{ten things they don’t teach you at thirteen}


You are a matryoshka doll; a girl full of girls, all of which are you. You do not have to pick and choose one, and the others don’t get to do so either. You are not a walking buffet.

You are allowed to contain multitudes – ask Whitman. (He’ll be waiting for you on the front lawn. You’ll recognise him by the ‘stache.)


You are allowed to unstack – more so, you are bound to. If you don’t, how will the dolls in the middle be able to breathe?

I know, the one at the core is fetally tiny. There is no shame in this. The best things are soft in the middle: think Tootsie Pops and planet earth and the ever-lopsided chocolate cakes your sister used to bake you when your mum was away.

(She didn’t bake when your dad went out of town. There was not enough flour in the world to do so. Instead, there were mum’s microwave meals or potatoes the size of hand grenades, salty and soggy with tears. It doesn’t matter. You weren’t hungry to begin with.)



Girls are never hungry, for they’re not made of bones or blood or fat or flesh – if you were to gash open their bellies, nothing but pastels and pearls would roll out.

If girls do eat, they nibble salad minus croutons or jacketed ice cream cones minus ice cream cones. Gnawing on ice cubes, coloured straws or grocery lists is fine as well.

(Stuff your every orifice with bread when they try to tell you this. You are a steam locomotive, made of machinery. You’ve got places to go and waggons to tow. You won’t see Old Bess lurking dietary milkshakes, will you? You are the Invicta. You are Catch Me Who Can. You are the Lancaster Witch. You are the Fairy Queen. The Fairy Queen had two cylinders and weighed twenty-six long tons. This didn’t make her any less of a fairy nor any less of a queen.)


Your body may not speak the same language as your sister’s yet – a language of blotchy cleavages and pimple-popping – but I beg you to be patient with it. Take your time. You have so much time, dear, my god, you won’t believe how much time you have.

But instead you watch your favourite grenade-girl from afar and take hasty notes. Laugh real loud at everything everyone says. Let your skirt ride up your legs. Touch boys’ upper arms and always act a little less intelligent than you actually are.

You fail at copying her movements just like you fail at copying beauty tutorials in which already big-breasted ladies try to teach you how to sprinkle eye-shadow in between your nearly non-existent boobs.

Distress. Distress. You wait for boobs the way one would wait for the train.

When they finally arrive, you spend hours standing on your tippy-toes, squinting into the mirror.

Oh, let me answer this one for you: yes, your right tit is bigger than the other.

This is okay. You are okay. I know it may be hard to believe, but your asymmetrical brassiere won’t make the sky come down in shards.


You might fall in love with the girl who’s always roller-skating down the street, holding a popsicle that’s dripping down her wrist. Her veins will be the most vulnerable kind of lilac and you will tell yourself you met a girl made of wet watercolour paint. You will forget to ask her for her name at first, so you will baptise her something saccharine sweet, like Rose or Bluebell or Clementine.

You might fall in love with the boy you caught playing the harmonica in the park. When he laughs at you, all of the pennies you ever lost will find their way back to your pockets. Use them to buy him raspberry ice cream and tell him stories about your baby brother.

You might fall in love with both of them.

You might fall in love with neither.

All of the above are wonderful things, as long as you also remember to fall in love with old cartoons and the sounds of spring and the peachy fuzz below your belly button and the way your fingers wrinkle when you stay in the bathtub for too long. (The world is such a pretty place, and you are such a pretty part of it.)


Take the goddamn compliment.


You remember the time that bluebrowngreygreen-eyed stranger grabbed your butt at a party? (You remember. Of course you do. Sometimes those broad, bony fingers still pry open your skull and all of a sudden it feels as if you’re sitting down on his hands.)

He had no right to do so. He had not a single right to do so and you knew, but your sister seemed to find it funny, so you just snorted silly bubbles into your beer and let your secret admirer buy you a drink.

You hold the cup like a sceptre until you manage to make your way to the toilet – excuse me, the ladies’ room, because boys piss but girls tinkle – where you pour your free drink down the drain. “What the hell?” the girl next to the hand-dryer frowns. She’s got a little puke in her hair.

“I didn’t pay for it,” you explain as you let the last bits of the drink drizzle down the drain, “some strange man bought it for me.”

“Well,” she says, “congrats, you just wasted a perfectly good beer. I bet my head nothing bad would’ve happened if you’d just drunk it,” and then the sink falls off the wall.

You don’t understand why, but you start crying as soon as you get in the stall. And you wait. You wait in hopes the sour-smelling, butt-grabbing man will be gone by the time you pull up your panties.

(Don’t hesitate to call your mother. Listen to your gut, little girl. If you don’t think it’s okay, it’s not.)


Aphrodite had love handles. The girls on the bill boards don’t look like the girls on the bill boards. Everyone poops. Angelina Jolie has armpit hair, too. You are not this mythical, pure little rhinestone.

Try to understand me when I tell you you were not designed to be pretty. You are this sad creature creeping through the woods forever forgetting it’s an animal.

Now, don’t take this too harsh from me – I know you can’t help it. The Eve they always drew you had double D’s and a brazilian. But tell me, what use did the first woman have, plucking her eyebrows?



The girls at school like to tear each other into confetti with their teeth and call it chit-chatting, but my love, talking someone else ugly won’t make you any prettier. Other girls’ bodies are no junkyards for you to roam. Don’t you dare slip someone else’s too-broad nose into your purse or braid yourself a shawl out of fizzy hair.

There are over three billion girls on earth.

Wouldn’t the world be wonderful if we were all at least a little kind to each other?


You will be alright. You will be alright. You will be alright no matter how much you feel like you won’t.



To kick-off the count-down, and to give our reader a treat – that was

APHRODITE HAD LOVE HANDLES (ten things they don’t teach you thirteen), a prose-poem by Nina Estlin. You may seen this poem in ISSUE 3: THE PEOPLE WE MAKE, accompanied with art by Julia Famula & editing + graphics by Athena Tan

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