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Thursday, October 11, 2012

if reduxx

So here we are.

Once upon a time, Rudyard Kipling wrote the poem If. It’s a lovely poem, but definitely a man’s poem written in the Era of Men. When you read it (here, if you like), you can practically smell the tobacco and the Y chromosomes.

I am reminded of it whenever I have to take the subway or bus during the morning rush: If you can keep your head when all about you/Are losing theirs and blaming it on you. Lately, though, it’s taken on a whole new freshness in the context of the current election season.

Still, it made me wonder what sort of similar poem would be written today, in this brave new Era, for those feminine souls who only have X chromosomes... and so I wrote it:

If you can manage to be not so smart
That menfolk fear your footsteps in the hall;
But to be bright and sharper than a dart,
And guarantee your boss won’t call you “doll;”
If you can have a bust that’s lofty-large,
Resist the urge to market it in trade,
And reassure the troops that you’re in charge
And not let on you know you have it made;

If you can pull off pleated pants, or worse,
The latest, orange-est coral lipstick shade;
If you can boldly stroll without a purse
In shoes that are both stylish and well-made;
If you can tell which fashions to eschew
While still implying that in life you’re brave;
Maintaining that impossible size two,
And knowing what you should and should not shave;

If you can balance poverty and wealth
In thrift store skirts and high-end lingerie;
Knowing how to safety-pin with stealth,
And act as though you meant to look that way;
If you can hold your liquor with the boys,
And throw down wings until the day is done,
And let your girly giggle cut their noise,
Be virgin, whore, and mother all in one;

If you can juggle all the things you want,
Or buy the things you want but cannot have,
Or steal the things that others like to flaunt,
Or get the knockoffs solely as a salve;
If you can balance life and work and womb,
Be held up as the best-est beauty queen,
And find love from the cradle to the tomb,
Congratulations... you’re a magazine.

Actually, in this brave new Era, such a re-imagined poem would probably only have 140 characters and be called F

Oh, well. I’m just a girl, after all. 

Yes indeed. Welcome to me.


  1. Well this is swell--as if I did not have enough on my plate, I now have a horrible crush on your poetry writing to contend with, having just gotten over an acute outbreak of the shuckin' fudgeries.

  2. If Kipling's actual poetry were this engaging, I wouldn't have slept through Honors English.