Tag Archives: sisters

What older sisters should be

My sisters were all older but they didn’t do the things that I’ve become wise to (over the passing decades) that older sisters are supposed to do. They did not teach me how to put on makeup, or how to do dance steps, or tell me anything helpful about boys. They didn’t give me good advice, or show me how to knit, or teach me to read. They did not buffet me from the chaos and drama that infused our household, or model admirable character, or guide me in how to live successfully. It goes on like that.

But here’s the thing. that’s not the whole story. When I’m looking at the whole scene, I know nobody did all of that for them either; they could not embody for me what no one had embodied for them. Their strongest influence was our mother. It was up to her to show her older daughters how to lead her younger ones, whether by her own example or by instruction. She did not.

But here’s the bigger thing. My sisters loved me. I never doubted that. Whatever else they lacked, wherever they fell short in my eyes, they loved me. That love was something I hung my hat on for a long time. It was love I returned. It made so much difference. When I look back at the gaps and what my sisters were not, I make sure I remember that too.

Short Thought 173 ( sisters)

I must have been in my late teens. I could figure it out exactly if I really had to, but that part isn’t important. Our cousin and his wife were visiting. The women were sitting around the dining room table talking the way we did. Our cousin’s wife was pregnant with their first child. My older sisters informed her how the birth would be, how she would be screaming in agony and cursing out her husband. They knew all about it. That my sisters had never given birth, or even witnessed a birth was beside the point. It was not the last time I would think my sisters were full of sh*t.

When women talk smack to me

When I was younger and another girl or woman took verbal shots at me, I’d get very uncomfortable and likely handle it awkwardly. I’d perhaps smile nervously or say nothing. I might try to explain myself. I rarely stood up for myself or hit back. I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. Their STUPID feelings.

I’ve thought about it quite a bit. I believe for a long time I soft-pedaled with those of my gender. I interacted differently with women than men. You might argue that most of us do. I however, became conscious of this business. Why did I let women talk shit to my face? Why did I feel so ill-equipped to respond?

It isn’t that I wasn’t used to girls. I grew up with sisters. I aligned myself with them. As the youngest of the girls in my family and thanks to mostly large age gaps, I didn’t feel competitive with my sisters. A lot of things, but not that. I considered myself cemented in their ranks but being who I am, well, I was always my own person and only became more so, thinking my own thoughts, pursuing my own interests, and having separate nonfamily friendships. I didn’t aspire to BE any of my sisters. (Full disclosure: I did look up to and trail my sister who was just two years older but predominantly when I was very young, and in part because we were constantly thrown together for our mother’s convenience and expediency, to the point of almost being considered one child!)

My relationship with my mother, a woman two generations older than me, was decidedly more complicated. She sold me, as well as my brothers and sisters, up the river quite regularly over one matter or another, and her combative relationship with our father was the overriding dynamic in our home. Still, I was the one who tried to help her, and for a long time, one who ultimately felt quite protective toward her. Because for a long time I viewed her as the victim she saw herself. In a crappy marriage saddled with all these children and all these chores. Living away from her beloved home state and family. Poor mom.

So. Here’s what I think. I approached other females with no malice, no ill intent. I thought, because of my sisters, that I was one of them, and further, because of my mother, felt protective toward them. This approach was not good; other women, from the looks of it, were not having reciprocal thoughts about me. In fact, they may have gone after me because there was something in my demeanor that suggested they could get away with it. Further, some women wait for the buffer that is the presence of several other women to say ignorant or spineless things they wouldn’t have the nerve to say otherwise. That certainly happens or happened; the ganging up. And all the previous is assuming I’ve figured it out correctly. Yet, it doesn’t really matter whether I have or not in terms of how I think now or my conclusions. Namely, I didn’t like it. I needed to do something, be more proactive.

Over time, I started standing up to women who were nasty or rude to me. Who tried to push me around. Both women I knew and strangers. I didn’t smile any more and act complicit. I’d had it. I started talking to women more like I talked to men, especially if they were going to be firing zingers at me. I no longer thought of them as too delicate to take it, the more so if they felt free to say catty things to me. Which, it need be said, they still do.

I don’t take everybody on. There are some battles not worth pursuing. And — I think once you know you can do something, in this case not roll over when a woman shows me she considers me, for her own reasons  – which could well be behind how she reacts to many or even all women –  an enemy or competitor, it isn’t always necessary. Knowing you could is enough.

Once in awhile, I still get annoyed with myself for letting a woman show disdain or contempt or ignorance toward me. Still, even if I do nothing, I’m on notice. I’ll be paying attention.

Short Thought 123 (sisters)

It was quite some time ago. I was in a social setting with a group of people along with my sisters. One sister talked a lot of shit. The other talked more. I realized – or was it remembered? – I really didn’t like being in social settings with my sisters.

Short Thought 115 (sisters)

When I was a teenager and finally had my orthodontic braces removed from my teeth, one of my much older sisters commented that now none of them would be able to “hold a candle” to me. Another sister quickly retorted, “Speak for yourself!”

I was taken aback – surprised – by both comments. Decades later, I can see how the attitude and spirit behind each remained fairly constant.

Older guys

A post I wrote recently got me to thinking about older men, specifically older ones I encountered when I was still quite young. As a teen, I thought guys out of high school and beyond were intimidating. Why, they looked like grownups. Even factoring in that guys that age back then would likely have been more mature than their present-day counterparts (not a swipe at younger guys today but a reflection on the fact that 20’s then is like thirties now and so on, given increased life span, each stage taking longer, etc.), the idea that they were really so worldly or grownup is laughable.

One summer when I was 15ish, a guy 3 years older, who had a reputation as a flirt decided to bestow his attentions on me one afternoon at the public swimming pool. It amounted to holding me in is arms in the water, tossing me around, and so forth for a long time. Playful, not icky or pushy, if a bit too much considering we had no prior relationship. I was flattered as hell. An older boy focusing on me. I remember he walked me home and that was that (although 3 years later, after I’d graduated high school, the two of us did have a serious, memorable, if fairly brief relationship).

In high school, I rode a bus to and from school. One of our drivers was an attractive, mustachioed guy in his twenties. After school let out, a bunch of buses followed one another down the main drag leading away from the building. One day a girl I didn’t know, sitting at the back of the bus ahead of ours began flirting wildly with our driver, blowing kisses and more. She really went for it, to a degree that pretty much shocked me at the time, particularly because she was so brazen and in full view of everybody on our bus. With the distraction, it’s a wonder our driver didn’t careen his busload of high school kids off the road. In retrospect, maybe this girl felt brave because she was at a safe distance from our driver. I really don’t know. The incident made quite the impression on me, though, because I couldn’t imagine coming on like that with a guy clearly out of high school, clearly older.

I did meet an older guy at a dance but the circumstances were different. Through older siblings, I knew a member of a band that was going to perform at a dance at my high school. I may have even had a small part in the arrangements because beforehand I talked on the phone with another band member who I did not know. We seemed to have a friendly rapport. At any rate, we met in person, if briefly, at the dance. I remember having a good time and enjoying the band.

Apparently though, it was another girl who caught the band guy’s attention that night. One of those high school girls who seems older than high school if you know what I mean (I was not such a girl). She was very pretty, popular, and acted like she was 25 or so. I learned about this after the fact when talking on the phone with band guy. He seemed to want my advice and I liked the attention. I wasn’t used to that from an older guy, being treated as an equal. He hadn’t gotten the girl’s information, however, and needed me as a conduit. His thought was that I should approach the girl at school and get her phone number for him (since he couldn’t go waltzing into the high school looking for her). I wanted to help but no way was I going to walk up to a strange girl and request her phone number. Without telling him first, I found her in a group of friends and instead gave her HIS phone number, saying he wants you to have this. Guess it worked out, because I stopped hearing from band guy and later heard the two married.

I knew I turned a corner, when, after graduating from high school, I and two older sisters went to a party hosted by people one of them knew. My sister was forever scouting about for an eligible man to date and this time was no different. There was one particular guy that was attractive and charming with us all. He commented that I seemed especially young – and in that group, I was – but when there was a lull outside and we momentarily found ourselves alone, it was me he kissed. Maybe I should have kept my yap shut later when we girls rehashed the party and my man-hunting sister claimed this particular guy was interested in her. But I didn’t. I set her straight. I never saw the guy again, but the barrier was crossed; older guys were starting to look different to me now.

Short Thought 58 (growing up)

I was raised to live in somebody else’s generation. Whose, I’m not sure. My mother told my older sisters they should take secretarial courses to have “something to fall back on.” (Those too young to know what that means, it’s if a girl doesn’t find herself a man fixin’ to marry her, she’ll have a handy skill for income. That’s IF. Yeah, I know.) My own future was never mentioned. When I was older I told a man I was seeing how I missed hearing that particular tidbit of advice. He helpfully suggested that maybe I was outside playing that day. Ha. Funny man.