“Selena,” they tell me, “It’s time to make a choice. You need to decide which label to take off the table, one to carry w/ you wherever you go. You shall wear it like a big clunky pin attached to your skin, so we don’t have to squint too hard to see it, So you can make it easier on us to know how to properly discriminate against you.”
They say I need to pick a label, a side, a permanent retainer to filter out my words into something more “well suited” for my appearance.
They ask me who I am, how do I identify? As if my whole existence can be shrunken down to a 2-to-5 syllable word.
They pry and make assumptions after I give no answer for awhile. But who are they to demand I confine myself to a prison box which can so easily be destroyed but so hard to break out from the inside?
Ridiculed with it, ridiculed without.
I never paid much mind to these labels before. But I have always had one on my back.
It read dancer. Or child. Or little poet.
Friends and family introduced me as: “Selena, the little ballerina.”
I was never just: Selena.
Never free of the obligations which tied me to my labels; never free from the responsibility to conform to the regulations which came with them.
You see, I never paid much mind to these labels.
They never seemed to bother me, because they were my cocoon.
My excuse to stay curled up in the comfort of familiar even if familiar wraps its hands a little too tight around my small frame.
They held me tight in their jaws, sharks grinding their prey between their teeth, crushing me into nonexistence.
But once my “dancer” label vanished, so did the ground beneath me, for it was all I ever knew.
It was the backbone on which I built up my confidence and self-worth.
I was nothing. Lost and naked without my cloak of invisibility to hide behind.
I searched the depths of my mind, desperate for another layer to protect my newly exposed flesh.
Another label to make me feel whole again.
But… nothing ever seemed… right.
Nothing would stick to my ripe wet skin, which was now finally breathing out, instead of sucking in society’s expectations of me.
No label seemed right, because no word could ever manage to fit my entirety into its letters.
No label can cover my whole body without leaving out my lips, or an elbow, or maybe just a few fingertips.
A label cannot become you, because labels are band-aids.
They might cover up your wounds, hide your blemishes from the harsh rays of the sun, but that won’t make them disappear.
You see, labels are jail cells which feel a lot like safety blankets. The only reason we can’t see the difference is because we have not known anything different.
Because labels shield the beauties of the world from you, and in turn, shield your beauty from the world.