Baking a girl, a daughter even, is an easy at-home project, not much harder than whipping up the perfect sugar cookie. To make her crumble-proof is as simple as old alchemy. A strong daughter requires little more than your last nerve, your worst scars, and the buried fears you hid in shadows. The trick is regulating heat: too little or too much and she’ll forget to hold her keys between her knuckles in the parking lot at night.
2 cups ferocity
1 cup food and shelter [you cannot bake a hungry girl; first, she must be fed and housed.]
½ cup opportunity
½ cup self-regard
A generous spoonful of dreams
A heap of stories, preferably with beasts—both human and inhuman
5 teaspoons of persistence
A pinch of bravery [the brand is up to you, but it’s best to use the kind distilled from survivors]
1. Gather your ingredients in a room without smartphones, cameras or mirrors. Remove airbrushed fashion photos, advertisements for unblemished skin, and prescriptions for fad diets. Keep your work space clean.
2. Preheat the oven. The temperature is mostly guesswork. Hot enough to melt a filtered selfie, but not so hot that she will burn with mania, depression, anxiety, addiction, anorexia, bulimia, self-harm or suicide. This is, of course, the tricky part. Test the heat with your own skin. Adjust at intervals determined by your faith, luck, and experience.
3. Girls are best baked in deep pans with room for secrets.
4. Blend the ingredients in any order you see fit. They will not be light and fluffy. Take your time. Stir well.
5. Pour the girl into the pan, using a spatula to scrape the bowl down to its bones.
6. Bake the girl for ten to twenty years, rotating the pan at frequent intervals, while singing songs of rebellion and telling stories where the heroines are warriors, artists, writers, inventors, dragon-slayers or executives.
7. The girl is finished when a wish inserted in her center comes out clean.
8. Place her on a rack to cool. Give her space. She might have wings. Or talons. She might erupt or quietly unfold like reverse origami into the shape she’s chosen. Let her stand. Or fly.
9. When she’s gone, clean your oven thoroughly, but leave the splatter in your heart.