when i got home from year 13 formal
there were specks of blood
on the nude tulle of my dress
from the lacerations on my arms
made by its sequins
as i danced.
at least my feet didn’t really hurt this time,
not like the last year, all the blisters
and the aching the next day
from my insistence on wearing
the white strappy shoes until the night was done.
i didn’t regret it, not while
remembering the year 8 leavers dance,
icing my feet in the bathtub at 11 pm
after my first time in Proper Heels,
with legs red and irritated,
shaved raw to look pretty under the dress.
at the end of the day,
what’s more classically girly than this?
what’s more feminine than blood and tears?
pencil sharpener blades to 12-year-old wrists
too chubby for the lead in the play?
the eager anticipation of being old enough
to wear makeup, to compensate,
after watching beauty gurus
from age 8?
and then there’s all the years
of high school, waking up
at 5 am or some other ungodly hour
for skincare and makeup, with extra time
to redo the eyebrows
four times before I’d leave the house
when they never looked right,
and concealer to hide the sleep deprivation.
Cassie-from-Euphoria-core, before it was cool.
all of this, the ways through which i define myself,
carving out my space in the world with every ache.
my right to be a girl marked out by the fact that,
even if i was not born pretty,
i can always suffer the pain it takes
and when it makes me cry
i can tilt my head at just the right angle
and swipe the tears away quick,
before they drip too far,
so as to not fuck up my mascara.