It ain’t an easy thing to be born a woman, especially not around here. Girls here have expectations, you know. There exists an unwritten understanding of female behavior that’s as long as a Pentecostal’s denim skirt and as crooked as a dog’s leg. It ain’t fair and it ain’t fitting.
Now we’re supposed to look the part, first of all. That’s what they’ll tell you. Stand up straight and speak softly and put on your pretty face. Smile! Boys like happy, pretty, sweet talking girls. Don’t cuss or burp or laugh too loudly. Be nice. If you can’t say something nice, keep your mouth shut. Keep yourself clean and neat and save yourself for marriage, honey. No good man wants somebody else’s trash. Learn how to cook and keep house and tend to babies. And learn it while you’re young.
Now one thing is certain. Ain’t a man alive that’s going to be saving himself for you. We were all groomed to be wives, not women. And God forbid we ever rebel. It ain’t ladylike. You won’t find a decent husband. You’ll burn your fried chicken. You’ll be a spinster at twenty-seven and die ugly and alone in a hovel full of cats and loneliness.
Other women have done this to us, you know. They didn’t know any better. Ain’t a man in the world done this. We only get what we tolerate, girls. It was our own sweet Mamas that threw us into this thinking. And they’ll blame it on Eve and her trickery and tell you that God is punishing the lot of us for what that very first woman did, a woman none of us ever knew at all.
We ain’t antebellum belles these days. Those gals held their tongues so long they ended up choking on them. It’s not about survival anymore. And yet we’re still serving up our strength next to our casseroles and washing the remnants of it down the drain with the dishwater. And we do it with smiles on our pretty faces because that’s what we’re supposed to do. We learned it when we were young.
And one day you won’t be so young anymore, and then what? If the husband you saved yourself for grows tired of you and the babies grow up and leave, what becomes of you, little sister? Our mamas didn’t teach us that part.
Get out there, girls. Shake off these old chains. You ain’t a window treatment. You’re not meant to just look pretty and provide comforts for somebody else. Stand up straight and speak softly and put on your pretty face. Smile!
Get yourself some schooling and do what you were born to do. Conjure up ideas and go out there and make them happen. Cuss if the situation calls for it. Express yourself; you’ll live longer for it. Be nice to yourself. You’re a mountain muse. A regular queen. It’s high time you start acting like it. And while you’re at it, go ahead and learn how to fry up that chicken and fix that casserole. You’ll be hungry someday.
Now there’s not a thing wrong with being a wife, but you need to be a woman first. Boys become men first, don’t they? The man you choose will understand. And if he don’t, you can blame it on his Mama, who likely once told him that you can’t turn a whore into a housewife. Enlightened women are mere whores to a mama like her. She will make you out to be another Eve. Don’t let it bother you. What she forgets to mention, and is likely too blind to realize, was they turn snakes into husbands every single day, and she just might be married to one.
Go ahead and put on your pretty face if you want, but do it for yourself first. See your femininity as a privilege instead of a burden. You are not an ornament nor will your value expire when you are no longer fresh off the turnip truck. You’ll become more worthy with age, like the wine we were always warned not to drink, lest it make us wild women. You are a rare jewel. Make any man who catches you afford and deserve you.
And give his mama my regards…