Let the Boys Do That

As a little girl, I spent much of my time digging in the backyard and dreaming up stories. I’m discovering that this activity still brings me remarkable inspiration.  This poem I share with you came to me while digging weeds out of the back lawn.

At the top of the list
of things I hate to be told
“Let the boys do that.”

My father taught me strength
as strong as a rose,
that pierces its predators
and, despite storms,
grows and
grows and

Do not impose your weakness
upon me.

Do not think me unfeminine
if I wear bare feet
instead of heels,
or name car parts
instead of shades of pink⎼

or rather, do not think
this dress I wear,
the flower in my hair,
the pretty paper I refused to tear,
make me weak.

I was fourteen the first time someone told me,
“Let the boys do that.”

I’ve heard this refrain
countless times since.

Yet I’ve carried scores of eight-foot Christmas trees,
been elbow-deep in engine grease,
sparked blazing bonfires all alone,
sanded wood until it shone,
rolled a mansion’s walls with paint,
climbed a mountain without complaint,
built a bed frame, built bookshelves,
carved more spears than Tolkien’s elves.

I can lift this box.

I can lift this box,
and, should I need help,
I will ask.
I fear asking for help
as little as I fear giving it.

I love my father,
my uncles,
my cousins,
my friends,
my brothers,

but do not tell me
to let the boys do that.


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