In the days when we were young and free at 12 or 14 or 22 or somewhere in between, we walked and danced and ran and sang and we were the girls who were not killed. We went to the mall with our best friend, just two blonde girls or brunette, buying pink frosted nail polish and 45s for a dollar. Our mothers, one or the other, dropped us off there to spend the day. We ate hot pretzels and tried on cheap spaghetti strap tops and sometimes we bought something for five or seven dollars that maybe we wore to school on Monday.
We were there when our mothers picked us up again and we went home for dinner, when other girls just like us did not meet their mothers for pick-up and were never seen again. We didn’t know them but the stories bubbled up and so we trusted less and hid sometimes until that truck that seemed to be following us gave up.
We were naïve in our power but those men let us know that we had some, we just had no idea why or what to do with it, and it wasn’t the kind of power we wanted anyway, weirdo.
We rode our bikes on dirt roads and still came home for dinner, parched and spent but alive and right there where are mothers could see us and tell us to do our homework or clean our rooms or time for bed.
We went to the movies and if someone strange, a man, tried to sit by us, we moved. We giggled and called him a freak under our breath, but we spent most of the movie with half an eye cast in that stranger’s direction.
We babysat by ourselves with small children who could do nothing to protect us. We locked the doors and didn’t answer the phone and closed the curtains against the night and we lived to be driven home again by a nice father who didn’t molest us.
We had sleepovers of six or eight or ten of us and no monster crept in the window to carry one of us away. We woke in the morning and ate pancakes and walked home or were picked up with our sleeping bags and low-grade headaches from too much sugar and not enough sleep.
We lived, in other words, carefree and content, but we knew. We heard the stories of bicycles lying abandoned on dirt roads and girls who hitchhiked to their own demise. We read the newspaper and whispered our fears in the night.
We grew up anyway, most of us, and fell in love and married and we remained whole and fine, most of the time. And if we didn’t, at least we were alive and could bury our pains under the mask of good girlhood.
Now we are mothers, and we have taught our daughters what no one thought to teach us. We learned because we paid attention and we trusted out instincts and now we want our daughters to know. We have taught them to be wily and wary; to be brave and take no shit.
And our daughters have grown into women and become all that we hoped for and so much more. They are brave and strong, they play sports and learn martial arts, they know the things we only whispered about and they have developed plans. They have ideas about their freedom that they refuse to compromise and they are sick and tired of not being heard. And we love them and support them and cheer them on, making a path where we can, and letting them blaze trails we never got to. Enough is enough, we declare and our girls are making sure it comes true.
We are the girls you did not kill and our daughters are coming for you.