Don’t look up, my love, there’s no war here. The girl on the train works with the peace corps and hanging right next to her backpack is bright pink mace.
Close your eyes when you get home, carry your mother’s best knife with you into the shower. Hold it in your shaky palm. Wait for your family to get home, keep it where you can get it, have it pointed in front of you like the prow of a ship. Cleave the air, wait for the moment when out of the closet or under the bed a man will grab you and use your empty house as an invitation, as asking for it.
Lock your car. Check the backseat before getting in. Don’t sit too long in parking lots. Don’t break down on the side of the road. Don’t get in a vehicle with people you don’t know. Don’t stand up straight, don’t hold your head up high. Don’t cry where someone could see.
Have 911 pre-dialed. Carry a pocket knife the way your brother does. He plays with his because he is a boy scout and he might have to use it. Yours is a weight and you are terrified for the day you will have to use it. Don’t panic when men stand too close to you, don’t breathe too deep, don’t look them in the eye - but don’t look weak, don’t look vulnerable, don’t show that you’re scared, but be scared.
Don’t marry him if he’s mean to his mother, if he’s mean to dogs, if he’s mean to waiters. It’s your fault if he is cruel, you should have seen it coming. Don’t kiss him if you’re drunk and not looking to follow up. Don’t give him the wrong idea. Don’t love him, it’s clingy. Don’t spurn him, it’s heartbreaking.
Let him catcall you from the safety of his four-wheel drive, don’t flip him off. Think about the girls that have died on the edge of the road. Let him trail slowly behind you so that the crunch of his tires matches the grind of your teeth. Get inside whatever building you can find. Hope the car doesn’t loop back around and follow you later. Sooner or later, one of the cars is going to loop back around and follow you later.
Don’t call yourself a feminist, you will become sick of explaining that you don’t hate men. Don’t call yourself a feminist, it’s seen as an attack. Don’t call yourself a feminist, you will hear more slurs against your person than if you had said you wanted to kill the president. Don’t call yourself a feminist, it’s dangerous to want something for yourself. Don’t call yourself a feminist. Hold fast to the idea that girls of all shapes and sizes and colors and bodies deserve the same things as everyone else, fight for it quietly - but don’t call yourself a feminist.
Don’t be like other girls, whatever that means. Don’t be one of those plastic girls. Don’t be one of those gamer girls. Don’t be one of those band geeks. Don’t be one of those hipsters. Don’t be one of those fangirls. If you can, don’t be.
Don’t look up. Don’t breathe. Don’t think. Don’t worry, my love, there’s no war here. It’s in some far-off distant country.