Natalie Wendel, age 26

Albuquerque, NM

“You Don’t Own Us”

My entire life I was taught to live in a way that a man would approve of or want. I was taught that if you please your man and do what he wants you will have him for forever- not that if you did all that he’d still likely cheat on you and give you an STD that has no cure. I was 18 when I was diagnosed with HSV 1 on my genitals, he was the man I thought I’d marry and spend the rest of my life with, because I did everything I possibly could do for him. It was never enough. I was never enough. It’s taken me 25 years to figure out I don’t owe men shit, I don’t have to cater to them, if anything they should cater to me. I am not less than for having a disease a man gave me- a man I loved for a very long time. Men will never tell me what to do again, will never have the power to belittle me again, and no longer will I bend over backwards to please one. I am a woman and I will be respected like the queen I am.