The Lies They Tell You

Isabel Perez-Vega



When you’re born, they exclaim,

“It’s a baby girl”

and you’re claimed

by the doctors who check every inch

to make it’s acceptable.


When you’re five, your mother buys your first bathing suit top

because she doesn’t want men staring at you

you don’t understand, but it’s pink and you love it.


When you’re ten and that boy kisses you

sticky from the melting ice cream

she pulls your elbow, anger in her face.


When you were twelve your father told you to cover up;

that only your husband can see those parts of you.

In the bathroom, you peek and wonder

why your body belongs to a stranger.


When you’re fifteen, your mother scolds you

for letting your first boyfriend mark your neck.

Don’t let anyone touch you like that until you’re married,

she berates.


You’re nineteen now, and you know your body is yours.

You tattoo yourself, loving the scratching pain

of the freedom of the ink.


Until your father scoffs

and your mother shakes her head

your boyfriend frowns.


So you get more.


And you’re twenty-two and you learn to love your body.

Every inch, even the ones you tried to cover up.


The little scar on your knuckles

from the first time your boyfriend cheated on you

and you punched the wall.


The chipped front tooth from hitting your mouth

when you laughed too hard

the first time you ever felt like you had friends

and the joy had been too much too control.


That uneven tan line

like the one you got that first summer

when you learned to love yourself

and the way you looked in a bikini


That ugly brown burn scar you got on your ankle

when you learned to fly, but fell.


Those uneven freckles

that are like constellations on your back


Even those acne scars

that made you once so angry

remind you of the days when you thought

your body was to please others

You learned to love all those scars.