I’m in first grade, and there’s a boy who follows me around, tries to sit next to me at reading time, tries to hold my hand. I ignore him. I scoot away and turn my back on him to talk to my friends. I hurry to the bus to get away from him. I tell my mother of my frustration, and she thinks it’s cute that this boy has such a crush on me. She tells me to be kind and not hurt his feelings.
My mother who is smart, confident, capable, who wanted to go to college but couldn’t because her parents had limited funds and it was more important to send the two boys to college since they’d need to support families. College for women was an unnecessary extravagance. They’d never use that degree. They’d get married and be homemakers and stay-at-home-mothers. It was a waste of money for all but the wealthy. My mother who felt strongly about equal rights for women had inadvertently told me that this boy’s feelings were more important than mine – that I shouldn’t hurt his feelings, even if that meant I needed to suck it up and put up with his very unwanted attentions.
I’m in second grade and another boy pulls my braids. Hard. It’s not the first time, so I punch him. Hard. I am called before the teacher who tells me that this boy has a crush on me and that’s why he pulls my hair. I get a bad mark for that day for hitting him. The lesson there is that boys get to hurt me, and I can’t do anything about it or I’ll get in trouble.
Fast forward to my first “real