Thank a Bad Girl
Denise Tolan

There are, of course, bad girls.
Bad girls who open wide for a Xanax and close tightly for a snort.
Bad girls who spread their legs when sitting at a table but will not shut their mouths when standing at one.
Bad girls rarely self-identify.
Bad girls, unlike bad boys, do not become legends.
Girls go bad in the way food goes bad, or batteries go bad, or the weather turns bad.
Bad girls are not intentional. They say.

I am a bad girl.
I will sleep with your best friend before we split up to ensure the break is clean.
I will gift your mother a heartbreakingly exquisite silver bowl the week before I leave you.
I will, quite naturally, lie with you in the woods while a group of Eagle Scouts mark trails within the sound of my call. You will be nervous. You say.

I am bad in ways you will remind me of five years later when you dial my number.
You will tell me these things:
1. I was never that pretty or clever or thin;
2. You never read my poetry;
3. When you turned me over to kiss my lips, it was because you were done.
While you deny me, I will begin to moan in the same key as when we drove deep deep deep into that dark tunnel in Utah and broke the sacred silence.
This time, I will drive myself.
Shit, you’ll say.
Oh yeah, I’ll cry.
Bad girls work the drama.

But bad boys write the drama. They invent other bad boys who work where people spit and shit and pray for death, but these bad boys don’t clean or get on their knees or fold their hands.
Imaginary bad boys are the voyeurs of the working class.
Bad boys leave behind unpaid bills, mothers who cry, women who wait for them like births that never came/like redemptive crosses/like hope.
Bad boys vomit words across a page that smell like old blankets put away while still damp.
Yet we read them as metaphors for salvation. Shit.

Bad girls are cautionary tales written in invisible ink.
We actually wait tables, literally wipe asses, write stories from the perspective of age.
Bad girls, like bad boys, are not always pretty, or sexy, or dressed in costume.
Bad girls are flavored with fat and coated in color and sometimes have stringy hair here and too much hair there.
Bad girls are never one size for all, but in your hands, we become #badgirls #your mom #your sister #Angelina Jolie or #Jennifer Anniston or #the blonde or #the one who wore blood around her neck. #that’s hot.

Men name bad girls Jenny or Ginny. Sometimes they confuse and conflate the two.
But bad girls know how to suck it in to suck you in
kneel and howl to a moon that is not yours
claw and clutch to get out, not in.
We can kill the unborn without as much regret as you might think.
Bad girls are rarely redemptive.

Some girls wake to the sigh of a nocturnal murmur.
Bad girls arm themselves in glitter or leather or pink when they hear Mother Nature’s URGEnt BOOM.
Some girls drink wine, watch plotted porn, play with toys delivered by Amazon Prime.
Bad girls work their knuckles to the bone.
Some girls muffle ugly sounds. Dress extra carefully the next day.
Bad girls don’t mind if you watch.

Bad girls are not maidens, of course, but you can thank them for their largesse if you wish.
You can try.

Denise Tolan is a writer and an educator living in San Antonio, Texas. Her work has appeared in journals such as Lunch TicketHobartApple Valley ReviewThe Saturday Evening Post, and others. Denise is obsessed with all things Moby-Dick and longs for calmer seas ahead.