Hi! I wanted to share this short story following a conversation with someone I met who grew up in one of the cities I lived in growing up. I wanted to share this for International Day of the Girl to talk about the impact on girls of growing up in a cycle of poverty and violence.
Girls who grow up here, who become women, we grow differently.
Only three types of females come from neighborhoods like ours.
There’s the one who can take on anything for the rest of her life. Nothing really phases her because she’s seen it all, toughed through it all, had not the time nor opportunity to be weak or hurt or soft. The ones who have been through everything won’t say much of anything, and nothing much else phases them after that.
Then there’s the one who settles for anything. The one who is selfless to the point of being self sacrificing. Most of these girls end up staying here, having kids, and getting married. Because that’s all she can do. There are no jobs here for her. She has no irreplaceable skills. Anybody could do the only work she knows. So she becomes a mother. She becomes so desperate, she’ll do anything. To keep the only little life she’s ever known. One time I waited 6 months for a job interview at McDonalds. And you know I’ve got experience. I moved out here because there are jobs for people who have skill.
Finally, there’s the one who becomes terrified of everything.
In some respects, they’ve all got something in common. The lives they end up leading are all they’ve ever known. And they’re all a little scared. Even the one who gets up in your face when you look at her funny. When you say something she doesn’t like, she lets you know. She’s tough. But she’s only tough because she has to be. She’s scared too. She’s putting on this front for you. We’ve all had to grow up too soon. When I moved out to a neighborhood where men weren’t disrespectful, I was floored. Like, that sh*t was completely foreign to me. Damn, I’m like my own little entity of a woman. I act tough, but I’m fucking scared. And I just ain’t used to some of the decency I’ve experienced once I moved out here. When something great happens, it’s real foreign to me. It wasn’t uncommon to dodge a bullet on our way to school some days. You know what that’s like? My momma said education was the only way I could break out of this cycle of poverty, pain, and violence. And I guess that’s what I did. Helen, you know, you were from the good part of town. New money. Some of us get offended when people from your part say they’re from here. Because you guys had it so different.