I don’t mind if you wolf-whistle across the street,
my insecurities won’t believe you’re looking at me anyway.
If you tell me I’m pretty
the worst I’ll do is blush and smile
because I don’t count flirting as an offence
and I know that you’re mostly likely looking past me
to the blonde I walked in with.
The other day I changed twice before work,
not because I did not like the outfit
or I felt it was not flattering enough
but for the stretch of skin from mid-thigh to knee
that I have loved since fourteen
suddenly striking fear into me.
It takes one conversation to reduce a woman
to the worth of her shape.
I learnt that during an informal meeting
where my supervisor passed on words
she did not believe herself
and told me not to worry too much about it,
just to wear darker tights next time
so people were less likely to notice.
At nineteen I sat in McDonalds in Bath
after a poetry evening in the town
and while talking with a friend
we were interrupted by an older man
who wanted to tell me how I was brave
for wearing skin tan tights
instead of black.
He loved that I had beautiful legs
and wasn’t afraid to show them off.
That was all he told me before leaving
and I felt confident in my own skin
on the walk back to the university.
Now I treat limbs like traitors when they escape.
I don’t know how to wear half my own clothes
and when I try
the fabric bites into flesh as a reminder
that someone might not like
the way I have chosen to dress
or they might like it a little too much
and decide that somehow makes me less.
I’m forcing myself to remember
that night in Bath and the words of a stranger
making me feel invincible.
I shouldn’t have to apologise
for wearing clothes
that make me feel good.
When I started writing this this piece the poem was going to go in a slightly different direction so I’m not certain if the first stanza fits with the rest. Let me know in the comments below if you think it works. I’m playing with the idea of pulling it our and using it as the start of a different piece.