Melissa Febos's Girlhood Will Make You Feel Uncomfortable — and Make You Feel Seen

Image Source: Bloomsbury

Most girls hold a specific kind of memory: the memory of a moment they realized their body, as Melissa Febos writes in her memoir-in-essays Girlhood, had made a “violent turn.” For me, it happened one summer, somewhere at the border of elementary school and middle school, when I was rollerblading around my cul-de-sac in a pair of denim shorts. A carful of boys or men — I couldn’t see well enough to tell — whistled and hooted as they drove by, lighting me up with a blend of shame and fear and confusion that made my cheeks hot. For Febos, there was a pool party in the fourth grade, where other girls opined about the kinds of swimsuits they’d wear when they had boobs; the very kind of swimsuit Febos, who already had breasts, was wearing under her oversize T-shirt. When she was finally pressured into joining the other girls in the pool and peeling off her top, she recalls: “They stared at my zippered swimsuit. No, they stared at my body, and in those scorching moments — the blue water turned flame — I knew that there are some people we love for having the things we don’t, and some people we hate for the same reason.”

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