How was your day?
“Not that great.”
I could tell. She hadn’t come out of her room when I got home. I had to seek her out, her purple-painted toenails peeking out from a pile of coverss.
I asked what was wrong, she said a boy had said mean things to her at school in the hall.
A boy you know? No, just a kid walking down the hall.
What did he say?
She paused. “Words I don’t want to say.”
“Can I write it?”
I reminded her, words only have evil when we use them to hurt people. She could say them, tell me, give voice to the hurt.
So she said, barely above a whisper, “he said I was an ugly little faggot.”
She is none of those things, this blue-eyed girl of mine. Neither little or ugly or gay.
And I told her that. But I wish I hadn’t.
Because if she were, why would it matter? Would it be ok then, to snarl insults at her in the hall?
I told her, shrug it off. Who is he, anyway, this angry boy in the hall telling lies to her?
I’m not happy with my answer.
Because I don’t want to settle for a child who can just let it go. I want to raise a woman who stands up for herself, and others.
So tonight, I will tell her, I know the words hurt. Right or wrong, true or false. They hurt. And for the teenagers struggling with questions of beauty, of self-worth, of sexuality, they cut even deeper. Remember how it hurt, I will tell her. And turn those tears under the comforter into anger, then courage. Not just for yourself, but for any time you hear those words thrown like daggers.
My answer, I will tell her, was not that great.