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The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors
I remember the first man I ever hated.
It was the night of my parent’s 25th anniversary party.
The room was full of their closest friends and family.
It was a bourgeoisie fest, 20’s themed with flapping dresses and feather headbands.
The walls were covered with Marcel Duchamp’s artwork, my mother’s favorite.
The jazz swooned my mother, my father, our plastic doll friends and their escorts.
I was 12 at the time; barely able to fill out the dress my mother had bought for the occasion. I sunk into my own boyish figure, hiding the bones and the insecurities.
My mother told me that my figure fit right into the theme, that I was the new Louise Brooks and that I should show it. Posture Daphne, posture.
I had always been a rather quiet child, always satirizing the foolish adults who crowded my dinner table weekly. My mother told our plastic doll friends that I was too in love with words to waste them, that they shouldn’t be offended.
Phillip would ogle at me from across the table. He’d repeat how lucky my parents are to have such a unique and pure child. Pure.
The jazz music got louder and the night became less innocent.
He wore a red tie that night. The color of power, of lips, of flowers and of lust.
His plastic doll was fumbling with another escort beside her, but his eyes were locked on me. I told myself I did not feel threatened. Weak women feel threatened.
“I wish my daughter would be as lovely as yours, Eric.”
My father gleamed of pride, undeserved pride that is.
“Oh well Anna is lovely in her own way, Phillip.”
Anna is not lovely, but I admired my father’s unexpected etiquette.
My father whisked me away for a dance before the formal sit down dinner began.
I clutched onto his arm, the same way I had when I realized I was capable of lying.
His muscles beneath my tiny fingers released an aggressive and protective distance.
The dance was over.
When I think of fear, I think of challenge. Fear is the incentive to test your strength.
When a fear takes over, I quiver. I breathe in through my nose, and hesitate before releasing my breath. I clench my jaw, squeezing my eyelids shut so no draft or tear can escape. I bite my lip until the red on them is no longer lipstick.
I hold on. I clutch onto myself.
Phillip asked to dance and before I could say no, my mother took a picture of us and said how lovely it is to have such wonderful and loving friends among us.
I agree, how lovely it is.
His hand was ice, melting at every encounter with my pale skin.
He asked me about school, about friends, about boys who were friends.
He recognized how long my hair had gotten since he last saw me. He toyed with it, like he toys with the keys in his pocket at the dinner table.
Schnapps, it was Schnapps I smelled.
I breathe in through my nose, and hesitate before releasing my breath.
The floor was a magnet, his hand journeying lower and lower.
I had grown accustomed to squirming at the sight of men. Fixing my shirt, folding my arms. His grip was tight enough to prevent me from squirming. I was weak.
I had almost wanted to clutch on to his arms, as a reflex.
But no, he was not my father.
I stared at the centerpiece painting on the main wall. It was Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors. My mother adored that piece, absolutely adored it.
Men are precarious. They entice you, they scare you, they protect you, and abuse you.
They wear red like power, like lips, like flowers and like lust.
They make you realize all you hate and all you love.
They scare you, they weaken you, they empower you and they praise you.
Men will always be the first and last thing a woman will hate in this world.