My Body: Victorious

My parents bought me from a little old man named Patriarchy they met in an abandoned gold mine in California.

I was a Dragon, and I came with instructions:

Portrait of Denise

Portrait of Denise

“She will be beautiful, kind, strong and intelligent. But she is powerful and dangerous and must be suppressed. She must never know what she truly is,” Patriarchy told them.

My father didn’t want a girl, but at least he had a status symbol. He blew pipe smoke in his infant daughter’s face. “That’s all the smoke you will ever breathe,” he sneered.

I was a dragon. I was meant to fly, but I was kept grounded and pruned. My legs were put into braces to straighten them, and so too my teeth. Until I turned 18, my unruly curly hair was religiously cut off every 6 weeks in the basement salon of my mother’s friend. Each time, I sobbed. Each day, through 8th grade, my mother picked out my school clothes.

I was another doll in her collection she kept in the glass cabinet. All of us together on the shelf. Pretty, well dressed, and silent.

I was put in dance classes for grace. Sunday school for purity. There I learned God ruled over men, and men ruled over women.

My parents favored the tall, loud boyfriend who spoke the language of Patriarchy.  I chose the short, meek one. We went to pre-marriage classes at church. My pastor reluctantly allowed me to say my vows with the word “obey” omitted.

My first husband never measured up until we got a divorce. Then I was the harlot and he the hero. A year later, I finally divorced my parents. But not before I found another man to take over their duties.

I didn’t marry him until I was threatened with excommunication. I obeyed. And I was put back in the doll cabinet. My string was pulled so I used only the gentle words I was programmed to say.

The threat of his anger, of his silent treatments, kept me in my place. I walked gingerly on a carpet of eggshells mixed with pet hair and filth.

The curses were lining up, jostling for position, demanding to be heard. Fear held them back. What if he left me? Who was I if not a wife?

One night, I ripped out my cord and released my Voice. “Fuck you,” I said to him for the first and only time in our 13 years together. “Fuck you,” I said to Patriarchy and my parents and to Fear.

I was a dragon. I was meant to breathe fire.

Eggshells scattered. My wings spread. Cabinet glass shattered. The dragon inside me was awake. I knew, with a burning intensity, the only love I could ever count on was from myself. I was alone. But I was powerful.

I am a dragon. And I will fly.

Denise blogs at