In a typical movie scene, a girl would be sitting alone on a park bench, reading, texting on her phone, finishing her bagel. Suddenly her silence is interrupted, a man approaches her, telling her that he just couldn’t walk by without calling her beautiful. The story would continue to play out the two would fall in love, they would fight, make up, or move a thousand miles away from each other, yet they overcome every single obstacle, ending with them both confessing how they never want to be without each other again. It’s raved by the hopeless romantics.  They long for the day they have a love worth fighting for, a story worth telling to young and new lovers.

The cookie cutter boy meets girl story trope was one that I use to dream about. I would watch the romance movies, crying over the two lovers that are fighting against all odds to be together, craving and wanting that for myself. My heart was given out to anyone who gave me any sort of attention, open to any possibility to begin my story.

It almost seems so long ago, yet I know that not much time has passed at all, because now I no longer even let the story begin. I’ll sit by myself, eating that same bagel, perhaps reading a different book. Then mid- sentence, my attention is attempted to be shifted towards the man trying to speak to me. “My I just have to say, you’re so beautiful, would you love like to go out sometime.”  I remove the headphone from one of my ears; thanked them for their compliment and decline as politely as can. At times they are understanding, embarrassed, but kindly smile as they thank me for my time. But more times than I can count, they persist, and I realize my politeness has come back to bite me, I should really know better by now. Aggressively, I repeat my answer, sending them off on their way. And under their breath before they turn around completely, I hear them say ever softly, “What a bitch.”

I pat myself on the back, telling myself that I’ve done well. I’ve collected all the different names I’ve been called by men: crazy, whore, etc. But “bitch” is by far my favorite to be called. Men use “bitch” as a name to call women who have decided to take charge of their own story, to not have it dictated by the opportunity to find love through a male.

Right now, I wonder if I perhaps sound pretentious, or insulting. As if I’m trying to say I’m “not like other girls,” the most internalized misogynistic statement I could make. But my words are not meant to hurt my fellow sisters, if anything, I envy the hopeless romantics, and their ability to search for love, eagerly awaiting a new chapter in their lives. They aren’t naïve for their hope, and neither was I.

Three years ago, my heart was open to every single possibility, smiling with every encounter, completely helpless the moment a pair of charming eyes laid their eyes on me, constantly wondering if this would be the one. I was helpless.

And I was in love

My first love was a tall scruffy boy with slightly curly ginger hair, my best friend, my rock and my reason that I had to smile. And on the night he told me he loved me too, I gave my whole self to him, a night that I wanted to last forever. But it didn’t, and neither could we. In the morning he was gone, and he had taken a part of my soul with him. I began to dissolve into an empty void, hoping the men could fill it.

Every kiss that touched my lips left me with a fixation, trusting men to fulfil the craving. Every word lured me in, as I fell in love with their promises to love me forever, to treat me better than the one before, to please me the way I should be. What I didn’t know at the time was men would continue to use me, sliding their hand up my skirt before they even really knew my name. They would take what the want from me, my body, my kindness, my love, take it all for themselves, and leave once they’ve acquired what they need, just in time so they don’t have to give anything back.

Years go by and my body is filled with bruised marks from those I’ve trusted, scars from the amount of times I’ve cut open my heart to give it away. I think and tell myself, maybe I should have stop them, maybe I should have told them they need to do more before I would allow them inside.  But I know my voice is worthless in their eyes, why else would they kiss me more than they allowed me to talk other than to show me what they believe the main purpose of my mouth is is.

Perhaps I have no one else to blame but myself, for my expectations, for wanting to be treated as a human being, and for expecting men to treat me as such, for expecting to care more about my soul and the person I am than the kisses I give them

Instead, men have exhausted my soul, they have exhausted my will to open up. They have done nothing but hurt me.

So as the word bitch crosses their lips, I want to tell them how their brothers have hurt me, how they have drained the life out of so many others like me. I want to tell them how I can’t even risk the possibility of getting my heart broke again, and how I’ve been left with nothing but empty promise.

However nothing comes from my lips expect a smile, as I see that their ego has been bruised, for they have been lump into a generalization of men. They are offended by my rejection, and I want to explain that my “no” is not because of them. Then a realization comes to my mind,  because despite how the years have worn me out, nothing has exhausted me more than my constant feeling that I need to explain myself, when the word “No” is in fact a complete sentence. Because even though they have yet to brace my body and they’ve done nothing to me yet,  I’m exhausted of men believing that I owe any part of myself.

Somedays I’ll stare at a girl, maybe younger, maybe older, and wonder if her soul has been exhausted yet. I hope she isn’t, I hope she holds onto the possibility of a story that plays out exactly how it’s meant to be.

As for me,

I’m exhausted, let me be.

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