The Gene Pool Lottery

#LikeAGirl  <– CLICK for Video


Genetics are dumb luck as far as I’m concerned. Throughout history, whether you were born into the working class or the aristocracy was your fate. These days, we live in a world where you can change your stars. That is, if you were born in a first world country, and you are provided education. I could’ve been born a girl in Pakistan or I could’ve been born a boy in Western Africa. I got lucky, though. I won the gene pool lottery.

My mother and father are the winged unicorn of married couples. They have been married over forty years, they still love each other, and they still like each other. They sing show tunes and “I Got You, Babe,” there’s a video of that that I will never post – you’re welcome. My father supports my mother in all of her endeavors. He shows me the same respect. He supported me through soccer and water polo and cheerleading, expecting me to do my best in each of them. My brother never cut me any slack. No one ever let me win and when I won, no one was surprised.

My paternal grandmother was a golf pro. Even after she won a fight with breast cancer, after a full mastectomy, she returned to the game, as a pro. If that isn’t tough, I don’t know what is. My maternal grandmother had four kids, an airline pilot husband who was off flying most of the time, and was a league tennis champ. These women were stylish and clever and strong, like a girl, so why isn’t that how the phrase is applied?

Only once in my house did I hear the phrase, “like a girl”. My neighbor and I were putting on our rollerblades. I had wrist guards and he didn’t. “Do you want to use these?” I asked. “No,” he shrugged, “you need them. You skate like a girl.” Later that day when my mom was about to take him home, I shut that boys fingers in the car door. We were about eight years old and I played it off like it was an accident. I’m not sure that he even correlated the two incidents, he was quite literally crushed. I cannot honestly say I didn’t feel a sense of victory in hurting him physically, for the way he had hurt my young and developing physicalness. I’m sure if I did something like that today I would be called a “psycho bitch.” And would you agree?

I bet you would. I was a child, and of course what I did was wrong. Even then I felt bad and apologized profusely. But here’s my problem. You don’t poke a lion and expect to walk away unscathed. You don’t insult a man and expect there won’t be repercussions. So why can you tell a girl that she’s doing something “like a girl” and not expect her to prove to you exactly what that means?

YES, I AM A GIRL. I am able bodied and smart, and I will retaliate against your sexism in one way or another. My brother and my father taught me to. My mother and my grandmothers told me that skating faster than him was enough, and not to rub it in. But I disagree.

I want to change the stars. I want young boys and girls to know that they can do and be anything without gender factoring in as a limitation on that. I want to speak my mind, and I want to do it proudly, like a girl. So tell me, why doesn’t “run like a girl” mean win the goddamn race?





A Love Letter to My Generation

A caustic compliment

From the curve of your lip

Matches your cruel beauty

Like satin ripped


The accidental truths

Dropped off your tongue

Are fallen angels slain

They are your demons undone


There is dissonance in those eyes

A freezing wind blows through your soul

No matter how many matches I strike

There’s no fire, just coal


Is there passion in this pain?

Where is the depth to the misery?

Like the stench of decaying flesh

You reek of apathy.

Summer in the South


A violin whines through the history of her mind. Memories intertwine and overlap like the cream into the coffee in her cup. The diner disappears and she’s young and at home. Ice cubes clink and the porch swing creaks, but the laughter of her girlfriends echoes loudest. She sips sweet lemonade through a straw. The balmy breeze sweeps curly blonde hairs off of her sticky neck. She looks down at her legs, tan and lean, her pink toes dangling as she glides. Summer in the south has always been her favorite time.

It was a time characterized by pace, slow like the molasses pouring into her mama’s bread pudding. It meant all day drives to the beach along the two-lane dirt road. She and her sister would run out to the yard in their bathing suits to crank up the 1936 Model A Ford that they were lucky to have. In the heavy old car their sunbonnets were held tightly to their heads with pretty ribbons that matched their bathing suits and trailed behind them in the wind as they bounced along. They rode east past the endless forest that would eventually be home to fast food chains, housing developments and strip malls. They patiently waited to see their grandmother, who also sat waiting in her rocking chair in a black wool bathing suit reaching her knees.

The car never went over thirty miles per hour, and her dad wore his riding cap and told stories along the way. When he was eight years old he sold newspapers on the corner of First Street and Main for a penny. It was called the Jacksonville Journal, now it’s the Metropolis. He sold the papers from one to six each and every afternoon.

She likes to picture her nine-year-old grandson on that same corner selling papers, he’s got the same gumption her father had, but the world has changed around him.
Her smile fades as the nostalgia sinks into deeper and darker waters. She’s seventeen and walking along with her beau. They stroll casually down the road, tennis racquets in hand shaded by the oak trees along the way, he whistles. They talk for a while, and then walk for a while; he holds her hand and walks on the outside, she smiles and bats the eyelashes that frame her sparkling amber eyes.

“Do you think you might win one today?” She taunts him.

“Well, darlin’, that depends on whether I let you win ‘em all or not.”

“Oh, you think you’re so funny,” she pokes at his middle and he grabs both her wrists and holds them behind her back.

“You may talk like you’re big and tough, but like it or not you’re still a sweet little girl.” With this he releases her arms and kisses her mouth. She pulls him close and squeezes real tight.

The coffee ripples and she looks up at the waitress who is walking away briskly, a coffee pot in each hand. It takes a few blinks to adjust to this reality. She looks up at the cracking wallpaper, and wonders when the diner changed from being a nice restaurant to just a decent one. The walls are yellow with big white gardenias, it’s tacky and she frowns. Pain sits stubbornly in her throat. It’s been a hundred years since she has let herself think of him. The violin plays louder.

Her thin gold watch dangles on her frail wrist. She dives back down to where it is strong and sees his long fingers wrapped around it, as they perfect her backhand.

“You have to follow through, like this, see?” She hates to be treated like a child.

“I have a better backhand than any girl in the club.”

“And a better backside too, but if you don’t follow through you could hurt yourself, honey.”

The man in the booth behind her lights a cigarette. She feels the rush of a dance hall. The first night he filled up her dance card she wore a black dress with red flowers and he wore his uniform. She loved the way he looked in it, so handsome and proud. The world was a mess, but he thought not of the Germans and she thought she would never lose him. They danced for hours.

Afterward he took her to the drive-in and ordered two strawberry milkshakes. Her pretty red toes sat in his lap. He couldn’t take his eyes off her, and she could not stop smiling. Billie Holliday sang “I’ll Be Seeing You.” She thought time would stand still for them.

She’s back on the porch swing. There is a cool breeze that tells them summer will be over in no time. He sits beside her, not touching, yet so close. His violin is perched on his shoulder, he plays a sad song. The strings vibrate against his fingers and the bow. She wears a smile, closed eyes, and one of her dads oversized work shirts. The sound throbs deep within her.

“Baby,” she asks, “why do you always play such sad songs?” He pauses, and takes it away from his chin. She opens her eyes.

“The violin is a sad instrument,” he says looking deep in to her, “If you want to dance I’ll go get my fiddle.”
“No,” she breaks his gaze and looks forward, “I don’t want to dance.” He resumes playing and she looks up at the stars.

Her old eyes grow bloodshot as she remembers the night before he left. No one blamed the President or even the Nazis. He was going to perform his natural born duty, and she wasn’t willful enough to question true loyalty.

In their last moments together they took her dad’s car all the way out to the beach. The long walk through the palmetto bushes was silent. The sand was cool, the air warm. He held her close and she let him lead. Her head rested comfortably on his chest. A million reflections of the moon on the water danced with them to the sound of the crashing waves.

His last letter reads itself in her head as she inhales a sharp breath. After sixty years she knows it word for word. Her fist instinctively clenches around it, but it’s not there. She takes short, quick breaths. The day his mother called she hyperventilated and lost consciousness. She wished they had never revived her. For months she cried herself to sleep with the worn paper crumpled in her palm. It took her years to finally let go.

“Hi, Grandma!” The joyful voice of her grandchild calls her back to the present. It’s too soon. She’s still lost in a different time, a time lost.

“Hi, Mom, sorry we’re late. Are you crying?”

“No, honey, I’m fine. I was just thinking about old times.”

“With Dad?”

She nods at her beautiful daughter and grandson. Pulling a tissue from her purse she wipes her eyes and blows her nose quietly. They would never understand that there were two loves of her life, one cut horribly short, and one that grew to be over a lifetime.

“I miss Grandpa, too,” the child smiles reassuringly.

She sips some coffee, swallows her pain and lets the violin’s gentle strings play on.

like a girl

“I’m not going paint balling,” said one TSA official to the other across the conveyor belt that had just delivered one of my boots.

“Come onnnnnnn,” the agent on the other side replied.

“Not gonna happen. It’s too cold out there.”

I watched the screen of the X-ray machine in the distance wondering if it was possible that this could turn into a washing machine eating my sock episode. I had just had those boots resoled and shined.

“You’re supposed to go paint balling in the cold,” he kept on, “that way you can run around and you ain’t sweaty.”

“Bag check,” the woman sitting at the X-ray screen called stifly.

“Fine,” he said, “but you sound like a girl.” He smiled and shook his head back and forth, then he picked up the bag to check. It was mine.

“I would go,” I said.

He looked at me. One boot, one tennis sock with leggings tucked in to it, a hoodie and a panda scarf, but I had my hair did and my eyebrow game was on point. I smiled.

“I would go paint balling in the cold,” I said. The X-ray girl smiled at me. “I would out run you, and get sweaty, and aim to fire. So don’t go calling him a girl, he’s nothing like a girl.”

He blinked at me and put the suitcase down.

“Do you think you could be a dear and find my boot now, please, like a girl?”