Advice I've Received As A Woman
The first advice I truly remember receiving is don't touch things that aren't yours.
I was a sticky-fingered little baby who had a penchant for breaking things. I broke almost everything that came into my hands. Give me something, and it would back to you snapped in two or three. I did this to small things; pretzel rods, action figures, crayons, and pencils. I did this to bigger things: my grandfather's gift to my brother of stuffed frogs playing the maracas came to mind that these were stuffed frogs as in taxidermied frogs, wearing sombreros and playing violins, as well as the maracas. My grandfather, as demonstrated by his gift giving, was not around children for much of his life. One afternoon I went into my brother's room and climbed his bed to reach a dresser that contained the stuffed frogs, a signed baseball, and, I believe, the Star Trek Enterprise.
I reached for the frog and grabbed the little hand holding the bow and snapped it off. Then, I left.
My parents, tired of my destructive hands, sat me down. "Don't touch things that aren't yours." I continued to break my own things. I had almost a compulsion to destroy, something that I wish aI had realized sooner than writing this, as it would have certainly ended up in my college fiction writing. No real reason for it other than I liked the snap. I broke the tails off many of my Littlest Pet Shop dogs and cats. I broke Polly Pockets and my rulers and the buttons off my shirts. I tapered off breaking things after I lost too many of my toys to my own hands. But first I learned to not touch things that weren't mine to touch. You could say this was when I learned restraint. Any time I gave into my urge and broke something that belonged to me, I lost a friend. You didn't jut get to do the things you wanted to do, all the time. If you did, the consequence was that people didn't like you.
Instead of a grubby-handed monster, I turned into a more civilized kindergartner. I kept my hands mostly on my lap. You keep your odd compulsions to yourself so people don't get mad at you.
The second piece of advice I remember the most: If a boy is mean to you, he probably likes you.
Boys pushed and shoved me and pulled my hair. It was meant as some sort of compliment. Greg, a second grader with a bowl cut, used to stand behind me and poke my back. Justin was the worst. Justin used to knock me off the monkey bars. With dirt-stained knees, I would defiantly tattle on him to the school monitors.
The punishment by a school monitor was a shake of the head to Justin. To me: he likes you. A wink. A wink?
This baffled me. The things I could not touch: definitely stuff belonging to other people. I know this because I wanted to rip the buttons off of other people's shirts, and I knew I was not allowed to. I know this because I wanted to shove Justin back, to knock him into the ground. I still didn't do it. My mother has told me a story about how this boy put a thumbtack on her seat when she was younger, and how much it hurt when she sat on it, and how she always knew the boy had done it because he had a crush on her. But Mom, I wanted to say. I felt so bad for my mother, and ultimately even worse for myself. I wanted boys to know that doing these things shouldn't be excused. I wanted them to reel it back because they knew the consequence. I wanted them to know they couldn't use their hands like I couldn't use mine.
For three whole days, I hid in the coat closet while the other students went to lunch. I went into Justin's cubbyhole and stole every single marshmallow from his Lucky Charms, leaving only the powdery crumbs and the dry cereal. If he was gonna push, I would destroy him. He cried, and I don't know this for sure, but I remember trying to insinuate that perhaps his mother didn't love him enough to leave them there.
Justin never learned not to push. I became adept at silence and leaving my hands on my lap. Always thinking. Always wondering how to have a voice when nobody would be the voice for me.
From then on, all the way up to adulthood: I kept my hands to myself. I always wonder who has been taught to do the same, and I prepare to fight differently, quietly, swiftly, instead.