I wish I was more of a tough girl. You know, the kind of girl who can say “talk to the hand” and mean it. You know, the kind of girl spelt without an “i”. I remember reading Bottle Rocket Hearts by Zoe Whittall. She dedicated the book to all the tough girls she has loved, and I realized that I feel, well, not tough enough.
Sure, I am that girl who points elephants out in rooms, even if it means I can’t enter the rooms again, even if I really really liked being in the rooms in the first place. I know how to stand up for myself, I speak the truth to the best of my ability, and I am unabashedly determined to be myself in the world without shame. But I don’t feel tough. It is hard every time and I care too much about what people think of me. Some people say I’m too nice (others would probably say I’m not nice enough) but all I know is it breaks my heart every time I feel like I have to be tough.
I guess I think that in order to be tough you have to not let things affect you. Tough = hard. Hard like steel. Hard like: “I’ve got shit to do and you’re getting in my way so I’m going to stop being nice right now and I won’t even shed a tear about it because I am that tough!” I’m not tough like that.
A tough girl once said to me, “you don’t have a thick skin and you need to have if you want to survive in this world.” She was right I don’t have a thick skin but I’ve never really wanted skin like that. I want to be a tough girl without becoming hardened. Without becoming mean. But I don’t always succeed.
Whittall’s book ends with the line “I am soft and furious.” That’s a journey worth going on. Learning how to be soft and furious because I am furious about so many things and I really just want to learn how to stay soft at the same time.
Originally written August 31, 2009