One More Dime

sisters

I don’t know why it surprises me sometimes when we look so much alike in photos. Despite being born of the same X and Y-chromosomes, in many ways my sister and I couldn’t be more unalike. She, the younger one, is very much the country mouse to my city mouse. At 23, her idea of a good time is getting lost in the wilderness on horseback, following only your tracks back to the barn. She prefers the company of animals and has a way with them that echoes a Disney princess. She is truly a whisperer. At 23, my days were spent serving tables at a restaurant in the tourist part of downtown Toronto while dreaming of becoming a fulltime writer. My nights, lost to boys and bars.

Families are funny things. The dynamics and the roles can shift, but the direct relationships will remain the same. My sister and I have always been sisters. We haven’t always been friends. When we were young and small we did everything together. When we became our own people, we no longer understood each other in the same fashion. Things began to change. Our thoughts and ambitions no longer aligned. We didn’t share a secret language or a code anymore. We never called each other late at night after I moved away from home. I longed for our sisterhood to be as strong as our cousins, two sisters as close as one could ever dream. My heart broke every time I realized it wasn’t.

There were times when I would cry myself to sleep over this. The fractured dynamic of our relationship as sisters haunted me, forcing me to find in myself flaws where there shouldn’t be. I questioned my own character and my own dedication as a sister and a friend. I wondered if I as the older one am more responsible than she is, because I know what life’s like to not have a sister, while she does not. Sometimes she says she’ll call and when she doesn’t, I have allowed myself to remain sad instead of calling her myself. I have wondered, at times, if we are not closer because I am not trying hard enough. How different can we really be? Our eyes are the same and we both have dimples in our chins. Our stories are intertwined.

***

At our cousin’s wedding, we Googled the lyrics to Joan Jett’s cover of “I Love Rock’n’Roll” just to make sure we had all the words right. If you wanted the bride and groom to kiss, you had to interrupt the evening by addressing the gathering and singing a song with the word “love” in it. I was drunk because I am sick and drink too much sometimes to cope with it. My sister was not drunk because so is she.

We decided on Joan Jett because it’s one of the songs we have sang together before, driving down the highway as teenagers. We chose it because we wanted to do something together that we both enjoyed. The wedding had brought us closer together and reestablished a bond that had been long missing. As bridesmaids, we went from spending minimal time together to seeing each other every other weekend. We went dress shopping and planned showers. We danced the night away at the bachelorette party and laughed later as we carried the drunk bride-to-be back to the hotel. We danced in the middle of the dance floor and roared until we cried when the same guy hit on us both, separately. We were acting like sisters and it was beautiful and meaningful.

We also chose the song because we thought it would be a funny departure from the love ballads other drunks had been serenating us with all night long. We wanted something that represented our newfound sisterhood. We knew this but we did not say this. We practiced the lines and then sang it to the bride and groom. They kissed. Everyone cheered. We were, for a moment, invincible.

***

When I was in high school, I bought her Metric tickets for Christmas or her birthday and we drove to Kitchener to watch the band perform at a venue that had cages in it, usually reserved for dancers. There were no dancers the night of the concert. I was 17 and the proud owner of a new driver’s license. My mom let us borrow the car, a white Neon, as long as we called her when we got there. We did. Before we left, we bought Doritos at the grocery store and left them in the car for after. It was January. To this day we both agree they taste better cold.

***

My sister and I have an understanding and appreciation of each other that we didn’t have before the wedding. I don’t think we knew before how to manage our differences, focusing instead too much on the variables rather than finding beauty in them. Our DNA may be tangled, but we are different people and as we get older we are starting to recognize that this is what makes our relationship so special. At four years apart, our lives have not always aligned. When she was entering high school, I was moving away to university. In many ways I wasn’t there for her in the ways she likely needed, and it has taken a long time for her to feel confident in seeking advice from me, in recognizing my own experiences as potentially valuable to her own. In the same light, I must remember she is younger, that she is still learning things I have already learned. Yet in many ways, she continues to teach me new things about myself and the way relationships—and families—change; how they flex in and out, how they breathe and mature and evolve.

When we were little girls, we would sit by the window in the kitchen, sun beaming down upon us, and we would draw for hours. We would draw everything—from puppies to sceneries, from portraits of our family to cartoon characters. We shared this love of drawing passionately and it became integral to our understanding of each other. It was something we had together. It was a foundation.

Now that we’re older, now that we’re entering new phases of our lives and learning and growing as people, it is important to remind myself that these foundations still exist. We can look out into the world and see different versions of the same picture, we can experience different narratives of the same story, and of our own stories, but the significance of this parallel is something I finally am beginning to understand. I love her for who she is in her entirety and while I may not always understand her, and she definitely may not always understand me, I will cherish how it is both our differences and our similarities that comprise the fabric of our relationship, of our sisterhood. I will put another dime in the jukebox, baby.

Sheena Lyonnais is the founder of Blonde as well as the Toronto editor. Follow her on Twitter @SheenaLyonnais.

Image from Home of the Vein. View complete work here.

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Stop Complaining About Your Life, Our Little Sisters Need Us

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The system is fucked. I’m not going to dance around this subject or take too much of your time painting some kind of abstract picture to make this easier to read. This is it. The system is fucked. In fact, many, many systems all around the world are fucked. Let us just focus on this one for now. You have a busy life, I have a busy life (not really); everyone wants to care about an issue as long as it involves no real effort or time. If this article is a reasonable length, my message will be heard. If this article is a paragraph or two too long, half the people will stop reading it before the end. Therefore in order to keep your attention, again, I’m getting right to the point which is, we – and the system we have created – are fucked.

Growing up I wasn’t the pretty girl, my older sister was. She got better grades than me, she was thinner than me, she had better hair and she was better at sports. She was the golden child and I was the ugly duckling, always feeling left behind and as if no one had a good reason to care about me, when they could care about her. In high school a boy I grew up with said to me, “Your sister is so hot, what happened to you?” Once, my older brother’s friends called, when I picked up they asked me if I was “The hot sister.” It sucked, for many, obvious reasons. Though I can’t hold it against her, she just got the better genes. It happens. I am happy to report in the past ten years I have been able to get over the fact that she is perfect, and I had to take a longer, harder road than her, but as I sit here writing this, I am a beautiful woman. I figured some stuff out, went on a few adventures and I’m looking pretty good these days. I actually am a smart lady and I’m happy for that longer, harder road because it turned me into a strong, interesting person who has their shit (for the most part) together.

Though this road that I went down had some pretty traitorous times. When I was 15, I thought things would never get better. I hated myself. I hated my life. My social anxiety was so bad that for my sweet 16 I was prescribed Valium just so I could have a conversation without a panic attack. I, on many occasions, had thoughts of suicide and felt completely alone. Sure, those boys in high school might have said some mean things, but I was my own worst enemy. It didn’t help that I had a challenging home situation, one that not many kids face. Having to cook for myself because my Mom was in the hospital, recovering from cancer just after my Dad decided he no longer wanted to live with us. As well, I was attending an unusual amount of funerals. This, along with my self-confidence so non-existent I had to be medicated in order to fake it for the public, it’s easy to see, my teen years sucked.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine lost a young girl she considered to be a sister. This girl was only 15 when she decided to take her own life. She didn’t leave a note, only a video saying sorry to her family. Afterwards my friend went through her diary and found entry after entry explaining her hatred for her body, how ugly she was and hated that she was “chubby.”

When my friend was in her weakened state was able to tell me this story, she opened up to notify me of something she never divulged to me before. My friend explained that she knows a few girls (including the one she just lost), who hated themselves because they thought a few extra pounds were so disgusting that no one would ever find them to be beautiful. When these girls would share their pain with my friend, she would show them my Facebook page. She would go through all my photos with them. Since I’m a size 10 and only 5’4”, I’m not an ideal thin girl either, this is why she used me as an example. She would show them my photos, with my style and love for life and asked them if they thought I was pretty even though I’m not a size two.  When they replied “yes” she would ask, then why can’t you be pretty and curvy? She would explain if they thought I was pretty with a few extra pounds, then they too are pretty.

I had no idea my friend was doing this, and doing this for years. Then I thought about the disturbed girl who felt the need to go to such lengths as to end her own life over this. I thought about all those diary entries my friend read after she had passed and all the writing this girl put her energy into to describe how much she hated herself. Then I thought what she wrote probably isn’t far from what I wrote when I was her age. Even worse, what she wrote probably wasn’t much different from what I wrote a few months ago, a few weeks ago, a few days ago. I mentioned earlier how far I’ve come from my high school years. In reality that’s just what I show the world, but when I’m at home, alone with my thoughts, and I dwell over everything. I dwell over how hard it has been for me to find a job, how I will never be a good writer, how it has been three years since I’ve had a boyfriend and how many men have used me and treated me like shit. I think about all these things and wonder why and my conclusion is I’m not good enough, I’m not pretty enough and I hate myself. How the fuck, why the fuck have I not been able to grow up and move on from this?  It is because this stage of arrested development in my mid twenties is far too comfortable and the future is too scary. Growing up, settling down, these responsibilities are terrifying, so I stick to what I know.

The system is fucked. These girls who are literally killing themselves over shit we have all gone through don’t need soap ads telling them they’re pretty. Corporations selling self-esteem through their products and disguising it as a revolution is the exact same as the media telling us we’re never going to be perfect, but still we should sink all our money into the hope that we might be the exception. We might be the one ideal woman who if we can pay enough money and if we really, truly believe the revolution is here because a dollar driven devil is telling us so. What these teenage girls need is for us, the women who have been through the battles and have come out alive is to tell them, “yes, what you are going through is real and it sucks, but it’s not forever.”

We need to grow out of our comfort zone and be the role models these struggling young girls are searching for. Show them our bruises and scars, let them know our wounds have healed just like theirs will. We have all felt the fucked up pain and insecurities and it’s not the end. I know I still have my struggles, but I also know if the 15-year-old suicidal girl I was could see me now, she would be over-the-moon, happy and proud.

These girls have a future. We know that and we need to be the ones to show them. Like I said, they don’t need to be told they are beautiful over and over since the media has played that line into a broken record. They will get there, and they will see that, but first they need to see that there is a life after this pain. So, all my fellow twenty something ladies afraid of growing up, this is no longer about you. You have no choice. Grow the fuck up. Our little sisters need us now more than ever.

Shelby Monita is a freelance writer living in Toronto. Her writing mainly focuses on music, more specifically underground and punk rock. She welcomes the travel bug with open arms and loves to share her stories. You can read more of her work on her site casamonita.com.

Photography: By Unnamed photographer for Bain News Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons