you & me

My First Time.

 

First steps, first birthday. First time being a big sister defined the first time my dad would say that he was disappointed that he didn’t have sons. First day of kindergarten.

I was five the first time I was told that I should look pretty for the boys at school.

Six — that’s the age I was when I learned that the boys hit you and pull your hair to show you they like you. “Why can’t they just tell me they like me?” to which my teacher replied, Boys will be boys.”

When I was seven, I asked my mom why she never wore makeup like all of my other friend’s moms. She told me that my dad got mad at her for wearing makeup because it made boys look at her. I liked looking at her. I thought she was pretty.

In the year 2005, I was eight years old. This was the year that a prominent celebrity made degrading comments about assaulting women. If I had heard him say that back then, who knows how my vulnerable and impressionable mind would have processed that? 12 years later, he became our President.

Nine was the age I remember my father making fun of my mother for being emotional as she handed us over for our weekend visit. He said it made her look weak — another one of her ‘feminine flaws’.

The first time I was catcalled, I was walking my dog down the boulevard, and I heard tires screech hard and five men drove by me slowly, whistling, howling. I was 10. This day marked the first time I felt like an object. Catcalling occurred so often after that day that I would feel insecure and unattractive if I went out and didn’t get whistled at, as if the sexual comments that were spewed at me spoke to my self-worth.

11 was the age that I got my period, and I was warned by adults to discreetly stash my tampons up my sleeve so I wouldn’t gross out my male classmates on my way to the washroom — my body is taboo.

I anticipated my first kiss and expected it to be as it is portrayed on the television shows geared to people my age — romantic, extraordinary, an achievement of sorts. But when I was 12, my first kiss tasted like vodka, and felt like my best male friend’s hands on my back so I couldn’t pull away. I can still feel his grip. First day of junior high school.

When I was 13, I was pulled out of class to change into our unshapely gym uniform because my shoulders were showing. On that hot and humid day, I was taught by my principal that my body is a distraction and should be hidden. First failed test, first grounding, first dates.

14 was the first time that I went to a party, first time I was drunk. My first time. The first time I realized that everyone would take the man’s word over mine and I would be called a liar; this wasn’t the last time. First day of high school.

I was first harassed at work when I was 15. I was a hostess, and would seat a regular customer weekly. He told me he could never remember my name so he made a new one up for me — Spanky, he would call me with a wink while he dropped something on the ground and waited for me to pick it up.

When I was 16 years old, I was told that I’d be more desirable if I shed some weight. The first day I skipped supper.

I was 17 when I had to deal with my first real breakup because I was tired of hearing “I do it because I love you.” Maybe he didn’t love me after all.

When I was 18, I went to the club. I was taught to always watch my drink be poured, and to ignore the men I didn’t want to talk to. Except ignoring them didn’t work, and lashing out at them was an invitation to criticism that I just didn’t know how to take a compliment.

I am 19 now, and I have to look forward to unequal wages and questions about when I’m having children. I will continue to have to hear advice like, “Men don’t like women who wear a lot of makeup,” “Don’t swear, it’s not lady-like,” or “If you value yourself, you won’t give it all away in one night.”

I can’t help but wonder what ‘firsts’ the rest of my life will hold.

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A passionate feminist, Kelsey Gagnon is currently a university student from Canada who found her love for writing in a creative nonfiction class. She is a sexual assault survivor who has found a creative outlet for her depression and anxiety in writing.

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