Last night, we discussed the challenging passage every young woman navigates at some point in her life: Puberty. When asked, as part of our initial check-in around the circle, to share what made each of us most self-conscious in those terrifying and difficult years, we responded with concerns far wider-ranging than one could have imagined.
Still later, in response to the prompt – write about a transformative change during your adolescence – some of the most tragic life stories tumbled onto the page and out of the mouths of these women grappling with fear, abuse, lack of nurture and opportunity of every kind. Their courage and raw honesty is palpable, as evidenced in the writing of SS.
WARNING: her words are hard to hold. They contain harsh reality and gut-wrenching honesty.
I remember when I was somewhat naïve. Not naïve about me or my body. Just naïve to the adult world . . . As a child, I was forced to be a part of the adult world. I had sex long before I ever started my first period.
I was selling crack before puberty took place. I never noticed my body or the transformation. My mind was grown long before my body. Baggy pants, long tees – I wanted to be like him. Being big never mattered and even though I envied the other girls I grew up with, I never wanted to be like them.
I know I had more to offer than a body and a smile. My mind was worth more than what I had between my legs. I learned the hard way. At 14 I was an adult. I f*d like a grown woman and I paid bills like a grown woman. All my innocence stolen from me. I didn’t see it that way then. It was what had to be done.
I stepped into that role, took the burdens way. Made sure we’d be OK. I had far more important things to feel awkward about than a period or a body part. Or some hormones. We had to eat, rent was due. I thought they’d respect me more if my femininity was hidden. I was a little girl naïve to the man’s world.
When I learned about power and sex, that’s when things changed for me. When I stopped believing in love. And that a man could respect my mind. All he wanted was to disrespect my body. And I allowed it because it had no value to me.
My puberty was a transformation from innocent to guilty. My eyes were opened to the harshness of the world. Love don’t love nobody, not even itself. My puberty was a transformation to a realist. No more dreamer, just night mover. No childish hopes, just pain and screams. A little girl gutted at her seams. A woman emerges. Cunning and ruthless, the product of her environment.
Childish innocence and immature dreams seem so far away. Puberty spent in prison. Her transformation into a woman took place behind the fence. What kind of woman did she hope to be?