When the Rules Won’t Let You Win, Screw the Rules

I’ve been resisting the label ‘loser’ my entire life.

I think I did a pretty good job, early on at least. I graduated from my fancypants private high school with a 4.something. I got into the fancy liberal arts east coast colleges I applied to. I kept my weight down with eating disorders, I didn’t fuck boys or betray even the friends who deserved it. I convinced white society that I was one of them, even though I knew in my heart that Something Was Wrong With Me.

Something, indeed, was wrong with me.

My mother is a woman of color. Her friends treat her like shit. My father’s family treats her like shit because they are from the “good” part of Europe and therefore their bloodline was not sullied with a pogrom-driven rape or two. I have been on my mother’s side since the day I was born, and nothing could ever induce me otherwise.

I was the kid who fought for the kid who was being bullied. I was the Jewish girl who made friends with the Lebanese girl, until she decided she hated me because middle school girls don’t handle conflict well, but that’s another story. I was the girl who never got called on in class, the girl the lady teachers screamed at whenever they had the chance, the girl the guy teachers flirted with starting when I was 10 years old.

I did not have an easy childhood. I was not interested in being a good girl. I locked our hebrew school teacher out during recess and refused to let her back in for ten minutes while she stood there fuming and screaming. I didn’t learn Hebrew because I thought it was a waste of my time. I wrote love letters to boys and love letters to girls. I took everything seriously and took nothing personally. I talked about politics when no one else in my middle school cared about politics. I never fit in, and I thought the other girls were stupid for trying.

I did not know that all of these things were amazing, badass. Inspiring.

I did not know that there were girls like me all over this country. Girls being raised to keep our mouths shut and our legs closed. Girls being told our worth lay in our modesty and our ability to make boys want us, which was awfully confusing and contradictory. Girls who were not called on when we raised our hands, girls who were talked over when we opened our mouths. Girls who were mocked and glared at and hated because we dared to be smart enough to know the game everyone else was playing.

I was a loser. I didn’t want to be a winner, though. I wanted out of the game.

I grew up to be a loser. I grew up to be sick all the time, and fat, and internally conflicted about all the same shit I thought maybe I should despise myself for back then too. I grew up thinking I was not beautiful and hoping being unbeautiful would protect me from cruelty and misogynistic scrutiny but of course it never did. I grew up hoping the world would change, but of course that never happened either.

I grew up to be a loser. I know that. And yet.

I live with three cis heterosexual men from all corners of the globe. We doled out chores three months ago and we basically all do our chores, without being told. They’re nice to me, and ask to help me when they can. They want to hang out with me, to have fun with me, and not because they think sex is on the table. I think maybe they look at me like I’m their safe place.

I have been afraid of boys for my whole life, since long before the boys of my generation became men. I think maybe I have a new dream, a new idea of what it means to be a good person. I think maybe this is utterly important to me. The most important thing.

I’m still a loser, don’t get me wrong. But trying to be a winner never got me anything worth having. What I have now, small as it is, this little light of mine, is worth having.

Maybe it’s just something new and different that I’m competing for. Maybe I was all along.

Writes all the things. Photographs the light. Smiles at odd moments. Reads in the shower. Sings to the trees. Hopes a lot.

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