Kincaid’s Cousin

Don’t slouch because bad posture means you feel bad about yourself; don’t stay out in the summer sun and burn too brown because then you’ll look dark and crispy; straighten your curls because it looks nice and pretty and ignore the burning scalp and ignore the metal teeth of the hot iron chewing your seashell ears; pack extra underwear because you never know when it will come in handy and cleanliness is next to Godliness; never speak to strangers because they crave danger but always speak to rich men with skin like ivory because they can offer freedom; never mind the glass ceiling because you are working towards survival, you are not looking to reign; always sit with your legs crossed at the ankles because you are a lady, raised a lady and you have something precious to hide; remember marriage is a holy contract with a benevolent overlord; remember that Jesus died so you could live and not smoke up drugs in a damp basement with a band of mouthy boys and the neighborhood Peter Pan; don’t tell anyone about the way your sadness feels like it can crack your ribs, sadness is ugly and no respectable man wants an ugly wife; smile because when you don’t smile your face looks mean and no right man wants a mean wife; this is how you cook the rice and this is how you cook the chicken adobo; this is how you wash wool and this is how you wash satin; this is how you protect a reputation; this is how you apply salve to the cracks in your pride; file and paint your nails before a job interview because everyone notices dirty hands; keep a clean house and you will keep a sane mind, this is how you walk in heels, you had the face to be a model but you’re too short and you didn’t want it enough; this is how you float through ether, buy the clothes you think will impress and get respect; but i try to be happy but sometimes i regret every step that’s thrown me into adulthood; be grateful that you have a place in my home; stop being angry because you will never get married if you stomp and sulk, you have to train to swallow whole emotions like watermelons; keep your friends close and fake friends closer, they know you better than you know yourself; what do you mean you don’t want children; do you want to die alone?


About Vanessa Willoughby

Vanessa Willoughby is a graduate of Emerson College and The New School. Her work has appeared on The Toast, The Nervous Breakdown, Thought Catalog, and The Huffington Post. She writes at
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