“We were born of the same parents, raised in the same environment, but if you put us in the same room, we simply couldn’t be any more different…”
A paraphrased comment about four siblings, uttered by a friend as we drank some beer, plotted organizational anarchy, and reflected on The Trailer Park Experience*.
I’ve occasionally wondered how my three siblings and i could have been from the same genes, let alone species. There is one obvious variable – my oldest sister and brother have different paternal genes. Although i didn’t know this for many years, Mom had been married before, and the older siblings were, in fact, my half-brother and half-sister.
To apply controls to my observations, i should only look at my sister with the full compliment of shared genetics. She is two years older, and left town after earning her PhD in Business – escaping to not only a warmer climate, but one that is about 2 hours by commercial air travel away from our hometown. Smart. She always was very smart…
T, my sister and fellow Trailer Park Refugee, is of my genes, but different. She is accomplished – being a senior professional at a major university in the U.S. She demonstrated good instincts with her move 1,000 miles away to “escape the long arms of The Park”. A diagnosed bipolar lesbian**, she is generally level for 75% of the time, but about once every 4 years, i am called upon to “deal with” nonlinear issues***.
When we were children, we would pass ourselves off as twins – she’s older, but i was bigger, so we were roughly the same size – with brown hair, dark skin, brown eyes… to the casual observer, we could have been the same age.
Not so much these days – although our voices are quite similar, and we both have what has been politely called “an unusual degree of intensity”. We have been known to clear a room of polite citizens when we engage in debate. There are notable similarities.
The most striking difference? I can trace this back to an occurrence during our teen years. In an attempt to get me to stop farting around in high school, focus on academics (and stop killing my brain cells) my father once told me “You need to get a good education. It’s not likely you’re going to snag a rich husband, so you need to be in a position to take care of yourself”.
This rattled me – but in a good way. A gentle wake up call that it wouldn’t hurt me to crack a book, show up for all of my classes, and lift a finger… It was my intention to pursue engineering from a fairly young age, and to do that, i realized i’d need to stop fucking off at some point.
Fast forward a few years… T has just finished her PhD, and is in the midst of a substantial bipolar moment. As part of this, she came to visit me, less than a year after the birth of The Girl. She had been recently diagnosed, and was in the throes of “seeking reasons” for her illness. At that point in time, she was convinced that our parents had been abusive.
To make her case:
T: “Dad said i was ugly!”
T: He told me that I’d never catch a rich husband, so I better get a good education.
daisyfae: T, he said the same thing to me – it was a way to encourage us to become more independent, stronger…
T: But you married well in spite of your looks!****
I threw her out of my house about a half hour later. It was for a variety of other reasons – primarily the implication that our parents had physically and sexually abused us. But i was pretty pissed off.
My sister said i was ugly!
* Soon to become a major attraction at Universal Studios, Orlando
** It was the “bipolar” part that requrired a diagnosis…. the “lesbian” part was obvious (at least to me) as early as high school.
*** While on sabbatical in Hong Kong, she called our parents and was obviously en route to a breakdown. As the only member of the clan with a passport, i was on a plane 2 weeks later. There have been others, but that one cost the most… so far…
****She was convinced that the only reason i majored in engineering was to find a suitable husband. It turned out that way – as i met my ex-husband in the laser laboratory. Ah, romance! i can assure you that it was not part of a grand plan to find isolated, socially awkward, lonely men in a female-deficient environment.