Friday, December 7, 2012

Girl by Jamaica Kincaid






Wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap; wash the color clothes on Tuesday and put them on the clothesline to dry; don’t walk barehead in the hot sun; cook pumpkin fritters1  in very hot sweet oil; soak your little cloths right after you take them off; when buying cotton to make yourself a nice blouse, be sure that it doesn’t have gum2  on it, because that way it won’t hold up well after a wash; soak salt fish overnight before you cook it; is it true that you sing benna3  in Sunday school?; always
eat your food in such a way that it won’t turn someone else’s stomach; on Sundays try to walk like a lady and not like the slut you are so bent on becoming; don’t sing benna in Sunday school; you mustn’t speak to wharf-rat boys, not even to give directions; don’t eat fruits on the street – flies will follow you; but I don’t sing benna on Sundays at all and never in Sunday school; this is how to sew on a button; this is how to make a button-hole for the button you have just sewed on; this  is  how to hem a dress  when you see the  hem coming  down and so to  prevent yourself from looking like the slut I know you are so bent on becoming; this is how you iron  your father’s khaki shirt so that it doesn’t have a crease; this is how you iron your father’s khaki pants so that they don’t have a crease; this is how you grow okra – far from the house, because okra4  tree harbors red ants; when you are growing dasheen5, make sure it gets plenty of water or else it makes your throat itch when you are  eating  it;  this  is  how you sweep a corner;  this  is  how you sweep a whole house; this is how you sweep a yard; this is how you smile to someone you don’t like too much; this is how you smile to someone you don’t like at all; this is how you smile to someone you like completely; this is how you set a table for tea; this is how you set a table for dinner; this is how you set a table for dinner with an important guest; this is how you set a table for lunch; this is how you set a table for breakfast; this is how to behave in the presence of men who don’t know you very well, and this way they won’t recognize immediately the slut I have warned you against becoming; be sure to wash every day, even if it is with your own spit; don’t squat down to play marbles – you are not a boy, you know; don’t pick people’s flowers – you might catch something; don’t throw stones at blackbirds, because it might not be a blackbird at all; this is how to make a bread pudding; this is how to make doukona6; this is how to make pepper pot7; this is how to make a good medicine for a cold; this is how to make a good medicine to throw away a child before it even becomes a child; this is how to catch a fish; this is how to throw back a fish you don’t like, and that way something bad won’t fall on you; this is how to bully a man; this is how a man bullies you; this is how to love a man; and if this doesn’t work there are other ways, and if they don’t work don’t feel too bad about giving up; this is how to spit up in the air if you feel like  it,  and this is  how to  move quick  so that it doesn’t  fall on you; this  is how to make ends meet; always squeeze bread to make sure it’s fresh; but what if the baker won’t let me feel the bread?; you mean to say that after all you are really going to be the kind of woman who the baker won’t let near the bread?
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1:fritters: small fried cakes of batter, often containing vegetables, fruit, or other fillings 
2:gum: plant residue on cotton 
3:sing benna: sing popular music (not appropriate for Sunday school) 
4:okra: a shrub whose pods are used in soups, stews, and gumbo 
5:dasheen: the taro plant, cultivated, like the potato, for its edible tuber 
6:doukona: plantain pudding; the plantain fruit is similar to the banana 
7:pepper pot: a spicy West Indian stew