Based on the movie (and subsequent musical) ‘Heathers’, which I love more than anything. I reimagined the three Heathers as local secondary school girls and tried to place them in our context.
And then realised that oh, they’d all definitely be uber-privileged Chinese girls. So we have this.
C/TW: Eating disorder (bulimia), sexual abuse, bullying, slut-shaming, fat-shaming, toxic masculinity, internalized misogyny.
heather duke is the girl in your class
who was always on her phone,
and is somehow a prefect, and a class rep.
she’s the one who’ll get just close enough to you
pry you open just enough
before she can rip open your chest
and spill your guts all over the curb
for everyone to step on.
but she always comes second place,
her voice echoes, her damage screams
yet she’s always a forgotten face.
she tries to organize the class outing,
but no one ever cares.
she confesses to a guy she likes
and when he rejects her
she writes long Facebook posts about betrayal
and posts passive agressive edits and inspirational posts.
sometimes, you hear retching from the stall next door
but there’s no right way to approach this,
not when you hear it all too often.
you wonder sometimes if she will ever realise
that she is worth more that what she believes,
that she is enough,
that she is is not the sum of all she’s been told.
you wonder if she’ll take back her life someday.
there’s a good chance she does not.
heather mcnamara is the cute girl in your CCA
who’s always just a little bit blur, always smiling,
and always gets thrown to take pictures for the yearbook.
the pictures never turn out very good.
sometimes she laughs when heather duke says something mean,
though she never says it herself.
sometimes she retweets pictures of cute animals on twitter,
but she never expresses an opinion, never takes sides.
sometimes, that’s the worst part.
she’s always a little distant,
though she’s always a little friendly.
her boyfriend is the kind of guy who wraps an arm around her shoulders
pulls her in with an uncomfortable tightness-
she always looks smaller when you see them together.
when you catch her alone in the bathroom,
she is reapplying concealer,
covering the darks under her eyes.
you watch her shoulders slump
her eyes go dark,
but that girl is gone
when she steps out that door.
heather chandler is the pretty girl with knives for teeth.
during chinese new year
every picture of her is against a brick wall,
every caption is #blessed.
she rolls her eyes when called out on anything-
she might be casually racist,
but you know what, she doesn’t care about that-
who cares about that stuff?
she shares articles on Facebook about animal cruelty with three crying emojis
but scoffs at anyone with depression because “i get sad too sometimes and you never see me complain what.”
you’re not sure why she’s hanging out
with heather duke and heather mcnamara,
but you see them at the McDonald’s together sometimes,
she’s always got her kanken in the seat beside her,
if you lean in to catch an earful-
she’s always the one talking.
“oh my god. get fucked with a chainsaw, heather” she says, laughing, clearly at duke
“you’re such a slut.”
all three of them laugh,
but only one of them thinks she’s funny.
and you- who are you?
from the outside looking in,
wondering what made them special,
wondering if you were special if you didn’t want that.
you watch heather duke’s eyes sink in as her bulimia consumes her,
you watch heather mcnamara leave.
you watch heather chandler slut-shame and bully and rip into everyone else
and you thought they set the example, the grain to go against.
you watch them-
horrible and teenage and confused and tired,
filled to the brim with privileges and expectations
reacting to the world that groomed and demanded and stole from them-
and you pat yourself on the back-
“at least i’m not like other girls”.
you all graduate.
you will lose contact with everyone.
you learn. you unlearn.
you move on-
all of that was secondary school shit,
none of it matters now,
you’re a different person now.
chandler posts another picture in her yoga outfit-
maybe this time she’s on yacht,
or maybe she’s in a sarong bikini at the beach,
maybe she’s in church, failing to see the irony,
she posts reunion pictures with
heather duke and heather mcnamara
with captions like “catch up soon!!”, “love you bitches!!”
sometimes you can kind of notice
she’s always center front, poised,
they’re always at some expensive bar,
and heather duke always looks a little wasted.
duke’s social media goes dark-
you see her on chandler’s facebook,
mcnamara writes a long thinkpiece about her
experience with internalized misogyny,
how it fed her depression,
how it fed the sexual abuse in her secondary school years,
how she did what was expected of her.
her facebook profile picture has a pride filter.
you hope she’s doing better.
maybe it doesn’t matter what happened then-
the cruelty of being a teen,
never really realising you are being kept in a box
until you grow too big for it.
some never grow enough to notice it.
often, it’s not by any fault of their own.
maybe it doesn’t matter if you never find out
what happened to the girl who vomited in the bathroom
because her best friend called her fat
while her other friend laughed.
maybe it doesn’t matter.
maybe people don’t change.
maybe we learn to sharpen our tongues
and file our nails
because we were supposed to be sweet,
we were supposed to be ladies,
to be mature, to care.
maybe people don’t change
if their privilege grants them success
within the boundaries of the system
that oppresses anyone who doesn’t look like them.
but maybe you changed,
maybe what happened back then matters-
it was the mulch that fed your growth,
expand beyond the box,
slam your fists against the glass
until it shatters, until it cuts and you bleed.
you heart react heather mcnamara’s post.
the next time you see her,
you are a different person-
and so is she.
she seems to be doing better.
you’re starting to feel better,