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Too Pretty

By Sunu P. Chandy

October on the subway, roses at my side
kids being loud. One skinny girl
with a cap and a pretty smile
gets up to give me her seat
and takes this chance to sit
on her friend’s lap. I read the paper
and look over at these girls. So free
and easy they are laughing laughing.
I look at the pink pink roses
and how I say I am not a romantic
and how this whole roses thing
is going to ruin my reputation
against romance. I watch the girls. I watch
the skinny girl in boy’s clothes and pretty smile
flirt with all the other girls. So free
and easy they are laughing laughing.

And the man next to me, he is also watching watching.
And the man next to me, he leans over and says to me:

Hey Miss, Hey Miss, that’s too pretty to be a boy, right?

As if somehow that thought disgusts him.
As if he wants some agreement about this disgust.
And me I am just relieved that he knows
that I am a Miss and not a pretty boy. So I just shrug
and I say nothing because it is 1997 and I am still
afraid. Afraid to say what does a she look like
and what does a boy look like. And what does too pretty
look like and what is your problem exactly. And I don’t know
whether his disgust is that he thinks girls who look
like boys should be beat
up or boys who look like girls should be beat
up because, in fact, we know, they both are. I only know
that I was relieved that he did not know my pink
pink roses were for a girl and somehow I have this safety
of passing and I think to myself:
You all sitting there laughing laughing
sitting there on your sixth grade girlfriend’s lap
so free and easy, laughing laughing,
be safe my handsome girls, be safe my pretty boys.

Added: Friday, July 1, 2016  /  Used with permission.
Sunu P. Chandy
Photo by Fid Thompson.

Sunu P. Chandy (she/her) is a social justice activist both as a poet and a civil rights attorney. Regal House published her collection of poems, My Dear Comrades, in March 2023. Sunu’s other publications include pieces in Asian American Literary Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Poets on Adoption, and in anthologies including The Penguin Book of Indian Poets, The Long Devotion: Poets Writing Motherhood and This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation. Sunu works at the National Women’s Law Center, and is a board member with the Transgender Law Center. Sunu was honored as one the 2021 Queer Women of Washington. Sunu is delighted to be in community with friends, old and new, as we connect around our creative work and find greater solidarity. 

Image Description: A black and white photo of Sunu P. Chandy. She wears a black T-shirt and a South Asian scarf draped on one of her shoulders. Without question, she is smiling. She is not wearing a necklace, but she has on a sparkly nose pin and lipstick.

Other poems by this author