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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the polite response to blatant sexism (from a female friend): a haiku

don’t scream or reason.
all misogynists just
deny logic/facts.

dismantling double standards

I will never apologize for
my overly sympathetic nature
an excessive lipstick collection
the tendency to cry when moved
& no desire to ever go camping.
I will never believe the myth that
masculinity is strength &
femininity is weakness —
a false dichotomy that exists
because people let it.
I will never be silent so long as
women are belittled
for not being enough like men
& men are mocked
for showing emotions.

none of this is for you

men cannot dictate
how we (women)
style our hair
choose outfits
or apply makeup.
many assume that
we only exist to be
aesthetically pleasing
(to them)
& are shocked when
we explain that
none of this is for you
& we could care less
if you don’t think
we’re beautiful
because we know we are.