What became a text-only post read:
Frida Kahlo to her husband…
“I’m not asking you to kiss me, nor apologize to me when I think you’re wrong. I won’t even ask you to hug me when I need it most. I don’t ask you to tell me how beautiful I am, even if it’s a lie, nor write me anything beautiful. I won’t even ask you to call me to tell me how your day went, nor tell me you miss me. I won’t ask you to thank me for everything I do for you, nor to care about me when my soul is down, and of course, I won’t ask you to support me in my decisions. I won’t even ask you to listen to me when I have a thousand stories to tell you. I won’t ask you to do anything, not even be by my side forever. Because if I have to ask you, I don’t want it anymore.”
No citations were included in the post. When it was originally shared in the post above, a digitally edited image featuring Kahlo’s head on somebody else’s body was included (and later removed):
Like many posts of its type, it was shared thousands of times.
A Brief History of Putting Words in Frida Kahlo’s Mouth, or Attributing Other Women’s Work to Her
Frida Kahlo is often depicted as she is above — that is, her face or head is added on to a moderately-alluring photograph of a partly-disrobed woman.
What is perhaps the most popular quotation falsely attributed to Kahlo may have also kicked off the social media tradition of attributing similar sentiments to the artist. We examined the persistently misattributed quote in April 2019:
In October 2019, we looked at another poem erroneously attributed to Kahlo, a work which shared traits with the tone of the previous one:
Both works went viral when lifted from their original authors, and both often included edited images of Kahlo, who has emerged over the years as somewhat of a patron saint of relationship strife on sites like Tumblr.
In the first instance was a poem attributed to Kahlo (often reduced to “take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic”) but written by Marty McConnell. The second inaccurate attribution was often described as “You Deserve a Lover,” and it was written by Mexican poet Estefanía Miter.
Although we can’t say for sure, we suspect a significant volume of breakup anthem poetry is attributed to Kahlo, and we just haven’t seen it yet.
Frida Kahlo: ‘If You Have to Ask,’ on Facebook
In August 2020, the popular “She is Fire” post was not the only variation on a copy of the work attributed to Kahlo.
A cursory search revealed a number of Facebook posts from the same month, with the same commentary. At least one August 2020 Facebook iteration did not claim Kahlo authored the poem:
However, most of the time, an attribution to Kahlo (with an image) appeared to drive share counts way up. On August 18 2020, a counseling center in Australia shared the writing and credited Kahlo:
Other August 2020 Iterations
On August 6 2020, the quote was attributed to Kahlo on a Medium.com post, which simply read:
If I have to say it
I’m not going to ask you to kiss me Neither ask for forgiveness when I believe that you have done wrong or that you have made a mistake. Nor am I going to ask you to hug me when I need it the most or to invite me to dinner on our anniversary. I’m not going to ask you to go around the world to live new experiences much less ask you to give me your hand when we are in that city. I’m not going to ask you to tell me how pretty I am even if it’s a lie or that you write me anything nice. Nor will I ask you to call me to tell me how your day was or tell me you miss me. I’m not going to ask you to thank me for everything I do for you, for you to worry about me when my moods are down and of course I will not ask you to support me in my decisions. I’m not going to ask you to listen to me when I have a thousand stories to tell you. I’m not going to ask you to do anything, not even to stay by my side forever. Because if I have to ask you I do not want it anymore.
On August 9 2020, a blog post titled “This Poem by Frida Kahlo is Heartbreaking, Raw & Incredibly Accurate” appeared, which was identical to an August 3 2020 Elephant Journal post by the same author. It began:
As I was going through some old copybooks of mine, I came across a few poems, which Frida Kahlo wrote.
Frida’s poem was most probably addressed to her husband, Diego, who was behind the bigger part of her emotional suffering. To be honest, I think I read the poem more than five times—it simply knocked my socks off.
Here are the words that came out straight from Frida Kahlo’s mouth and that could abundantly inspire us:
Immediately thereafter, the poem appeared. A commenter inadvertently showed how misattributions can persist and be replicated:
I was so inspired by Frida Kahlo’s poem that I translated it into Macedonian and posted it on Facebook so that my friends can enjoy its touching beauty.
Another subtly asked for attribution, but received no reply:
May I please get the title of this poem in Spanish?
Notably, the author of the post described the source of the poem as “some old copybooks” of theirs, which could have contained misattributions from sites like Tumblr or Reddit. A Tumblr user also shared the poem, on August 10 2020, attributed to Frida Kahlo. They added a note at the bottom, reading:
( ever since I read this months ago I realized how I deserved better and how strong I can be as a woman )
A Spanish language iteration of the poem was shared by a Facebook page on July 5 2020, providing a different title — “NO TE VOY A PEDIR | Frida Kahlo” (“I’m not going to ask”):
Earlier Attributions of ‘If I Have to Ask’ to Frida Kahlo
One very clear thing about the specific writing and its attribution to Kahlo is that search results on individual quotes from the poem came up suspiciously light — typically a few dozen results, predominantly to Instagram scraper sites.
Searching for “Frida Kahlo” and “If I Have to Say It” returned only seventeen results on August 25 2020, a number likely to increase as it continued to spread. Searches for the Spanish title yielded approximately the same number of results, beginning at roughly the same time. Similar searches of excerpts returned 33 results, and when we restricted a search to anything before August 2018, we came up with no results.
Among those thing results was one Twitter reply from November 2018:
And a Reddit thread from October 2018 was the only iteration of the quote we found across Reddit, shared to a subreddit about breakups:
One mismatched search result was an April 2013 article, “Frida Kahlo’s Passionate Hand-Written Love Letters to Diego Rivera,” which made no mention of the quote.
Of all the iterations in English — which took off from “sporadic” to “everywhere” in August 2020 — the earliest we located was a December 16 2017 blog post titled “IF I HAVE TO SAY IT BY FRIDA KAHLO.” It began:
Today, I’m sharing with you a quote by Frida Kahlo, famous Mexican painter who was born in 1907. This woman was obviously a force of nature, vibrant and larger than life, but also vulnerable and very human. She represents the pain every woman on earth is going through—physical and emotional. Know that not a lot can fathom the anguish of a woman who has been hurt, the depth of her sorrow, the height of her bliss then the descent to the grey plateaus in between. Frida showed that a female’s life is so full yet so empty. But she conquers her passion and needs and meditates herself to a spiritual trance by her paintings and by writing it all down in her diary.
Just after that, a popular version shared in Spanish on December 20 2017 received more than 10,000 shares. No attribution was included:
No voy a pedirte nada – Frida Kahlo
No te voy a pedir que me des un beso.
Ni que me pidas perdón cuando creo que lo has hecho mal o que te has equivocado.
Tampoco voy a pedirte que me abraces cuando más lo necesito,
o que me invites a cenar el día de nuestro aniversario.
No te voy a pedir que nos vayamos a recorrer el mundo,
a vivir nuevas experiencias,
y mucho menos te voy a pedir que me des la mano
cuando estemos en mitad de esa ciudad.
No te voy a pedir que me digas lo guapa que voy, aunque sea mentira,
ni que me escribas nada bonito.
Tampoco te voy a pedir que me llames para contarme qué tal te fue en el día,
ni que me digas que me echas de menos.
No te voy a pedir que me des las gracias por todo lo que hago por ti,
ni que te preocupes por mí cuando mis ánimos están por los suelos,
y por supuesto, no te pediré que me apoyes en mis decisiones.
Tampoco te voy a pedir que me escuches cuando tengo mil historias que contarte.
No te voy a pedir que hagas nada,
ni siquiera que te quedes a mi lado para siempre.
Porque si tengo que pedírtelo, ya no lo quiero.
A November 2016 blog post (“Si tengo que pedírtelo, ya no lo quiero,” or “If I have to ask you for it, I no longer want it”) attributed the writing to Kahlo, and the earliest iteration we located attributed to Kahlo in either English or Spanish was in October 2016.
Earliest Iterations Without Attribution to Kahlo
We located what appeared to be a July 2016 iteration of the same poem shared to Pinterest-like site WeHeartIt:
From there, we located a June 21 2016 blog post featuring the phrasing, in a longer context, titled “No voy a pedirte nada.” Kahlo was not credited in that very early iteration. On June 6 2016, a Tumblr user shared a version of the quote in Spanish, again with no Kahlo attribution:
No te voy a pedir que me des un beso. Ni que me pidas perdón cuando creo que lo has hecho mal o que te has equivocado. Tampoco voy a pedirte que me abraces cuando más lo necesito. No te voy a pedir que nos vayamos a recorrer el mundo, a vivir nuevas experiencias, y mucho menos te voy a pedir que me des la mano cuando estemos en mitad de esa ciudad. No te voy a pedir que me digas lo guapa que voy, aunque sea mentira, ni que me escribas nada bonito. Tampoco te voy a pedir que me llames para contarme qué tal te fue la noche, ni que me digas que me echas de menos, ni que hagas la tonta conmigo cuando mis ánimos están por los suelos, y por supuesto, no te pediré que me apoyes en mis decisiones. Tampoco te voy a pedir que me escuches cuando tengo mil historias que contarte. No te voy a pedir que hagas nada, ni siquiera que te quedes a mi lado para siempre.
Porque si tengo que pedírtelo, ya no lo quiero.
We found no iterations older than the Tumblr post, which looked to be the poem’s first appearance on social media. In both June 2016 iterations, the writing was not attributed to Kahlo.
In August 2020, a poem purportedly written by Frida Kahlo to her husband — often titled “If I Have To Ask” or “I have to ask you, I don’t want it anymore” — spread virally on social media. The poem has been attributed to Kahlo since October 2016, but the earliest iterations we located on a blog and on Tumblr did not have any attribution. It is likely, though not certain, that a fellow Tumblr user copied another user’s writing, adding the image of and attribution to Kahlo to rack up likes and shares. Based on the many, many versions shared over the intervening years, the strategy was successful.