Once upon a time there was a little girl, eyes starry with dreams, who snuggled up to her sad, tired mother, and her mother read her stories.
Once upon a time there was a little girl who went to church in her little dress with pants underneath because she hated dresses, who swung her feet while she listened to old white men and well-groomed white women talk about the path to happiness.
Once upon a time this girl turned 12 and finally she was taught about marriage. About prince charming. Not the ones from storybooks, but the one she was told she should desire. The prince charming who had perfect attendance scores at church. Who “honored” his calling in the church. Who was perfectly groomed. Who was kind and loving and hard-working. And who would want a big, BIG family.
This little girl. 4 years old. Felt unsettled her whole life about what she was being told. She felt like something was wrong. She felt like maybe prince charming existed for the other girls, who went on dates and wore fancy dresses, wasn’t there for her.
This little 4 year old girl spent her whole life being beat down by men who pretended to care for her and tore her down. They made her scream. Made her bleed. Told her she was ugly. Told her that the rapes were her fault. Told this little girl with the starry eyes whose heart was only full of love and truth, told her that she would never ever be enough. That she could never be loved.
So one day. This little girl, who dreamed her whole life about being that princess who would get married in that special white building and have the diamond ring of her dreams, and be sealed forever to that mysterious and oh-so-handsome Prince Charming said “I can’t wait for him to come make my happy ending”
One day she saw the tiara on her desk and heard her dad calling out from the car. This was less than a month than the day when she wore leggings to school and he called her out and told her she looked “obscene and disgusting and if you go to school like that boys will rape you”. After her family member living in Utah called her and said she was concerned she was “falling away” from her religion and making bad decisions- based solely on the leggings. Who didn’t realize that the reason that little girl had to wear leggings was because she had been anorexic for months and her body was beginning to devour itself to stay alive. Who didn’t realize her little sister never slept. Was too heartsick and disturbed to eat. Who relived rape thousands of times throughout her day. Who felt utterly alone and abandoned. This was the little girl who wore leggings because her pants would no longer fit and was being dragged through the mud and reprimanded.
And she set her jaw, put on that tiara, and declared herself the Queen.
I am that girl. And my story isn’t even half over.
People on the outside think I have the perfect life. I’m too damn good at smoke and mirrors. I’ve been listening to this song called The Idea of Her and it’s replaying in my mind as I write this. Noone knew. Noone knew that my life was crashing down around me. Noone knew about the years of rape. I smiled when I wanted to cry. I dropped everything important to me to take care of my mom for years- and I didn’t have to. All I wanted was to be a “good” person.
And when I say “good” I mean perfect. I just wanted to be perfect. I wanted to be the girl everyone else envied. I wanted to be pretty. I wanted to go on those magical dates with boys to prom. I wanted that innocence that would allow me to actually enjoy my first kiss dammit. Little did I know my first kiss was being forced into oral sex on my repulsive evil stepgrandfather when I was four. How’s that for romantic?
Don’t answer that.
I don’t know what I want right now. But I do know what I’m tired of. I’m tired of other people writing my story. I’m tired of other people defining my “happy ending” for me. Other people telling me I’m not enough. That I’m not the queen. (those haters)
And I’m hella tired of hearing about how Prince Charming is gonna come along and kiss my cuts away because I am NOT waiting for some man to come along and fix everything. This is my story. My life. The sad truth about Prince Charming is that he is not capable of saving you from all your demons. The even sadder truth is that we raise so many little girls to think that he can so that they spend their whole lives waiting to be saved.
I declared myself the Queen.
My guyfriends are always challenging me and saying I can’t be a queen without a king. But that’s the thing. Men did help make me into what I am. Those years of having the crap beaten out of me. Of being made to be ashamed of who I am. The oceans of tears I have cried because of their unkindness made me wake up and realize that no matter what those b*** do, I am the Queen.
So go ahead and look at my happy smiling face and seemingly perfect body and seemingly perfect life and tear it away. See me for who I am. See me for my past. See me for my present. See me for how far I’ve come. Stop looking at how much money I have. Stop looking at my grades. Stop looking at where I work. Tear through this perfect persona. Tear through my fake smiles and easy laugh. Tear through my perfect got-it-all-together schoolbooks and backpack and that whocares 3.whoknowswhat GPA. See me in my brokenness as well as my wholeness. My weakness as well as my strength. My Queen and my Warrior. And love all of it.
And it’s nice if you do, but it’s my war to fight to do that on my own and I don’t need you on board to get it done.
I just got a job as a figure model for the art class at my school. And I got into dance. And I love running. I didn’t realize just how much your body shape affects how people treat you. There’s so many guys who didn’t give me a second look until they checked out my butt and then all of the sudden they want that number. People are nicer to me when I do extreme makeup. My appearance matters so much, even in the things I do for sanctuary. My arms. My butt. My abs. And I feel like all these men who are paying attention to me are more interested in making love to my body than they are to me. Those waist to hip ratios and sizes and muscles. All that BS.
You like the idea of me. You like the smoke and mirrors. You like seeing exactly what you want to see. You adore the white lies. You make love to the perfection you perceive. But someday she will devour you heart and soul. She is a devourer of joy, light, laughter, and love. You are bound to her with iron manacles and you don’t even know it.
There isn’t a part of me that other people don’t comment on. I show Sinamani Pani a video of me practicing for my hula class and all he says is “oh you work out, what do you do? Are you a runner? Or you work out at the gym?” There is no safe place, even in my head anymore, thanks to my anorexia, where I feel comfortable in my own body. Where I am even remotely “enough”.
It is so easy to make love to a lie, compared to the agonizing crucifixion it is to live with the truth.
And that’s not even half of it.
This week I stripped down to a tanktop and sarong, put on my tiara and danced ballet to the Princess Diaries Waltz all alone in my room. I smiled so wide it hurt my face. Just an hour before I had been at dance practice and all I could think of was my mistakes and my flaws and I didn’t smile once through the whole dance and I left wanting to self-harm. But when I danced alone in my room, for the sheer joy of it, I was remembering what it was like to be that little girl who believed in fantasy. Who believed in Prince Charming but didn’t like him because she hated men growing up (smart taquita). And I enjoyed every fabulous moment of that dance.
I used to love those stories but even as a little girl I always cut Prince Charming out and had the damsels in distress save themselves. And that was before I had a very rude awakening to my past. I loved dragons and monsters too as well as unicorns. I had a real thing for warrior women and destroying angels.
In other words I was quite the little warrior and in stories I made up, men were my servants and foot soldiers. In fact I have been a tough, badass chick since I was about 4 and I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of that phase. I will be the grandma in the seniors home flirting with all the young men, hosting spontaneous octogenarian flashmobs, and holding wheelchair jousting tournaments.
In other words any man that has ever treated me bad in the past, or is going to try for it in the future, this is for you.
And as for that man who I’m going to report on to the police- you never had a prayer of taking me out in this war. Whether it is me or God who comes to collect, you damned yourself as soon as you touched me.
There is no one else on this earth who can handle this like I do and I will not ever ever ever give up until men like you are either behind bars or dead. I will expose you for the monsters you are and I will make sure your victims are cared for. I will protect the innocent. And mark my words, you may have thought you won in those 12 years of silence when I was too afraid to speak up, but that’s over. Your reign of terror is over and the Queen is now personally involved in the revolution. And I am a formidable enemy.
I refuse to be afraid of you. I refuse to be silenced. I will be strong even when I am weak with loss and pain. I will fight on when I would rather surrender. I will stand before you when I would rather run away. I will have courage. I will face those impossible odds with a smile. I will fall and I will get up.
The difference between a princess and a Queen is that a princess thinks she knows who she is. A Queen knows who she is and rules like it. But a Queen is also a lonely thing to be. A warrior queen even more so. Because we have to make heavy sacrifices for the good of ourselves and others. Because we have the wisdom of loss within us. Our broken hearts are the price for our power. It is very easy, then, to become an evil Queen.
A princess, could never do what I do. I don’t think I ever went through a real princess phase. I think I went from warrior to queen because I fought those men all my young life. And even more so I was always the protector. When he told me if I didn’t do what he wanted he would kill me and rape my sister, I did what I had to to protect her. When I got older after one of the most painful rapes and he demanded a hug in front of my family I told him no and I ran away. He tried to drag me down the stairs but that doesn’t matter.
What matters is that I won. Is that I stopped him. Is that that little year old girl who came from a family with a lot of brokenness fought off her rapist and now at the age of 20 is older, wiser, scarred, and battered- but she still has the biggest most loyal and loving heart you could find anywhere. That little girl grew up to be not just a warrior, but also a Queen.
So maybe I’m not talking about which boy in our ward (Mormon division of church) has the cutest butt. Maybe I’m not going to prom (I took myself to prom dressed up in a full Indian costume complete with bangles) or those formal dances with a dashingly handsome man. Maybe I’m not like the other girls at all, giggling behind my hands about frivolous things.
But that’s a price that has been paid. I am coming to realize, I think, in wisdom beyond my years and my birthday is this week I am turning 20 empty your wallets- that the reason I am given such burdens is not only because I am strong enough to handle them, it is because it gives me a chance to do something for other people who struggle with the same things. I have insights into things. I see the world in a new way. I have come to realize what is most important in my life is me. My health. My happiness. And my family of those people I love truly. I can not only be a warrior but also a healer.
I fully recognize that at any point in those long years of rape, shaming, and abuse, I could have become a very bitter person. But no matter what shattered inside, I have always had the heart of a lion. I have chosen to reach for love and kindness and courage.
You will never find a princess who can do what I do.
My last point of tonight is never lose your dreams. No matter how tired or beat down you are, if you grew up imagining you were that princess, don’t lose that. Life can take away everything from you. Everything.
But there is no reason to let go of all of your dreams. Sing those Disney princess songs when you’re working at McDonald’s. Pull a Thor at your next imaginary business meeting. Or heck. Is there a reason not to do this at a meeting?
And also if you wonder how I respond to people who ask me why I wear the tiara I just look back at them and say “I’m the Queen”.
Works every time.