When your mother hits you, do not strike back. When the boys call asking your cup size, say A, hang up. When he says you gave him blue balls, say you’re welcome. When a girl with thick black curls who smells like bubble gum stops you in a stairwell to ask if you’re a boy, explain that you keep your hair short so she won’t have anything to grab when you head-butt her. Then head-butt her. When a guidance counselor teases you for handed-down jeans, do not turn red. When you have sex for the second time and there is no condom, do not convince yourself that screwing between layers of underwear will soak up the semen. When your geometry teacher posts a banner reading: “Learn math or go home and learn how to be a Momma,” do not take your first feminist stand by leaving the classroom. When the boy you have a crush on is sent to detention, go home. When your mother hits you, do not strike back. When the boy with the blue mohawk swallows your heart and opens his wrists, hide the knives, bleach the bathtub, pour out the vodka. Every time. When the skinhead girls jump you in a bathroom stall, swing, curse, kick, do not turn red. When a boy you think you love delivers the first black eye, use a screw driver, a beer bottle, your two good hands. When your father locks the door, break the window. When a college professor writes you poetry and whispers about your tight little ass, do not take it as a compliment, do not wait, call the Dean, call his wife. When a boy with good manners and a thirst for Budweiser proposes, say no. When your mother hits you, do not strike back. When the boys tell you how good you smell, do not doubt them, do not turn red. When your brother tells you he is gay, pretend you already know. When the girl on the subway curses you because your tee shirt reads: “I fucked your boyfriend,” assure her that it is not true. When your dog pees the rug, kiss her, apologize for being late. When he refuses to stay the night because you live in Jersey City, do not move. When he refuses to stay the night because you live in Harlem, do not move. When he refuses to stay the night because your air conditioner is broken, leave him. When he refuses to keep a toothbrush at your apartment, leave him. When you find the toothbrush you keep at his apartment hidden in the closet, leave him. Do not regret this. Do not turn red.
When your mother hits you, do not strike back.
“Unsolicited Advice to Adolescent Girls with Crooked Teeth and Pink Hair” by Jeanann Verlee, published at PANK Magazine
Copyright © Jeanann Verlee
Jeanann Verlee is an author, performance poet, editor, activist, and former punk rocker who collects tattoos and winks at boys. Her work has been published and is forthcoming in a variety of journals, including The New York Quarterly, FRiGG, PANK, decomP, Danse Macabre, and The Legendary, among others. Her poems have also been included in various anthologies such as “Not A Muse: The Inner Lives of Women” and “His Rib: Poems Stories and Essays by Her.” Verlee’s first full-length book of poems, Racing Hummingbirds (Write Bloody Publishing, 2010), earned the Independent Publisher Book Award Silver Medal in Poetry.
4 thoughts on ““Unsolicited Advice to Adolescent Girls with Crooked Teeth and Pink Hair” by Jeanann Verlee”
When my mother hit me, I said, I hate you. She said, I hate you, too.
I wish words like these were being said when I was navigating the halls of adolescence. It would, perhaps, have shortened the long search for self. But I’m happy it’s being said now. There are still so many young girls on the brink of discovery.
Thank you for posting this. You are always an inspiration to me.
I thought a lot about this piece. It sat in my draft folder for weeks. It’s raw and a punch to the gut and certainly not pretty or polite. I needed my mood to be raw and gut punched and my face red, flushed, unpretty.
It’s one of those days.
I was standing in line somewhere and I remember a young girl behind me go “ugggghhhhhh” when her phone rang, “it’s my mom, AGAINNNNNN. I wish she would stop calling me so much. I hate it! …. WHAT NOW, MOM?”
I have never wanted to turn around a slap someone as much as I did then. But instead I turned and said, “Do you know what I would give to have my mom call me? Just one more time? Anything. I would give ANYTHING. One day you will miss those phone calls. You are so lucky. Don’t you ever forget that.”
Sometimes I think I post these things to my own inner-child. Stuff I wish I had heard when I was young and making foolish choices. I hope whoever needs to hear some of this stuff, does. Maybe they can pass it along to their own daughters. Maybe they won’t cringe when their phone rings — and it’s their mom — AGAIN.
Grateful to have you reading, thanks Mary. xo
What a fantastic post…I loved your comments to Mary, too. I fight with my inner child and have never been very kind to that scared little girl. But now, whenever I think about lashing out at my mom for something silly that she can’t change anyway, I think about how you’d probably like that chance, too. Thanks for reminding me dear friend. This was perfect and I will be thinking of you often as you navigate through memories and Ides of March.
Oh yeah, I’d love to have my mom do her silly things around me again. I’d love to have her do anything around me, but I know that she is.
Every time you get frustrated with your mom, just give her a hug from me. 🙂
And hug little Michelle too. She grew up to be a hell of a woman. Who you are today is because of her. And that’s pretty cool. 🙂
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