The first memory I have of my sister is being told to be gentle with Mommy’s tummy or I’d hurt the baby. This seemed both illogical and utterly unfair. I mean, here was my mother, lying on her back on the floor, and she was TRANSFORMED INTO A PIECE OF PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT! I could slide down her stomach! I could bounce on her boobs! But nooooooo, somehow this mystical, magical “baby” would be harmed. Wherever it was. I didn’t get it, but I knew I was mightily put out.
I have another image of a moment after my sister came home from the hospital. I sat on the stairs, waiting to be cuddled good-night, and alllllllllll the way across the room my mother sat in her orange rocking chair with The Baby in her lap and my father bent over to smile at them in a rare moment of harmony. While I remained woefully uncuddled. It was at that precise instant I understood what my sister had done. She had taken everything from me. All the love and resources that were not only necessary for my existence by mine by right of conquest had somehow transferred into her possession and I was well and truly fucked. They couldn’t love me if they loved her. What the fuck. I would never be Prom Queen.
She grew and I was told she loved me. I argued that if she loved me she wouldn’t pull my hair when I tried to hold her. That she wouldn’t keep falling down when she was trying to follow me so I had to slow down and wait. That she wouldn’t INSIST on doing what I did all the damn time. If she loved me she would do what I told her and abdicate. She didn’t.
And she loved me. What. The. Fuck. She was smart and funny and gorgeous and athletic. She was brilliant. I was the rough draft and she was the final copy. She was good at everything I was good at and better at the shit I couldn’t do. She didn’t need to love me. But oh, she did. She loved my petty, mean, spiteful ways. She loved my threats not to tell secrets and my machinations to get her to take the fall for my crimes. She loved the stupid puns I made her laugh at and the costumes I made her wear. Or, if she didn’t, she loved me through them.
I eventually realized this may have been her devious counter attack.
A later clear memory plays itself in my mind like a gif. Her face, wet with tears as she looked up from her ice-cream on the ground and my hand, reaching out, replete with my own Double Chocolate Fudge, giving it to her against my will. Totally against my will. And how somehow the feeling I got was better than the ice-cream tasted.
There was the time I put a big, scary dude in the club on the floor using only my elbows because he touched her ass. He scared her. How dare he? That was my job! In fact, I stood up to a lot of scary creatures, many of whom wore my father’s face, like the clown in a rodeo, deflecting anger and rage away from her and toward myself because…
Well, holy fuck. I loved her. I loved her and it was returned and somehow her love not only filled the gaps that were torn open when she arrived, but gave them ornaments and filigree in a way the rest of my world couldn’t. I was incomplete without her.
She is one of my life’s most important lessons, because my old habits haven’t died. My old fears still have nasty voices and cunning, articulate ways of being heard.
I work on a show I have come to rely on as a source of emotional support. However, my place has always been the solitary girl. THAT MAKES ME PROM QUEEN, RIGHT? RIGHT????
When another girl showed up, I was three again. The New Girl was smart and funny and gorgeous and good at everything I was good at and better and the shit I can’t do. But I have a sister who taught me well. “Self,” I told myself, “you are jealous and that is ridiculous. Because it’s preventing you from knowing the person standing in front of you. AND it’s making you miserable. What say we do something about it?”
I can’t stop the way I feel. I can’t MAKE myself only experience noble and evolved feelings. BUT. I can recognize them and take action to CHOOSE a different response.
My Prom Queen crown came off. I was the only one who could see it anyway. I risked losing the love and resources I needed to exist, (I didn’t. That’s what fear sounds like), to got talk to this charming, amazing woman. Who now apparently loves me. And that makes me cry with gratitude. Because I love her.
The Prom Queen sits alone on a cardboard throne. She dances in a spotlight with one person and everyone else in the room gets to party. Or judge her. A FRIEND, on the other hand, tells jokes and secrets. A friend doesn’t wonder if she can trust, she trusts and is trustworthy. She can celebrate another’s successes in addition to her own and then guess what? There’s twice as much to celebrate. She also might even call a different friend and apologize for the time SHE was the New Girl… and, in my case, receive more love in return. We are not the enemy to each other. And the idea that resources are limited to one per customer is consummate horseshit.
I don’t fight wars in my head with other women any more. I never became Prom Queen and if I was ever the prettiest or most desirable in a room, I didn’t get the memo. It wasn’t what I needed. What I truly want, a deep and loving mutual connection with another human being, is right there when I let it be. (And, I mean, when the other woman is not in her own battle. But even then, I can take my ball and go home. I don’t have to engage. That’s a loving act too.)
I would like to encourage sisterhood. Be fearless. Make a friend. Be a friend. It’s better than ice-cream and THERE’S ENOUGH TO GO AROUND!