Opposing Magnets

Be a big girl.
Be a tough girl. 

“Look at that new guy.
He thinks he’s so cool.
Don’t worry.  We’ll get him.”

I looked where they looked.
I saw the new guy.
I saw, but I see deeper.
I saw the mask.
And I saw beneath.

He acts so cool, confident,
But underneath,
he fears.
Cool confidence covers

I turned to see
The girls who laughed
The tough girls
The big girls
I saw beneath.

They act so big, so tough,
But underneath,
They hurt.
Tough condescension covers
Deep wounds.

They got him, hazed him,
He struggled to hold his mask
While they laughed,
Insecurity flickering with
Cool confidence.

He took it, smile locked,
They struggled to hold their masks
While he smiled
Deep wounds shone through eyehole
Of tough masks.

Afterward they separate,
Each one, alone, wonders,
Worrying, “Did it slip?
Did they see beneath?
Did I pass the toughness test?”

“Yes,” each decides,
“I passed the test.”
They pretend the other questions
Are not echoing
In their hearts.

In their hearts they despise
Those who fail the test,
Those who are not
Big girls, big boys,
Tough girls, tough boys.

I stand and watch,
Knowing my turn is coming.
I long to be seen as a big girl,
But I know myself.
I cannot pass their test.

They put a pea in the bed
To test me for a princess
And I know I will fail.
My heart has learned to flee the bed
For mine was strewn with nails.

But my head says, “It’s just a pea.
It’s just a moment of meanness
Be a big girl.
Be a tough girl.
Endure the laughing cruelty.”

My head hears the rules.
“Let us haze you.
Let us test you.
Then you’ll be in.
You’ll be ‘one of us.’”

My head berates my heart.
“Don’t be a baby.
Don’t be so weak.”
My head drags my heart
To climb on the bed with the pea.

My heart follows my head.
Reluctant agreement,
But the closer the bed comes,
The harder the step.
My heart knows the hate haze.

With their words and taunts,
My head drags my heart,
Toward the hazing magnet,
But the polarity of my heart’s magnet
Is trauma — negative.

But the closer head and heart come
To the hazing magnet
To laughing hurt and pain  — negative,
The more the magnets fight to escape
And then … SPRING.

Anger awakes to protect me,
They put a pea on a mattress
And pretend that it proves
Their bigness, their toughness.”

The force of anger sends
My heart flying off,
While my head shouts their taunts,
You’re not a big girl.
You’re not a tough girl.

Head and heart struggle,
My head despising my heart
As the taunts echo in my head.
While in my heart burns the fire
Of my trauma.

I bear the scars.
I survived years of hate haze.
I am the big girl.
I am the tough girl.”

Don’t play my life
And call me a baby.
No mere princess to be tested,
I am a warrior queen
Too big for your test.

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