A Brief Natural History of An Eighth Grade Girl

A Brief Natural History of An Eighth Grade Girl by Sarah Freligh

The males [of many animal species]. . . continue to vie for the prize of siring offspring via the one-celled messengers of themselves they leave as a consequence of mating: their sperm.[1]

Fuck is everywhere, scrawled in black felt pen on the stall walls of the third floor girls’ room or chalked across the red brick near the bus line where the greaser boys mob like crows. You walk past them daily, a fifty-yard trudge from car to entrance, and the entire time, you feel their eyes radaring through your wool kilt down to where your white Lollipop panties hide your treasure chest. At least that’s how your gym teacher makes it sound, like your tunnel down there is studded with gems so precious you need an armored car in order to make your way safely through the world. Like you should die rather than hand over the key.

. . . among insects and spiders, at least, . . . . females control much of what happens in reproduction.[2]

 In the locker room after swim class, you huddle up with a dozen other girls underneath the hair dryer—a rusted udder whose nipples blow tornadoes of hot air at your scalp—and howl the lyrics to “Louie Louie” into the bristles of your hairbrush. You try not to look shocked when the girl next to you brags about almost-but-not-quite getting finger fucked by a tenth grader in his father’s garage, or when she sweeps her hair up to show you two faded blue stains where he sucked her neck

. . . female black field crickets in Australia let spermatophores remain attached longer for more attractive males (those singing energetic songs) than for relatively wimpy males.[3]

At night you manufacture movies in your head starring you and whatever face you paste onto a shifting cast of fantasy men—the cute lead singer for Herman’s Hermits, usually, or any one of the Dave Clark Five. Or the skinny ninth grader whose AV duties endow him with a spoonful of cool evident in the ease with which he threads filmstrip into projector. In your own movie, he threads your treasure chest with gold and asks you to do it, only you don’t know enough about it to even imagine it, and so you fall asleep. 

. . . females of most species mate with more than one male, often in rapid succession. . .[4]

Practice makes perfect and over the years you will practice a lot. You will do it in motel rooms and basement apartments and once on the eighteenth green of a golf course on Christmas Eve. You will do it with men you call friends, with men you see once and never again, and men who are not nice. You will do it so often that you will barely recall the time before you understood what it entailed, only that it loomed in the distance like a city at night and how you counted down the miles until you arrived.


Leigh W. Simmons, a biologist at the University of Western Australia, in Perth, claims that you don’t understand life unless you have studied dung flies . . . . [5]


[1] Marlene Zuk, “Sperm and Eggs on Six Legs,” Natural History 119, no. 6 (June 2011): 23-35

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

About Sarah Freligh

Sarah Freligh is the author of Sad Math, winner of the 2014 Moon City Press Poetry Prize, Sort of Gone, and A Brief Natural History of an American Girl, winner of the Editor’s Choice Award from Accents Publishing. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Constance Saltonstall Foundation, and the New York Council on the Arts.

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