Bethany Mary on “My Parents Were Going to Give Me Your Name if I Was Born a Boy” by Shy Watson

Inspired by a consuming crush, Shy Watson follows her first book (“Away Status,” previously reviewed!) with the equally stunning “My Parents Were Going to Give Me Your Name If I Was Born a Boy.” This short collection of poems, written in a single season, depict what it is like to want and not be wanted, and to not want and be wanted. Reciprocation in love is truly lucky, and Watson’s work shows the restlessness of disconnection.

Sometimes we pretend to be someone other than who we are, or change ourselves, in order to impress or gain something from someone else. Watson writes,

“if i type persistently enough / in lowercase letters / you will do the same / to get down on my level / to go down on me / i mean,”

showing how easy the game of influence can be. Social media in particular can be a scarily effective manipulation tool, making it difficult to form and maintain honest relationships over any length of time. It’s hard when Tinder dates are so picky about concerts, and when liking Facebook statuses spawns jealousy and tears. It’s hard when all you have to hold onto is two Miis cuddling, instead of holding an actual person.

It’s hard when society teaches that men aren’t supposed to feel attached. Watson’s poems describe nothing on the level of getting matching tattoos or even moving in together. Cute lies aren’t worth it; don’t say you dream about someone if you don’t. But those aren’t things that people say when they actually mean it.

Watson wonders if she will ever write about anything but boys, or believe things about herself without needing boys to tell her they are true. She has been critiqued for her ability to let good things go, let them die, just for deeming them not worthwhile. Many face this same problem, if it is a problem and not just a lifestyle. People let flowers die, just not getting up to water them, even though they think about them. Just thinking about things and people is not enough – you have to put in effort, do things with them. But it’s exhausting to plan hangouts when you are in a mood of asking the pharmacist if you’re still allowed to drink with your medications.

There are times when we just don’t feel things at the appropriate times, being too polite at bars, too lonely on dates. We can lower our standards and teach ourselves to be happy with less than we deserve, because we don’t think we will ever be lucky enough to find more. Watson clarifies her desires with the lines,

“i don’t necessarily want to wake up next to you /
i just thought it was cute when i watched you fall asleep.”

We can be so paranoid, get so caught up in how other people act and how we think we should act around them. We settle so we don’t have to struggle. It’s not easy to put yourself out there, “it’s just not easy
/ being placed inside of someone else’s snow globe / to be looked at,” it’s not easy to take risks in love at all. It’s better to not get serious, to not get judged. Watson finds an admirable medium, being herself but not expecting things to last, just going with the flow and enjoying where it goes, even if it ends up hurting. Every experience is worth its lesson.

Keep up with Watson’s experiences on Twitter @sadsects and on Tumblr at

(Bottlecap Press, Poetry, 2017)

BETHANY MARY is a meditative tea snob studying gerontology in Minnesota. She was once the poetry editor of Green Blotter Literary Magazine and now reads submissions for Spark: A Creative Anthology and Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry. As an asexual advocate for a sexual assault center and blogger for Resources for Ace Survivors, she focuses on boundaries and mental health in her own writing. Some of her work is out in the world, and she rants on Twitter @bethanylmary.