“You wouldn’t give me your number, so you gave me your Twitter handle.”

“Being hammered makes me pity assholes like you.”

“Why am I an asshole? I brought you ice cream because you’re sick!”

“I mocked you at the bar because you were quizzing some poor girl wearing a Toro Y Moi shirt –”

“I just wanted to know if she was a real fan or –”

“–just a poser? How old are you, fourteen?”

“Twenty-seven.”

“Get out of my house. And take this with you.” Bea threw the Coldstone cup at his car and cheered when it splattered on his windshield.

“What the hell is wrong with you?! I was just trying to be nice –”

“That’s the problem with guys like you, Miller –”

“Guysplural — like me? I’m one of a kind! Women don’t appreciate men who treat them well –”

“– you say you’re nice, but are incensed when a woman won’t fuck you because of your niceness.”

“I never said I was –”

“Your creepiness says it for you.”

“So because you’re not interested that makes me a creep?”

Exactly!

The door slammed behind Bea. She locked and dead-bolted it. Disgusted, she shuffled to the kitchen and scrubbed her hands clean.

When rules of civility don’t apply

The train commute is worst
when a stranger confronts you.

What’s wrong?
You should smile.

Glare instead.

Why are you pissed?
I was trying to cheer you up.

Roll your eyes.

I don’t know you.

Scoff as he slinks away.

Hey little lady! 
I like your legs in those shorts!

Walk faster towards your car.

I’m not scary!
Why won’t you talk to me?

As though a catcaller’s car rolling slowly
beside you isn’t threatening (or obnoxious).

Don’t be a bitch,
I was paying you a compliment.

Wave your mace as you drive off.
Rules of civility don’t apply to creeps.