LABELS

I see you, On the pathway around 10 meters away. You catch my gaze and I look away, Look down, look anywhere else. But your eyes stay, why do they stay? Cemented, I can feel it intrude my insecurities. Your sight traces my temple, from my eyes, to my nose, the straight line of my mouth, my collar bones, my red crop top, My denim shorts and gladiator sandals.
Five minutes ago, I was just a girl, enjoying the summer breeze, carefree in my own skin, in my favourite Abercrombie shorts, thinking about everything and nothing, until I caught your gaze.
My body stiffens, my spine straightens, I pull up my straps, trying to make my womanhood seem less appealing,I’m uncomfortable. Your eyes give away your thoughts, I can hear them loud and clear through the silence. You smirk and tug at your friend. What’s so funny?

I should’ve listened to my mother, I should’ve worn a jacket, covered my legs, let my body burn in this 40 degree heat; I should have done something, anything.
I quicken my pace past you, Trying to turn a deaf ear to your whistles and cat-calls. You name me, ‘Slut, Whore, Bitch,’ because of the cloth wrapped around my chest.
I feel my colour gradually fading, I’m turning into someone I don’t recognise. I’m longing to go back  but I’m scared.
I begin to cover up the labels  you’ve painted on my body with another inch of cloth. You tell me I’ve perverted your thoughts, My clothes repulse you, You’re appalled . You’re convinced I’m asking for it. I’m compelled to see myself through your filthy eyes, You’ve conditioned me.

I add another inch of cloth to protect myself from your uncensored judgement, scars of your derogatory words, and another inch  covering each syllable, each ugly letter, each thought you think.

I finally present myself as your ideal women: covered, clean, obedient, pure. I lose myself in the bargain to adhere to this sexist society built on brick and bigotry.
I’ve covered up all of my impurity, cloth bandages my body from head to toe. Theres nothing left for you to say.
I catch your gaze once more trying to get your approval. I pray that your mouth doesn’t twitch, I pray for you to say nothing, I pray for silence, but you will never let me have it, “Prude” you shout out, you will never be satisfied, no matter the length of the cloth that covers my skin.  I will never be anything more than just a label to you…never.

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