Yo Decido


Leila Guerriero

From Granta:

Sluts. They were all sluts. The women who answered the soda man’s knock in their robes; blondes; old ladies who didn’t wear slips. If your hips swayed when you walked, you were a slut. If you came home after eleven at night, you were a slut. You were a slut if you came to school with painted nails, a slut if you were divorced, and a slut if your parents were divorced.

In Junín, in the province of Buenos Aires – the city where I lived until I was seventeen – life was complicated if you were born male. There were too many options. But if you were born female, it was easy. You only had one decision to make: you were a good girl or you were a slut. And if you were like me – brainy, middle class, child of respectable parents – it was taken for granted that you weren’t a slut, and that you were going to get married with your hymen intact, to your first boyfriend, if possible. Now I’m thirty-seven, I’ve lived in Buenos Aires since I was eighteen, I’ve been living with Diego for nine of those years, and I’ve been asked to write about what makes me a woman. What anchors me to the female side of things. I realize that a) I don’t want to write anything that fits the title ‘I Like Being a Woman’; and b) being a woman in Junín was an almost humiliating experience and yet impossible to avoid writing about here because that was where everything began. I was a paragon of virtue: eleven years old, moralistic, prudish. My parents wouldn’t let me wear high heels, short skirts or makeup. My mother bragged about me as if I avoided temptation of my own accord and not because I was forbidden to do anything.

‘She’s so grown-up,’ said her friends, and my mother replied.

‘Yes, she’s very mature for her age.’

Mature meant that I didn’t go against her orders and that therefore no one had kissed me or touched me and that even if I read the Marquis de Sade’s Justine and got madly turned on, it was all right because no one knew about it. Innocence was the important thing, and it didn’t matter much whether it was real or faked: what mattered was what was in plain sight. And what was in plain sight was me, perfectly chaste.

“I Like Being a Woman (And I Hate Hysterical Women)”, Leila Guerriero, Granta