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Read the Label
by
 Cherie Burbach

You gave me a dress
but it was too small.
I looked at the label 
and it said "unfeeling and ungrateful."

When I told you it didn't quite fit
you suggested I lose weight.
I ate what you prepared
and when the dress you bought me
still didn't fit,
I stopped eating.

Now the skirt slid over my hips
but I still felt uncomfortable.
I realized it was the wrong color and style. 
You said
since I was good
and lost weight
you'd buy me a new one.
But I couldn't go with you
or make the choice myself.
You'd pick out my new clothes
and if I didn't like them
I could go entirely without.

The new skirt's label
said "lazy and stupid."
I didn't want to try it on
but you made me.
And I didn't protest
I didn't want to argue
or give you the impression
that I wasn't a nice girl.

So I put on the new skirt.
It was short, and tight.
You said it looked good
that it fit me perfectly.
So I tried to be happy
and be what you wanted me to be.

You told me girls were quiet
they didn't talk back. 
So I held my tongue
even though I disagreed with you.
But then you told me I didn't talk enough
that I was stupid
and slow.

So I tried to show you I was smart.
I had a mind of my own.

But when I told you my dreams
you shoved me down.
You told me no one would ever want me
and I would always be alone.
And then you gave me a new skirt to wear.

This skirt's label read
"difficult and unlovable."
I put on my new skirt
but cried softly in my room.
I wore that skirt for a long time
even when I had outgrown it
I still told myself that it fit.

Every once in a while
someone would ask
why I wore that skirt.
They would tell me it didn't fit,
and I should get a new one.
But I didn't want to upset you
so I chased them away 
from my life.

But one day
I walked past a store window
and saw a beautiful blue skirt
long and flowing.
I walked in the store
and tried it on.

"It looks good on you," 
the salesclerk said
as I spun around in front of the mirror.
I felt good, real, beautiful.
I read the label,
"passionate and honest."
"It really is you," the clerk said again.
And for the first time
I believed it.

"I'll take it," I said, 
and handed her the money.
"In fact," I said, "I'll wear it out of the store."

I handed the clerk my old skirt
and told her I didn't want it anymore.
As I walked out 
I looked at the mirror one more time,
and smiled.

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