When you use your love as a reward for good grades and behaviour,
and tie your attention and affection to achievements,
you teach me that love is conditional and that it has to earned.
So when a boy tells me to prove that I love him by bending over and taking it all in,
when you compare me to the neighbour’s kid and downplay my success,
you teach me that no matter how hard I try, I will never be quite good enough.
So when people tell me that I am talented, beautiful, smart – I smile and say thank you but I don’t believe them.
when you put me down with words and labels,
you teach me to be afraid of my own voice so I learn to keep quiet, keep quiet, shut up.
You silence a lion’s mighty roar, render a songbird mute.
When you raise your hand against me,
I confuse bruises as signs of affection. I look for acceptance in clenched fists and angry words
and detachment and nonchalance become my love languages.
When you lie,
you teach me that marriage is merely an obligation, a connection bound by something as flimsy as a piece of paper rather than the sacred union that it is.
Now I sift every word and gesture for white lies, always holding my breath for when he fucks up.
I get into every relationship in fight or flight mode – one foot already out of the door.
When you brush away my problems and put me second,
you teach me that it’s okay when a man disrespects my time and body.
So if he only texts me when it’s three and he’s a little lonely and has had one too many,
if he only wants me when I’m happy or a picture of my panties
it’s okay, it’s okay I’ll still call him Daddy.
I refuse to be crucified on the cross of your mistakes.
I will not pass on this legacy like a perverse family heirloom to my sons and daughters.
I will uproot and replant my family tree on a foundation of all that is good and kind,
all of this pain, hurt and regret
ends with you,