Texas Talks

Based on Jamica Kincaid’s Girl

Grandmother said to be certain to have the most tiptop manners. You have never been to manners school? Well you better enroll right now! Remember to cross your ankles, but do not forget to close your knees at the same time or else your bloomers will be out for everyone to see. Always say please and thank you. Wear conservative clothing and pearls either in your ears or around your neck. Remember southern hospitality. If you forget, you’ll never be married off and that’d be a shame. Grandmother said you must marry young, so she will be alive to see the day.

Daddy taught you how to shoot a gun. Close your left eye and open your right. Hold the gun to your shoulder tight. Be patient. Find your prey out in the fields and wait till the right moment. Patience, he told you, patience. Don’t breathe too heavily even though you’re nervous cause it’ll shake the gun. Keep your focus. Don’t flinch when the gun goes boom and the animal falls. Don’t wince when we cut it open with a knife and Daddy tells you to hold the spleen. Got that, honey? Boys don’t love weak girls. They love the tough ones.

Momma said you must learn to cook. The key to a man’s heart is food. Without the culinary skills, you’ll never be married, she said. You must learn to make large meals for the extensive family you will have. After a long day at work, Mother said, your husband will come home to the smell of freshly baked food. It’s a requirement. It’s a must. Not only shall you cook, but also you shall clean. Spotless. Everything in the house must be spotless. You will dust. Sweep. Shine. Wash. Repeat. Mother said you will need to provide for the man who will provide for you. So, Study hard. Study long. Then you can go to a smart school. Once you’re in a smart school you will meet a smart man. A smart man who will provide for you. Smart men like clean, cooking, well-behaved women.

Big brother taught me about sex and appearances. Save it, kiddo, he said. Learn to do the in betweens, and learn to do them well. Don’t give it all up. Tempt him. So then he’ll wanna marry ya. To see what you have to offer. Smart men like a girl who waits. Smart men also don’t like a slut. They like classy girls. The ones who look like they’d be great at it, but don’t dress like it. Does that make sense, kiddo, he said, You got all that? Once you’ve got him hooked show off. Be prim and proper, but shoot to kill when you get the chance. That’s the only exception, he said. And cook. Cook well, kiddo.

Sister explained that this life is hard for you. That meeting expectations will be tough. It’ll weigh down on you like the stack of books your supposed to memorize in order to grow up, go to college, and kiss your intelligence goodbye in holy matrimony after eating a home cooked meal. She said you’ll cry occasionally. That sometimes you’ll feel as if you’re not holding the gun right. But you have to fake it till you make it. Smile when you’re supposed to, have sex when he wants to, that’s the only time you can uncross your legs.

You will convince yourself that this is the life you chose, not the one laid out in front of you. You will want to fight back. To let your ideas be heard and let them out into the world, because you can have great ideas too right? Wrong. So keep your pretty little mouth shut, fight the urge to scream out in objection, and swallow your pride. Because if you rebel, if you don’t cook and clean and shoot guns and marry a smart man and cross your ankles, then what will that say about how you were raised?