My Dear Girl,
One day you will be grown.
Right now you are small, and crazy-beautiful.
All too soon you will become a teenager, then a woman. (You will still be crazy-beautiful). You will grow breasts, you will lose your button nose, you will get pimples and then grow out of them, you will probably cut your hair, you might get piercings or tattoos. (You will still be crazy-beautiful).
Your legs which are now covered in bruises and scrapes will be covered in soft brown hairs – the fuzz of burgeoning womanhood – and you will be told your legs are too hairy, just like I was, and you will feel shame and the need to hide or change, before you even understand genetics, or feminism.
One day you will realise the way others, specifically men (and often men who are far too old) look at you. Their gaze will shift. They might go from ignoring you, to being overly interested in you. They might transform from someone you looked up to as a family friend to someone who either avoids your presence to reign in their lust, or becomes overly familiar and suggestive.
Worse still, you might notice the gaze of others with ill intent: the leering and the flame of animalistic impulse in their eyes. From others you will feel judgement, though they might not say anything at all. Oh, you will feel it, my dear one.
You may be told by others that your beautiful, long legs — that are so strong and agile (and sometimes a bit uncoordinated), that were once covered in bruises and scrapes from taking you places, the legs that were made for running and jumping and climbing and for riding bikes and exploring the world in worn-out sneakers — are now to be hidden away.
You may be told, in any number of ways, that your body is dangerous, or manipulative, or powerful, that it is to be used to sell, to gain… or else that it is not to be used at all.
You may be told by some that your beauty is to be feared.
Your strength will be forgotten, and you will be told that your lithe, pale legs will cause the sin of men.
You won’t be encouraged to use your legs to experience the challenges and wonders of this earth anymore — to explore and climb, and jump. You will be told not to wriggle them into the practicality of short shorts, you will be told to keep them still, and closed, and covered, as if you were to be made responsible for another’s thoughts and actions.
You will be told that your legs must be crossed politely, hair-free, nothing seen above the knee. You will be told your legs are dangerous, not a means of A to B, or a way to run free and wild when moment inspires you.
You will be told many things, from many sources. Some intent to silence, to shame, others to protect, others ignorant of any other way of thinking.
But I hope that your legs lead you, step by precious step, into the best sort of danger, and that you don’t concern yourself with what other people think of them.
My precious girl, I hope that as you grow, you do not have to unlearn too many lies. May you deeply know that your body has the same rights of existing in this world as a man’s, in whatever way you choose. I hope you know that you mustn’t shrink to make room for another simply on the basis of gender, that your legs hold you up, strong and tall, and powerful in your own unique way.
I hope you love yourself.
I hope you appreciate the magic of your body in all its glory before you are old. I hope you feel at home in your own skin. I hope you know that your body belongs to you, and you alone, and that the way your body looks, and they way you choose to dress it is not an excuse for the actions of anyone else.
I hope you use those legs — now earnestly skipping and twirling more earnestly than anything that has ever happened! — to skip and twirl right on by those who would seek to shame or judge you. I hope you remember how strong and capable your body is, and that it was made to be beautiful, yes, and that it was made to be useful.
I hope you always know that your body is for you. I hope you remember that your body does not exist in this world to be a pleasure for others, that you do not owe a man your attention or your thanks, simply because he wants it, and that you needn’t hide away in shame.
Your body is here for you, it does not exist for the happiness or comfort of others, no matter if it is hairy or lanky, or curvy, or bony, or sexy or chubby or pimply…
Your heart, it pumps blood, your lungs, they breathe the clear air, your fingers grasp at crafts and pencils and tiny bugs in the grass; your legs will take you places.
You will climb mountains.
I hope you remember the bruises of your youth; I hope you remember the joy creating them gave you. I hope you remember your carefree abandon and love of the outdoors.
I hope you remember that small girl, and who she was before the world crept in to bruise your soul… before you were told that the body you were given was to be judged and observed and critiqued and shamed.
I hope you know that you are never ever required to cover your beauty out of shame, or reveal more than you care to out of fear.
I hope you remember that your body was created to be a home for your beautiful soul, and that your soul will remain as beautiful as always, bruises and all, long after your body surpasses this world’s definition of beautiful.
I hope you make it to old age to see a world and a civilisation which has moved past the petty worries of its youth.
I hope I have the strength to teach you these things, even as I am still teaching them to myself.
I love you, my beautiful, radiant, strong, stubborn, soft little girl. may you always remain so.