A digital magazine on sexuality in the Global South
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Anniversary Issue – January 2019CategoriesVoices

Jasmine Stains

My hair smells like jasmine,

From the wedding I went to last night,

When I tethered my untameable hair with flowers,

I will never be a bride again, I will never be a wife again, I will never be tied nor chained ever again,

My hair smells like cigarette smoke, and as I stood in the rain,
Draped in silk, and grey clouds escaped my red lips,

A man told me that it was erotic, which he thought was a compliment.

They ask me what my husband does,

I hate how defensive I sound when I say, “Actually, I’m a single parent.”

In case you were wondering,

Their ‘Oh!’s are the colour of pistachio puke, and taste like discomfort.

I can see the question in their eyes,

“Which D was it – death or divorce?”

They wonder which is worse.

Once the faces told me,

“Leave him; he doesn’t deserve you;

You don’t deserve this pain.”

They didn’t mean it of course,

You see, leaving is not a woman’s prerogative,

It does her well to cast her eyes downwards and dye herself in fragile feminine forlornness.

 

I have a reputation these days,

Of being a seductress,

Of being a temptress,

Of being a skank,

Because the tattoos on my body,

Because the promiscuity of my skin,

Because the debauchery in my eyes,

Make a man consider leaving his wife,

Make a man fall infatuated into my arms and between my thighs,

Make a man an adulterer, and what he does with me will only ever be illegitimate.

My reputation makes no allowancesfor the state of my shattered heart,

My reputation disallows the consensuality of this ‘seduction’,

My perceived immorality does not deserve the same forgiveness as his.

 

After all, I’m collector’s item, a crown jewel,

A dusty curio on a dustier shelf,

That thing between my legs must have no will of its own,

A thing to be protected (read possessed),

Or a thing to be prosecuted (read persecuted),

My father says, it’s irrelevant whether it was the leaf that impaled itself on the thorn or if it was the thorn that pierced through the leaf,

The damage is always borne by the leaf alone,

The leaf being a ‘woman’s character’,

The thorn being any of the ample barbed fences on which a woman can impale herself.

I’ve thrashed against so many fences that I am now a sieve,

All light passes through me, in and out,

It’s pitch black where I am, so forgive me for lighting a fire.

 

There are as many ‘types’ of woman as there are grains of sand by the sea,

I’m an ocean of unknowns to you,

You are not eligible to name me,

My flesh is on fire, with a smouldering sexuality,

So unless they want to fuck me, they absolutely hate me,

And even then they don’t like me so much.

Desire is a man’s turf, right up there with moustaches and Adam’s apples,

I’m the apple, I am the snake, I am Eve,

I am the vibrator nestled between flimsy, cheap lace underwear,

I am the shame, of saying I came,

Though it’s not even funny how much I didn’t!

 

My tongue is drugged from a decade’s worth of answering,

“What’s for dinner?”s and “Where is my ________”s,

I’m more than the answers to these questions, I think,

Yet, I’ve got generations worth of guilt in my soul,

For being too busy, for being too free, for having friends, or not having too many, for indulging myself, for not indulging some significant other, for not knowing how to be woman enough, or being too much of a woman,

Damn! I’m more than this guilt,

I want to put down this burden; I am exhausted of carrying it,

 

I’ve got boxes, and barrels, and tanks full of anger,

I’ve got the superlatives embellished with expletives of this anger,

I’ve got screams, I’ve got battle cries, I’ve got bellows that rot from this anger.

 

And I try to summon my inner duck,

And let it all roll off my back,

And all I’m getting is my inner wolf,

And my haunches are raised and my knuckles are white,

And I hold tight on to my little girl’s hand,

And promise myself she will be stronger than me,

And promise myself that this stain on me is not something contagious or hereditary,

And I tell her, “Baby, house doesn’t always win,

Not if you refuse the oldest game ever played.”

 

My hair smells like jasmine,

And smoke, and soot, and thorns,

And lace, and sweat, and perfume,

And spices, and blood, and milk,

And paper, and dirt, and tears,

And all the things that make me much more than what’s between my legs.

Cover Image: Flickr/(CC BY 2.0)

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Article written by:

Malini is a feminist, a lover of words, a poet, an educator, and a student of life. A Hyderabad-based development communication professional working in the areas of education, gender, and health, she is currently involved in developing adolescent empowerment programs that seek to provide adolescent girls from marginalized communities with the information they need to keep themselves healthy and safe; the tools to make informed choices for themselves and their futures; and skills to negotiate and advocate for themselves and others. Malini believes that engaging with the youth is crucial to building and equitable society for all.

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