I know how it feels to be under constant scrutiny and comparison to your elder sister. If you think that being a first-born is hard enough because you have to set good examples to your younger siblings, then let me tell you, being a second child is not a stroll in the park either. For one, you have the standard set already for you and if you do not them, you are considered not good enough. Either be like your elder sibling, or be even better. A copycat or a rival.
When we were little kids, it did not seem to matter much, but along the way the comparison began. We both went to the same middle school, and once a P.E. teacher came up to me and expressed his amazement that I was related to my sister.
“Are you really her little sister?” He asked me. I said “yes”, cautiously, as I was a new student then.
“You’re different,” he said. “You’re fat.”
I was shock. As if that rude comment was not enough, he added: “How does it feel to be fat?”
I was still too shocked to respond and he smirked and walked off. Before I knew it, there were more unflattering attentions.
Everybody in school knew my tall, slim, straight-haired my sister whom many boys liked. I was neither stupid nor naïve: she had always been everything I was not and no one needed to remind me of that fact.
My teachers were also quick to remind me that my sister was smarter than me. She made good grades all the time, often without trying as hard as I did. After her high school graduation, a teacher remarked: “This is strange. How come you couldn’t make it into the gifted class like your sister?”
And other questions: Why can’t you be like your sister? Why are you two so different? Why don’t you try to be more like her?
And the comment: Your sister is so much prettier than you.
Oh, shut up. Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP! I wanted to yell at them. They didn’t have to like or accept me and if they really adored my sister that much, they could keep on praising her for all I cared. All I wanted was to be left alone. But, no, they had to make me feel like I was never good enough. When I expressed my anger and talked back at them, they gaslighted me. It was as if I had no rights to defend myself, like it was my fault that I could not take criticism and suggestions.
Why are you so sensitive? I’m just saying.
It’s the truth, isn’t it?
Think of it as motivation to improve yourself.
Motivation? By praising someone else and putting me down at the same time?
Ma tried to console me, saying: “Come on, you’re beautiful too!” or “They only mean well.” It made me feel even worse.
So I started to rebel. I became a tomboy, cutting my hair short and choosing trousers and jeans, because skirts, dresses and girly outfits reminded me of my sister. I refused to attend the same school as my sister, both in high school and university. I would not work in the same place as she did. I treated my own sister like a pest that needed to be rid of.
I wanted people to see me for me, not her fat freak little sister. I wanted them to recognize me without her name on it. It was not her fault, I knew it was my issues. There were times when I became hostile to my sister, sometimes with no apparent reason. I hated that she seemed to get all the nice attention from the world and I just had to wait for my turn somewhere in the deep, dark corner of the room. I felt like they would always love her more, no matter what I did.
Eventually I moved out of the house and lived on my own. I grew more comfortable being with strangers or being alone. I also stopped sharing stories, especially to my own family, and began pushing people away. And people did begin to notice me for me.
But it came with a price. Said one of my friends: “Why is it so hard for you to believe that people actually care about you too?”
I knew that I should not have been so upset about being compared to my sister. But I felt they were not being fair with me. My sister and I are two different women, all with our own uniqueness. It does not mean that she is always better than me and vice versa.
The worst thing about this is it wrecked our relationship. For a while I became a misogynist too. I hated slim, pretty girls because they seemed to have more privileges and received more praises and attention, especially from men.
It has taken me a while to be where I am now. I am thankful to all the friends who have been patient with me. I owe nothing to my bullies, because I did it all to myself. I deserve to be happy. That is why I chose to put an end to the same old nonsense.
“Maybe you should start behaving more like your sister, so that you’ll get a husband faster,” said one of my aunts one day.
I gave her a chilly response: “Are you saying that I should change myself, personality and all, to be more like her, Tante? I am me.”
“No, that’s not what I mean,” she said, looking uncomfortable.
“Then what is it?”
I sensed my mother staring at me, but I no longer cared. When my aunt finally left, Ma said: “You know, you don’t have to react that way if you believe that you’re already good enough.”
“No, Ma,” I said, shaking my head furiously. “Enough is enough! This ends here, right now.”
No girls, no women deserve to be made to feel this way. No excuses and I mean it when I said: Enough.
Ruby Astari is an English teacher, freelance translator, and freelance writer. Her first novel "Reva's Tale" is already in stores. She enjoys being a sexy chub, hanging out with fellow writers, and wearing froggy shades in public!