about my sister

Posted: August 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

My big sister was always cool. She was seven years my senior and unilaterally disinterested in everything I did. She had impeccable taste. She was funny and pretty, and everyone enjoyed her company, everyone but me. We fought. She was a cheerleader. We were from a place where being on the hometeam was very important, and she certainly was, but that wasn’t enough. She was a reader, because she wanted to know about other place’s home teams, and if maybe those would be a better fit. She was aloof and competent the way girls and older siblings always are. She made me feel terribly unfit for survival. I spent my life trying to impress her, and haven’t, but I’ve learned to like her company, and understand that everybody else was right, she’s cool.

My sister liked things without looking back. She loved Elvis Costello and Andy Kaufman. I’m sure she shoplifted interests from our older siblings, but she didn’t care about that the way I did, or do. She loved those things, and that made them hers.

She taught me They Might Be Giants weren’t just the band from my cartoon, and that comedies didn’t have to be funny. “Death Becomes Her,” “Heathers,” and other movies we watched I misidentify as “classics,” because they meant so much to me. My sister, got bored easily, and nothing was more telling of something’s value than her approval. It was specific, razor-sharp, and well informed. I studied the margins of her notebooks, I copied her behaviors, but never understood what made things good or worth liking. I discovered bands and she told me their earlier records were better, I found TV shows and she knew the roles the actors played beforehand. She pointed out that stories almost always go one way, and she told me that that Phil Collins song wasn’t about a child murder, and blew my fucking brains out.

Her disdain for me was well earned. I was tedious and full of questions. She was a teenaged girl in The American 90’s. The world was changing and she was adapting. I was an evolutionary throwback, a reminder of our common backwoods ancestor. I was a vestigial little brother. She left for college in my pre-teen years, and I grew up around her absence. She remained impossibly cool. I sifted through her 11-for-a-penny CDs and took the duplicates. I asked her if she thought John Leguizamo was funny. She started answering my questions with fewer sighs, but stayed sharp and dangerous. She married a guy who stole stuff and didn’t care if I smoked. (He didn’t really steal stuff, he just did when he was 15, and I was 15, and man that was cool.) She started to talk to me about loss, and Alternative music, and how high school wasn’t that important. I already kind of knew that, it wasn’t as big as the Phil Collins thing.

I started to turn into somebody who didn’t bother her. It meant a lot to me.

My sister was cynical, and the first person not to like me. How could I not love her? She was my only measure for growth.

When I was in college I feel like I started changing, but probably not. It might have just been the first time no one made me cut my hair. I had a professor I liked a lot. He was sharp and snotty and had a neat beard. He talked about cocaine and made me read black authors. When the World Trade Center fell down, he didn’t want to go to war, and he didn’t back down from the rednecks who called him a coward in the campus paper’s opinion pages. I read about half of the books he assigned.

The Professor had students meet at his house sometimes, to learn to talk about books. Some people brought wine, and he didn’t seem to care that I smelled like weed. One Wednesday we were talking in his living room, and I learned a whole lot. I said I hated the band Train, because I do. The song “Drops of Jupiter” was popular and ruining the universe. I was vocal about it. “Why do you hate Train?” the professor asked, “They sound like the Black Crowes became pussies.” I said matter of factly, and a little stoned, “When I first heard that song I swear to god I just thought Chris Robinson lost his balls.” He laughed in a way that implied he agreed. I later offended him when I doubled down on the joke with a mild gay slur, but I was learning. I was being smart, and mean, and funny. That felt pretty cool. My sister would have been proud.

About a semester later I was home for christmas or summer, I’m not sure which. She was there too. I was listening to a CD called Stoned Immaculate, it was a bunch of covers of The Doors songs. Train was on there, being garbage. I heard my sister say she liked them. I bit my lip and fuddled for understanding. “How?” I asked, with condescension I’d aped from her. “They’re just ‘polished’,” she said, “they’re a real complete band.” I’ve never forgiven her.

That might be when I first loved my big sister. Not liked her, or needed her, or looked to her for guidance, just loved her. I didn’t recognize it then, I just got mad at her for liking such a piece of shit band, but looking at it now, yeah, I loved her.

Her liking mom rock rattled me real hard, but I’m easy to rattle. People changing while I’m not looking always shocks me, and then makes me feel like an asshole. My sister grew up, and she wasn’t angry about pop songs anymore, not even bad ones, not even ones that are just a long series of watery cliches that require a person have a tacit misunderstanding of gravity and no grasp of space or good coffee. I’d spent my whole life trying to become someone my sister would like, and then she changed it on me. Cool was a big, damn lie, or so many tiny damn lies that it’s hard to differentiate, and she was done lying.

We still like more of the same things than we realize or admit. A few months ago I found out she digs an indie band I’m in love with. She likes them because they’re earnest, I like them because they wrote a whole album about pro wrestling. We disagree on their best stuff, but we both really like it that when they sing about family, it’s complicated.

My sister works teaching kids, or teaching grown ups how to teach kids, I don’t know. She and her husband raised a son I don’t think steals, and she got her name on a book (her name’s Celena Larkey, I didn’t write it yet, because withholding information feels classy.) She taught me being cool is a lie. I love her very much. Train’s fucking terrible.

*Please Note: Train’s not her favorite band, she just didn’t hate them. What an idiot.


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