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Creative Nonfiction


Like a Girl

Callie King-Stevens

“Grow a pair!” I hear a few boys yell at each other. I am walking in a sort of waddle through the junior high school halls, feeling like my uterus is trying to push and stab itself out through my abdomen. They do this or some other version like “Don’t be a pussy!” or, “You cry like a girl!” or, “What, are you on your period?” whenever any of their fellow Y chromosome-holding, testosterone-fueled classmates show any emotion from injury, sickness, or really anything else. They say them even louder and stronger whenever one of them finally stands up and says that the insults being thrown at them are starting to be offensive. They yell at each other to become more manly when I know any amount of pressure put onto their ‘source of manhood,’ which is carefully concealed in baggy basketball shorts that are perfect for hiding the size of their random blood rushes, would bring them to the floor and stop them laughing dead in their tracks. Men know true pain, though, because obviously every single painful experience a woman has gone through could never compare to being kicked in the balls because that’s the most pain a human being could ever be put in, at least according to them. Cramps that leave you relying on copious amounts of drugs and vomiting in the bathroom between classes had nothing on that, no, of course not, that was just me handling my pain like a girl, and I can’t tell anyone that’s why I’m feeling sick, because that would be gross. As far as that growing bulge in their shorts goes, that was a little embarrassing when someone noticed but nothing that should cause too much shame because it happens to everyone, at least that’s what everyone will say. Funny, how the natural workings of blood in the body’s reproductive organs shouldn’t be behind middle schoolers’ shame and embarrassment as long as it is happening to a male. Those bulging pants could be easily concealed in a moment and the embarrassment easily forgotten, but the monthly ritualistic blood shed seemed to be the most TMI and disgusting thing on the planet, and every teen girl is made to feel terrible about herself if the guys ever find out she is dealing with her “womanly issues.” Now I am walking through the halls on my period, my friends telling me I look a little bit like a duck because of all of the pain in my lower back and thighs. I can’t walk quite as balanced as normal. I instead think that I am simply walking through the hallways like a girl, forced to continue on living as if there isn’t a care in the world because you can’t just skip class for days every month. I don’t find any of the jokes funny, but I laugh along anyway to avoid the contention calling them out would cause. I am slowly realizing that it is pretty impressive to be able to do things ‘like a girl’ if it means being less aggressive and violent, even when every instinct I have is telling me to punch one of the boys in their smug, laughing faces. I am noticing that one of the only times a human body bleeds without a traumatic or violent thing having to happen is during a period, and so I don’t need to add any more bloodshed today. I woke up at four in the morning with near vomit-inducing cramps and was forced to draw a hot bath because after trying just about every hack my mother, aunts, and strangers on the internet gave me, from exercising and eating bananas to taking medication and sleeping with a heating pad, I discovered that hot baths were the only thing that could really help soothe my raging muscles when they woke me up. I then got to school early, dressed in skin-tight jeans that seemed to be digging straight into my uterus that already felt like it was getting continually kicked and with my hair perfectly straightened. I even put on my full face of makeup, from foundation down to immaculate eyeliner since there was no point trying to go back to bed. I packed my school bag like a girl with tampons hidden in the top pocket reserved just for menstrual products and OTC pain medication so that no one would have to see the shameful products I have to use to control the natural responses my body has had every month since I was 11. I had to come to school because I had a scene to perform in my theater class today. When I walked through the halls, I noticed the boys who looked as though they had rolled straight out of bed, brushed their teeth, and headed straight for the bus. Once we got to school, they finished their “morning routine” by grabbing the praised Axe out of their lockers and spraying clouds of it into the hallways to try and mask the BO that resulted from not showering for days. Axe seems to fuel their systems where I am fueled by the combination of Ibuprofen, Tylenol, and caffeine known as Pamprin, taken on a near-empty stomach because even the thought of a plain slice of bread made last night’s dinner casserole want to make a return, but I shoved it down anyway knowing I couldn’t ease the pain without it. Despite the fact that it took all I had to brave getting out of bed knowing I will be walking funny from the pain all day, I am going to “grow a pair,” sit through the whole day, and try not to pass out or throw up in the bathroom later because I can’t afford to miss anymore school this year, and I have a scene to perform in third period. My day will be spent like a girl, and so when I feel nauseous, I will pop more pain pills, rub the pressure points between my thumb and index finger, and stick it out, always hoping the pain will subside. I deal with my pain and ride the waves of my emotions quietly, because no one wants to talk to the girl who yells at the boys to stop using women as the butt of their insults and jokes or cries when she hears someone poke fun at periods. Despite being racked with pain, having the most painful cystic acne, and feeling a cocktail of hormones that leaves me wanting to yell and cry every minute of the day, I stay quiet and laugh along when I hear someone ask “who’s on their period” when a girl in class gets upset about the boy next to her kicking her desk. I do this because I’m a girl, and so I have to live like a girl: quiet, submissive, and invisible.
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