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The Girl Is... This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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Poorly drawn graffiti on the walls of dilapidated gas stations is a common sight at vacant highway exits in the Appalachians. Yet, as I waited for my dad to pay for gas, one phrase stood out from all the others spray-painted on the wall. The vandal had clearly been interrupted, perhaps chased away by a gas station employee. Though the other graffiti screamed out in colorful paint, the words “the girl is” stood out to me in black.
Long after I had climbed back into my dad's car to escape the biting winter wind, the phrase still tugged at my mind, making me wonder, What could the girl be?
The girl is nice.
The girl is bad.
The girl is stupid.
Or perhaps the author intended to use one of the many words I wish I hadn't known at 15.
Many of those words were the choice vocabulary of my school's population. They could be heard whispered in gossip or thrown across crowded hallways. Some were aimed at me. Some were aimed at my friends – words that labeled us as people we never were, stones in a civilized Lord of the Flies, never truly guarded against, because half of them we believed to be true.
Sometimes I think that the girl is just messed up.
Even after my parents separated, I lived a childhood of halcyon naivety. However, when I began high school, I realized that many of my friends hadn't been so lucky. Many of them had parents who were unkind, or simply uncaring.
Because of my disillusionment, I found myself driving the empty roads of Maryville early one morning to pick up a friend for a pancake breakfast. These weekly “breakfast clubs” filled our overworked Friday mornings with the blessing of good food, and somehow by together consuming the pancakes and coffee courteously provided by my father, we had transformed from a gaggle of girls fitting in conversation in the odd hours of the morning, to a support group where we could start losing our common religion of ingrained self-hatred.
There was the girl who had been raped freshman year who could finally walk into school knowing that “the girl is not dirty.”
There was the girl who learned that, despite her less than perfect grades, “the girl is not stupid.”
And then there was me, who had been struggling with my passion for mathematics. For me, learning math has always seemed more like remembering a story I heard as a child than work, yet when I told my mother's family that I wanted to be an engineer, they laughed. Unfortunately, I can understand their surprise. Over the years, I've watched the girls in my math classes dwindle until there were just five of us left senior year. I know the expectations of my gender and how rarely we are given the message that “the girl is capable.”
But I also know that it's time to disabuse ourselves of the stereotypes. It's time to teach the world that “the girl” is not a prude or a tramp or stupid. I want my female friends to know that they are anything but worthless. I want to give them the confidence to say that “the girl is fine.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the May 2014 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.




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TheMoonStillFollowsMeThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
today at 2:08 am:
That was beautiful. I really liked the last sentence. You are a great writer....so Yah (srry im awkward) What I'm trying to say is that this essay is inspiring and I can tell it was wriiten from the heart.
 
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