Lace has lined her wrists, collarbones, thighs, and the curves of her chest—
               whatever is in fashion at the time. 
She dresses neither for men nor herself. She dresses to match. 
               Wanting to look like the China dolls that lined the shelves of her childhood bedroom. Dolls, dressed in lace, hair in curls. Wanted by all who passed the shop windows. 
               She, too, wants to be wanted. 
By men, women, the world. 
               She dresses in lace, lines her eyes with kohl. 

It works. 

Men flock to the toy store, wanting lace dressed dolls of their own. 
               Mother’s drape their daughters in Chantilly, tulle, and mesh. 	
She is not simply wanted, but now taught to be desired. 
               Though, she cannot give into it. 
Cannot desire, cannot dream, cannot dance—not freely. 
               It all ruins the lace. 	

She then notices, 
               as filigree is being used to fasten her lips shut, 	
that being wanted was never synonymous with being loved. 
               Dolls were always designed to be toyed with. 

It’s too late.

By now, men have learned how to play with dolls. 
               They’re less careful. 
Under pressure, hair uncurls, kohl smears, and lace tears. 
               The act of tearing professes power, 	
reinforces powerlessness. 
               Lace isn’t strong enough to withstand the hypocrisy of it. 

She changes clothes,
               juxtaposing delicate lace with hard leather. 
See how it confuses men, frightens them. 
               Good. She now likes to be feared. Find power in fabric. Assert it. 
Soon, leather too becomes fantasy. 
               Desperate—she switches to canvas, corduroy, suede, and denim. 
She tries short skirts, long skirts, no skirts. 
               Conservative. Carefree. It doesn’t matter. 
It seems that men have learned to like playing dress up. 
               Switching fabrics. Sneaking peeks. 

At night, whilst the world sleeps. 
               She tries on a lace nightgown, 
realizing she resembles neither a doll nor a girl—
               but a ghost. 

About the Author:

Ria Dhingra is a Sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is pursuing a degree in English Literature. Her work has been recognized by her university as she was the recipient of the Mackaman Undergraduate Writer’s Award in 2021. Her work appears in or is forthcoming in Bridge Literary Journal. Ria is a lover of stories, car rides, post-it notes, and trying to find beauty in the ordinary.

Image by 傅甬 华/ Unsplash