The Birds and the Bees

How to fry an egg, how to twist my hair, how to tie my shoes, how to bathe myself, how to brush my teeth, how to shrink myself, how to be strong when mother is crying, how to still love my father even when others say hateful things, how to love strangers like they are my family because they often do become them.

Children of divorced parents have an arsenal of knowledge that we most likely have taught ourselves.

I must admit, some things are too difficult to learn on our own, too awkward to ask our parents, too big for our peers to swallow; for example, how to function normally with the opposite sex when you’ve seen it fail in front of your own eyes.

This is one lesson I still haven’t found the answer to, but I’m actively seeking it out because there are too many friendships I’ve missed out on, too many friendships that went sour because I constantly entertained insecure questions: Does he like me more than a friend? Does he think I’m pretty? If I ask him to the movies will he think it’s a date? What will others think about us?

Anyway, I’m in contact with a counselor now and hope to have this lesson finally figured out, in the meantime it’s exhilarating when I have those moments of normal interaction with males on my own.

Like the other day, I was doing it, I was actually doing it, I was having a conversation with a guy without all of those insecure questions interrupting. Unfortunately, when I finally felt comfortable sharing laughter and deep conversation with a male it was immediately shut down by one glance.

A bystander, also male, not sure if he knew what that look did to me, but it crashed my Utopian world into pieces. That look made me feel like a small, emotionally unstable, incapable-of-controlling-myself-sexually, dirty woman. I felt embarrassed and ashamed, so I crawled into myself the way I first learned how  when my father told me not to eat a Popsicle in the barbershop.

I felt small, like a thing that needed to be monitored. I started to panic: maybe he is a married man (even though I had no intention to be with him romantically), maybe he is taking my friendliness as flirting. I became so awkward and weird. I no longer could look him in the eyes or laugh with too much confidence.

I had to make myself invisible, like our whole conversation before was one of those brief, polite interactions you make with the cashier as you’re getting your items ringed up. His glance was the receipt, the clutched plastic bags in each hand, the automatic door opening… then closing.

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