Little one, I see you. And all the while, as I watch you grow, I’ll be whispering a prayer.
You, in my arms, my happy, cooing Baby Girl with big, brown, chocolate-drop eyes. You looking up at me, making so much noise already. You, with your tiny, feminist fist flailing, pumping the air, reaching for a bit of something to hold just outside your cozy blanket for all the world to see.
Right now you have no story. You’re an empty canvas waiting for paint.
I pray that by the time you’re older, old enough to forge ahead, sexual predators will be a long-gone thing. Maybe you will grow up in a world where people do not behave this way. Where men, especially, do not prowl and prey. Where some men do not pounce first, and then lie, deny, or downplay.
I pray that you will not know how it feels to be bullied by a boy, or passed over for a boy. Maybe your teacher will champion your worth, your potential, and your intellect at the very same time you recognize it inside yourself.
I pray if something happens, those in charge will believe you the first time. I pray that your words will be all the proof they need. Maybe your voice will not ever be muffled, or bought. Maybe your body will not be consumed, or judged, or defiled, or caught.
Maybe you’ll feel equal because that’s just the way things are in the world.
As you grow, I pray that you never experience the fear and second-guessing when a man is too persistent, or beyond inappropriate. I pray that you never know how it feels when a man lurks, or stalks, or gives you the straight-up creeps.
Perhaps this perversion will be eradicated from our social system by way of laws and reform, by women marching, shouting, and demanding. Maybe your foremothers will leave you and your daughters a playing field where you don’t have to worry about such things. Where you can be yourself to pursue your life in a way that does not also include protecting yourself from assault or harassment first.
Maybe you won’t have to listen to your 45-year-old teacher make comments about your body under his breath when you walk by him after class. Maybe the dad of the kids you babysit won’t beg you to give him a blowjob on the ride home. Maybe this grown man won’t also cause you to grip the passenger side door handle with white knuckles as he hiccups and swerves and tells you how pretty you are.
Maybe you’ll grow up trustful instead of leery because these types of things just don’t happen anymore. Maybe you’ll have jurisdiction over your own body and men will show you respect publicly and privately. Maybe an old ugly man running for President won’t boast about grabbing your pussy, be accused of rape, and still get elected.
Maybe you’ll live in a world where a man won’t grope or touch you in a bar or a crowded place without your permission. Or where you won’t be cornered in a room behind a locked door. Or where someone doesn’t threaten to fire you if you report it. A world where a man won’t drop a drug into your drink so you don’t remember anything. A world where you blame yourself.
A world where you don’t have to be careful about every move you make, every mistake, and every step you take.
A world where you can have fun and wear something that makes you feel sexy and good about your body without waking up in a frat house basement. Maybe you will live in a world where you will not be shamed for putting yourself in that position in the first place.
Baby Girl, I pray that if you must defend yourself at some point, you’ll do it with heated conviction. You’ll scream his name, shout it from the rooftops. You’ll write it down, and tell everyone. You’ll talk about it. You’ll go to the police. You’ll make it known to all who matter, and all who will listen.
Please carry a whistle, Baby Girl. Carry mace. Carry an alarm. Attach it to your waist. I don’t care if you live in a quiet little neighborhood. I don’t care if you’re walking through the park during the day, please carry a goddamn alarm.
And before you tell your truth, Baby Girl, try to gather proof. Proof is all that matters when your words don’t. People with the authority to make changes and prosecute offenders cannot deny what they see and hear and yes, they always want proof.
My prayer behind my prayers is that you will look at me when I tell you my story, the story of what a man did to me, and you will wonder what I’m even talking about. Your eyes will go big again, and you will be incredulous at my warnings. I want the subjects of assault and harassment and misogyny to feel foreign to you, to be something you can’t relate to at all. For you to be so wondrously removed from them that you’ll have to google their definitions.
Maybe you’ll listen to me and my story and you’ll be disgusted. You’ll hear me, but you won’t understand. Not really. In the same way I don’t understand why we women were quartered in kitchens, why we weren’t allowed to vote, why we received vacuum cleaners for Christmas, or why we couldn’t call it “rape” if it was perpetrated by our husbands—I want you to not understand this.
I pray that you never understand it.
When you’re a woman, I hope that you’re still pumping your fist, and looking at me with your big beautiful eyes, and smiling a smile of trusting, unapologetic, independent, adventurous, unaffected, happiness. That you’re a woman painting her own blank canvas with every color imaginable, every blended hue available in this precious world.
Baby Girl, I pray that you’re just another ordinary, fulfilled woman without scars. A woman of substance with a million fabulous stories to tell, a woman unshackled, reaching for the stars.