The Other Girls

by Audrey El-Osta

boys; they like to tell me I’m ‘not like other girls’
the words like confetti tumble out of their mouths
and fall, into their palms. Wide-eyed children that they are,
they open their hands to offer me this gift, gold and gleaming
with a fresh, still-wet stamp of authenticity.

boys; they expect you to just take this
as a compliment with affection, grace and gratitude
Oh my, do you really think so? ~ Thank you SO MUCH ~

like I’m meant to be proud of not being like other girls.
girls who have it together, blonde girls, tall girls,
girls who know what colour they are, girls who know themselves,
happy girls and sad girls, girls who want your money, power and glory,
girls who are losing it and girls who love themselves.

not like those other girls, they’ll say, you aren’t like those other girls
you know, those girls that are delicate, porcelain-built,
petite, sweet suburban naiads of summer somehow remaining optimistic
through the hyper sexualised degradation of their innocence,
this absurdly accepted thing called adolescence.

and no, you’re not like those other girls either,
the loud, outspoken confident activists, the feminist punk,
bravely afraid standing stark-naked with a fist, clenched
hard as diamond, waved in the air waiting for a chance
to fight and roar against that which will have you silenced.

you aren’t like those extremes,
or those girls in between.
YOU, off the measurable spectrum,
are so special to have been chosen,
to been seen for what you truly are!
a rogue drone so perfectly designed,
detached from the hive mind;
for once I find one sufficiently different from the rest!
I think this one, she passes the test.”

today a boy like a lot of other boys tells me that I am
not like other girls. and though he means nothing to me,
his words sting, pulsing venom
through my blood, pushing malaise into my veins,
back into my system; heart slows, lungs shrivel,
while brain runs grey with dead, faded ink,
and I realise my efforts have been for nothing.

With a wrench too big for my mind’s child-size hands,
I try to loosen the nuts and bolts holding the vice grip
in place on my brain in vain.
I am imprisoned with vulture’s talons digging into my flesh,
should I try to act I feel pulling and ripping, to keep me back
from singing and dancing, laughing with carefree abandon.
I see my friends, my sisters, these girls other to me running into the sea
Singing as they watch the stars erupt through the night.
It takes my last strength not to run into a wilderness where non may find me,
so I may live in silence by choice, instead of the stilted, haggard mouth-acts that
Would shame me into hermitage.
To speak, to dance, to laugh – I would do anything to be like the other girls.

You tell me I’m not like other girls, and my heart sinks, my shoulders drop.
Really? But I’ve been trying so hard.

Audrey El-Osta is a Melbourne based emerging writer. She studies a BA in linguistics at Monash University, is the Vice President of the Creative Writers Club, and has loved language passionately since childhood. She recently won the Youth Incentive Award for her poem Persephone, in the Poetry D’Amour Competition run by WA Poets, and has had two other poems published in their annual anthology. She aims to soon publish a collection of poetry, exploring sexuality, femininity, memories, and mental illness.

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