Savanna Scott Leslie works as an editor by day and a writes fiction and poetry by night. She has bylines in Canthius, Canadian Women in the Literary Arts (CWILA), the Quarterday Review, ANOKHI Magazine, and Quail Bell Magazine. She studies creative writing through the University of Edinburgh and is based in Hamilton, Canada.
Don’t mind if the boys pull your hair or even if they trip you or take your lunch. It’s because they like you and are predestined to express themselves in a language of insults and laughter.
Don’t give them a hard time. Nobody likes a tattle-tale, and I love you very much but you must learn to solve your own problems.
Don’t wear your hair like that. It takes up too much space.
Don’t walk alone at night. Don’t walk alone at all. I’ll tell you when you’re older.
Don’t ask for toys from this section of the store. These things are not meant for you and you should never yearn for them.
Don’t ask me why.
Don’t ask questions at all.
Don’t reveal too much of yourself. You must never give them any ideas. There are parts of you both shameful and sacred and you must guard them against grown men and little cousins both. Just do it quietly and don’t make too much fuss.
Don’t be vulgar.
Don’t bother with makeup, not at your age. You’ll have time to be a woman later. For now, I want you to be my little girl. Can’t you see you’re perfect as you are?
Don’t forget to keep up appearances. We dress for the job we want and I have to prepare you for the real world.
Don’t be untidy.
Don’t break your promises.
Don’t take a seat before your brothers. Make sure to let them have the best cuts, the biggest pieces, and always pretend you don’t notice.
Don’t ever hurt their feelings.
Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Confidence is everything, and I want you to be strong. You can do anything! You can be anything! Just not that. Or that.
Don’t interrupt. It’s awfully rude! Wait your turn and mind your manners. You can’t control what other people do.
Don’t stoop to their level. You’re bigger than them. You always have to be bigger than them.
Don’t obsess over what you eat. Just never get any bigger than you are now. In fact, become lighter, just a bit. Become practiced at holding back. Learn to keep a count in the back of your mind, in the space you keep pressed down, just there. Yes. Carry the numbers inside of yourself.
Don’t listen to your body when it asks for more.
Don’t spend too much time with boys. They’re not like you, and you wouldn’t want to give anybody the wrong impression. (Please never give anybody anywhere any wrong impression. Try not to give impressions of any kind. You owe me that at least.)
Don’t be that kind of girl.
Don’t be like other girls.
Don’t think of other girls that way. It’s not that I have any problem with that sort of thing. No one has less of a problem with that sort of thing than me. But, oh! It will be so much easier for you if you never get like that, and I only want what’s best for you. I only ever want what’s best.
Don’t become obsessed with shopping. Vanity is a sin. There’s more to life than malls and labels, and I want you to love yourself for who you are.
Don’t forget to make people feel good when they look at you.
Don’t forget to smile, all the time, indiscriminately. Make it automatic. Make it so it doesn’t show your teeth. Make it so your eyes shine and so they widen to let more light in.
Don’t disobey me. You love me, right? Just trust me, sweetheart, and it will be so much simpler. Girls who don’t listen are dangerous.