Girls are taught from the time we’re small not to stand too tall, speak too much, laugh too loud, be too much. We learn to qualify our statements and diminish our achievements, so we won’t threaten less impressive men. We are taught to walk one step behind, to pick up the slack, to let things slide, to give more chances.
Sometimes I thought I might suffocate under the weight of a man’s fragile masculinity bearing down on me, demanding I be smaller. Shrinking is hard work with no reward. All so someone else can take you for granted. Can treat you like less than you really are.
Women are taught from girlhood to cronehood that we exist to serve men, not ourselves, that sacrificing our careers for theirs is noble, and that erasing our own last names and lineage and history is just part of growing up and falling in love.
Women have to give, to sacrifice, to be smaller, to be less. Not for ourselves, never for ourselves, but for husbands and boyfriends and families and communities and everyone else who wants a piece of our smaller and smaller selves.
I don’t know how to be with a man without playing out patriarchy in miniature. I think it’s best to give up the exercise.