- Share your toys, because you are praised for sharing toys. Give nice kisses, because the grown-ups tell you how sweet you are when you do. Give in to your [brother’s/cousin’s/friend’s] screams, because it’s not so bad to share this horsie or that block, not really. Refuse to share your baby, your special baby, cry and sob and wrap yourself around her. Listen, through your tears, to what the grown-ups say: “Well! Someone has opinions.”
- Find yourself wrestling on the playground with the son of one of your mother’s friends. You don’t really want to roughhouse, but he does. Hold him off until he flings himself bodily into you and he sends you flying. Crack your head soundly against the wooden play-fort, hard enough to spill the tears from your eyes and the wail from your open mouth. Go to your mother for help, have her check you over and tut: there’s no blood, so why is there such a fuss? Turn to the other women, your mother’s friends. “It takes two to tango,” one says. “She started it, he finished it,” says another. “Go play,” says your mother. You go. You do not play.
- Make friends with the boy sitting behind you in algebra class. Swap music, share books, check over each other’s homework for obvious mistakes. Find out he’s telling other people he’s your boyfriend. Tell him to stop it and have him yell at you in the locker corridor that you’re lucky anyone wanted you in the first place. Later, when the rumor drifts back to you, the story is about how furious you became when you found out, how loud you screamed, how many tears you cried. What a bitch you were, just because he liked you.
- Look up from your wallet when the grocery store clerk clucks at you. “Smiles are free,” he reminds you. Explain [all that apply: that you had a long day, that you are an exhausted new parent, that your loved one is ill, that you have lost a parent or grandparent]. Feel relieved when he turns back to the cash register, only to hear him say, “Geez. Now you’ve made me feel depressed.”
- Have opinions. At minimum, look as if you might have had an opinion once or twice.
- Tell someone that you don’t find their rape joke very funny. If this is face-to-face, set your jaw and walk away when the laughter rolls over you, when this person either ignores you or abandons that joke. You can be the new joke instead. If this is on the Internet, read with clear eyes the suggestion that someone is going to have to rape a sense of humor into you. Delete your comments and your account, although you will still be followed to any other corner of the internet you inhabit. Try to confide your fears in the wrong friends and let them remind you that this person is just a collection of pixels, albeit pixels that take the form of threats and hate and your home address.
- Approach an intersection in a grocery store parking lot. While still well clear of the intersection, be forced to slam on the brakes due to a man driving a truck at 30 miles an hour around the intersection corner and well across the median of the parking lane. Do not say anything, or change expression, only stare in surprise as he swings around you. Note what he says as he drives past: “Calm down, bitch!” You were calm, but now you are not.
- Speak up in a meeting when someone has reworded the idea you just explained and claimed it as their own. Receive your title as “prima donna” and your new motto: “not a team player”. Feel the echoes of this moment for your next three annual performance reviews.
Repeat steps 1-8 as needed. Or don’t. They will call you hysterical anyway.