For Pretty Girls

It’s hard being “the pretty girl.”

Yes, I’m talking about those girls with the smile that encases champagne bubbles, a Polaroid of their mothers who look just like them but 1986 version, every single perfect sound from a stripped acoustic song. Those girls who treat sidewalks like piano keys, who walk effortlessly into conversation, whose laugh could fill the gaps people put between one another. I am talking about myself. I am talking about all those girls that get, “Sophie, yeah, she’s so pretty” when she’s being talked about or “wow, how do you always look so pretty?” I am talking about the girls who get the free drinks, who could collect those compliments in bouquets, who let others tread footprints on their self-esteem plateau. Those girls who scream at those people with their mouths shut—look at me! Who believe they somehow aren’t as smart because they are ten times as pretty, who cling on to other people like wallpaper, who hate the body that steps into their shoes. I am talking about those girls. I am talking about myself. So, now let’s talk about those boys who magnetize to your features like inevitable gravity but dare not fall in love with “pretty.” Let’s talk about those boys attracted to the essence, the sexual fantasies that they manifest dripping from your mouth, the idea of the girl with the swing in her hips.

Dear Boys Who Fall for Pretty,

Stick around, I dare you, and see what else there is. You’ve idealized my body into a tower, so take me floor by floor. I am smart and I am sensitive, but I am strong. I am in love with all the individual parts of my local sum just like I’m in love with the way you look in your khakis. If you let me, I promise to memorize the way your lips look when you’re sleeping, the things you like for breakfast when you drink too much, what monsters scared you as a kid or what people still scare you now. I promise to connect the dots between each memory you give me and draw lines between the spaces of your teeth with my tongue. I will bandage the parts you didn’t realize were tearing. I will be just as your shadow is when you’re alone. And I promise, you’ll learn to love me. Learn to adore the way I carry my books in one arm with coffee in my free hand, how I open doors with my elbow and talk too loud on the phone. You will love my bare feet in the kitchen as I burn my second omelet, the homage I make to John Mayer in my shower every night, how sometimes I cry when I think about my Papa and the fort I make out of my sheets like I am trying to hide myself from feeling. You’ll learn to hide with me. To build a sanctuary in my chest, bury your favorite things in the tissue of my lungs so I can exhale familiarity, hang things from the rungs of my rib bones. You will imbed a part of who you are within me, and I will wrap that in a covering to keep safe. I will keep you safe. You will anchor yourself in my belly and I will pull myself up to the surface where you will be waiting to love who I am once I’ve molted my appearance, once you see I am so much more than pretty.

I hope, unlike most, you will stay. That you won’t leave with a piece of who I am like a souvenir— a keepsake to pull out when you feel nostalgic or broken or half-empty or weak. Try not to make love to the idea of me. Don’t turn me into a character mirage, a kiss to play on repeat, a lump of sugar so sweet it dissolves immediately in your tea. Don’t make me a memory. Don’t only see me reflected in the light peeking through the blinds onto your dresser mirror, or crave the galaxy I made on your back with my fingers as they sketched out constellations. Sip me, unconsciously, until you have to gulp. Until my name echoes in the back of your throat, a scratchy reminder, “She is more.” I am more.

If you leave, I will become mere images shoved in the spaces between your brain that you pull out, haphazardly, when your eyes fall dizzy on the TV or the sports game. My face will appear and my laugh will resonate like a throbbing in your chest, but when you reach out to hold me, not with your arms, I will be gone. I will be knee-deep in paragraphs I’ve created like scaffolding, climbing my tower body until I can twist gravity in my fist from the space lingering at the top of my head, breathing.


The Pretty Girl

And once you’ve talked to them, talk to yourself. Talk back to yourself in the mirror after you’ve showered, after you’ve cried through a facade of pretending that merely being patient will alleviate the sting. Crack your knuckles and brush your teeth while trying to sing your favorite song, pinch the skin above your hipbones so you can feel what a body should feel like. What a woman should feel like. You are so much more than the pretty girl. You are so much more than the people who pass you like a dress they can’t afford in the window. You are not being saved for last. You are so much more.

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