Your daughter’s face is a small riot,
her hands are a civil war,
a refugee camp behind each ear
a body littered with ugly things.
doesn’t she wear
the world well?
i am not your nice girl
You know what one of my biggest — but not the biggest, not at all, but, nevertheless, big — problems with the Nice Guy phenomenon is? One I have never seen discussed, which is why I am doing it now— it’s this: that I don’t want to date a nice boy.
There. I said it. I don’t want to fuck a nice boy. I don’t want to fuck a nice boy who never gets angry, who won’t start a fight and finish it, who would never ever tell a guy who needs to go fuck themselves to go fuck themselves. I’m not interested in someone who uses ‘nice’ as a synonym for ‘silent’ or ‘passive’, who wants to float along in the world as it is without trying to change anything— without even believing that anything needs to change. There is a lot wrong with the world! There is a lot wrong with the world, and I want to do something about it, and I want the guy (if it’s a guy, as I’m bisexual, but we’re assuming for the purpose of this exercise that they would be) I date to want to do something about it, too.
I want to date someone vicious. I want to date someone who isn’t afraid of street confrontation or not always saying the polite thing or having some people take an instant dislike to you— him, me, both of us together, because we’re together, because we threaten. I want him not to care that some people hate him, that some people hate me. I want him to love me for all the reasons that other men call me a ‘bitch’, but never call me one himself, because he understands that isn’t his word to use. I want him to be confident and arrogant and clever. I want someone who makes me feel like an equal and someone who is equal to me.
Because that’s my most fundamental problem with Nice Guys telling me I should want them and society telling me I should want to want a nice boy— I am not a nice girl. I have no interest in being a nice girl! I would like to a be a decent girl, a kind girl, a girl who helps strangers and stands up for herself and tries to do the right thing. None of this makes me nice. None of this makes me want to be nice. None of this makes me want the nice guy, because nice guys think they’re better than me, because they are “nice” and I am not. Because I argue back and I’m difficult and I am not going to stop doing either of those things. Because to be a girl who can get what she wants in our society means arguing and being difficult and not sitting down and shutting up.
I want someone righteously angry. I want someone who sees oppression everywhere and wants to do something about it (in a respectful way which acknowledges their own privileges) and who won’t tell me that I’m ‘making a big deal’ or that I am being ‘hysterical’ or ‘getting angry about nothing.’ I want someone willing to go the distance. I want a boy who isn’t nice and will never ask me to be, either. I want a partner in revolution. Stop telling me that I should want anything else.
i know this is tired but my mama came to new york with $16 only. scrubbed white women’s feet and watched little white children to bring her own to the states. she left man after man and family after family,
for the next one. and the promise of romance.
sometimes i wonder what kind of girl it takes to build what she’s built. i don’t think i have whatever it is she did, but i worry about the way i move against men in the dark.
[i wonder if my mother is as lonely as my mother tongue]
if we can communicate third world to first, talkinbout how i just don’t fit in at my fancy ass school. “anak, i think you just need to stop dating white boys.”
my mother’s mother’s undoing was a man. he left her for another woman and she nearly died of a broken heart. chasing voodoo doctors to curse my grandfather and his mistress. she never knew another love after his.
where she carried his five children, she then carried her cancer.
on her death bed, my lola told me, “you can’t depend on anyone but yourself, iha. don’t ever let a man have all of your heart. they are poison. your heart is your own.”
my mama left her family for a man who left her for someone else. but she’s making her penance. loving us back every day and calling my brothers and my stepdad, too. she told me about the day she landed in laguardia with no fucking clue what to do. what kind of woman does it take to build what she’s built? to undo everything by mistake and then start again?
i try again and again to build love on my own, independent of men. my lola, she told me, “they will always leave you, iha.” the gifts passed down from mother to daughter… that shit’s foundational. i wonder if she could see that she had love elsewhere, that it outlasted a man’s fleeting heart, and that she ignited something that crossed oceans and generations.
i want to burn brighter every day. warm and dangerous, like a woman’s love.
Each time I’m asked to tell about myself, I find myself starting the same way: “My name is Kelsey and I’m nineteen..”
but what I’d really like to say is:
“My name means island of the ships but once
I found a translation that said I’m a burning shipwreck-
not a burning ship but a ship that has caught fire
after the wreckage and well, I’d say that’s more fitting.”
I’ve learned that people don’t have time for about me’s.
They need two things: a name and an indication you’re someone special.
The doctors, they want facts not details.
“I broke my leg when I was three, it’s a funny story actually-“
The right or the left?
The teachers, they want interests, hobbies.
You’re sad, yes, but what do you like to do?
The adults are a spew of questions.
What school do you go to? What classes are you taking?
What do you plan on becoming? Got a boyfriend?
People my own age are the worst.
“I’m planning on an English degree with a concentration in creative writing.”
Yeah, aren’t we all. So how many times have you, you know,
I’m pulled apart, my interests travelling highway 2
my goals at a stop light at traffic hour,
my medical history on a billboard for the world to see.
But what about me?
Where’s the chance to say,
“I hang on to fistfuls of poetry like loose change in my pockets,
and I keep waiting for the day that the world turns upside down
so I can swim with the stars.
I’m not afraid of darkness, it’s a loneliness I can empathize with it.
It’s the blackholes like cigarette burns inside of me that get troublesome.
I walk through graveyards and read the dashes between years,
each a story I’ll never know. Sometimes I create my own.”
No wonder none of us know who we are anymore.❞
49% of transgender people report attempting suicide
my papa (and yes
he still has me call him papa
has scars on his wrists like rivers
like canyons where you can hide
thousands of pink dresses.
my papa, i swear,
he is prettier than me
1/12 transgender people in america are murdered (a conservative estimate)
he lives in ohio where he takes care of his mom,
where he makes all our V8 juice
and he paints his nails in the car after work
and one time, he was pulled over by a state trooper
and his heart nearly stopped.
my papa, he loves to
push boundaries and i worry
that he is destined for the statistics
50% of transgender people report being survivors of violence or abuse related to their gender orientation
when i was 14,
my daddy told me he feels like a girl,
and he cried,
because he thought
i might hate him.
so i kissed his cheek and reminded him
of every time i borrowed his clothes instead of mama’s
and when he turned 53,
i made my daddy a pink cake almost like
the one my granddaddy whooped him for wanting.
and he cried.
my papa, i swear
he is prettier than me.