You were once called beautiful.
when your hair reached your shoulder blades.
When you tortured your eyes with mascara
and pretended to enjoy the attention
dresses gave your shin bones.
Lovely and pretty
they called you, but you
took these as insults.
You fought your training bra,
felt heavy while you ran.
You felt velvet different than other girls your age.
Sit straight and tucked ankles
beneath socks with frills.
You let your eyes linger on the section across the store from you.
Where the pink came in small doses
and your brother was welcomed
while you remained stuck.
Sometimes you touched the denim
on the mannequins.
Mumbling something about boys
as if you were separating yourself from them.
Because beautiful didn’t get dirty
or need pockets.
But when that girl in eighth grade
pinned your hair up under a hat
and clasped her hands on your biceps,
as if she were preparing you
Not because of the tingle of her fingernails
or the kiss you had shared the night before
but because you finally saw the beautiful in you.
Beautiful wasn’t satin or buttons or ribbon tied childhood.
Beautiful was a baseball cap.
So you stole your father’s flannel.
Hid deep in your brother’s hoodies
and cut your hair when your mother wasn’t home.
You took the stares like being knighted.
Tight chested, loose hips
and more stubborn than the freckles you didn’t conceal anymore.
They stopped calling you beautiful.
Started calling you other things.
Confused. Pretending. Tomboy.
Until they stopped calling you anything at all
and let the silence be your definition.
But every mirror was a reminder
that beautiful was beautiful
in plaid or floral.
And that girl in eighth grade
who only kissed you once
would never want you any other way.
Many girls later, you hear that word again
in the mouth of someone who never saw you before.
She puts her hands in the perfect place
above the elbows
and leans in close.
Your hair barely touched her cheekbones.
"You’re so beautiful"
but not as a secret.
Because you both know it’s true.
Pictures and ramblings of a queer femme princess.