Saturday, May 20, 2006

When I was five, my family moved into our first house, and for the first time I was made to share a bedroom with my sister. After a few days of living with a baby, it dawned on me that, from my point of view, the setup was not particularly advantageous. It also began to seem to me that my own comfort was of more importance than my mother's ability to have an entire room dedicated to a sewing machine she never used. I broached the subject with my parents. It was pointed out to me that the sewing room was approximately half as big as the room I and my sister were currently occupying. I had already noticed this, in fact. I had also noticed that my sister was really quite a small person compared to me, and that the larger room had pretty blue walls. I proposed a certain course of action. My parents, however, found my plan to be unworkable, and decreed that because I was being a troublemaker, I could either take the small room, or continue sharing with my sister. Being an excessively private child, I took the small room, and I lived in it for eight years.

I was thinking about all this yesterday for some reason, and guess what? Today, according to my sister, my father got (unsurprisingly) drunk off his ass at my brother's wedding reception, told my sister this exact story, and bragged about how well he had handled the situation — i.e., he stated that he was proud that he, quote, hadn't let me put my sister in the small room. Good job there, Dad, winning a battle of wills with a five year old! And what a beastly little child I was, too, what with the thinking it was reasonable to put a defenseless baby into a room only twice as big as the closet I had lived in for the first five years of my life.

He also told my sister that he believes me, to this day, to be holding an utterly unreasonable grudge against both him and my sister over this. He's right that I totally hate her for being such a selfish 10-month-old and not sticking up for me, but now that I've matured somewhat, how could I be angry with him for wanting to protect his baby daughter from the pure malevolence that was his five year old daughter's desire to have the larger, prettier, sunnier bedroom all to herself?

Seriously though, as hard as I try, I've never been able to hold a grudge for more than a few days. It may not sound like it from my tone here, but I actually got over this whole thing very quickly. However, the explicit insistence that my asking for a room to myself was something for which I deserved to be punished in some way has always baffled me. Now that I know my father was the one who made that call, though, and that he has this freakishly enduring pride at having given both me and my sister what we each deserved, it's beginning to make sense to me. I'm now pretty sure it's as simple as that he was having a bad day, or he was drunk, or both, and for some reason my asking pissed him off, and so I had to be taught a lesson.

So of course now I'm furious about this, furious at the implication that I was a naughty child for wanting a space to myself and also furious that my father decided to spend a family gathering I couldn't attend glorifying himself by bashing me (not to mention apparently trying, foolishly, to turn my sister against me). On top of the anger is also a certain amount of guilt, because I've now realized that my mother's "sewing room" was an attempt — and because she both worked for and lived with my father, and bore the full responsibility for raising three children who were always underfoot, it was the only attempt she would have the chance to make until my father left her for his girlfriend 16 years later — at reserving a space, any space, somewhere, for herself. And I took it from her. Or, and this is even worse: when I look at this thing through ye olde spectacles of feminist paranoia, it would appear that my father self-righteously seized the opportunity to take that space from her while (bonus!) simultaneously giving me an inferiority complex for daring to want the same thing. My little sister, the only female in his life incapable of being uppity enough to express that desire for a space belonging to her alone, was the only female who really deserved such a space.

(Like I said, feminist paranoia. If I acknowledge that I might be crazy, you guys aren't allowed to believe I really am, right?)

* * *

Wait, wait, I found the silver lining in all this! Apparently, my father has at least one memory of something that occurred during my childhood.

* * *

I'm given to understand that today's family gathering was actually not all about me, and it wasn't all bad, either. Here are (a) some treacle (or as close to it as you'll ever get from me); and (b) some jokes about my sister's fecundity which are also meant to express my deep love for her.

(a) I hear through the grapevine that my brother got hitched today. Apparently he cried while speaking his vows. From my brother, this is utterly unfathomable to me, but sweet, I guess. And probably a good sign for his future happiness.

(b) My sister text messaged me this evening that she still has not told anyone she's expecting. She wore a sweater to the wedding and no one noticed there was a baby growing out the front of her. I wish I could tell my parents for her, and exact from them a promise not to be jerks to her about it, but she holds some crazy belief that that would be inappropriate. I also have a plan to pretend the baby is mine and I'm just giving it to her to raise because I don't want the stupid thing. Then they could be jerks to me instead, which with respect to one of them wouldn't appreciably change my situation anyway. Dammit, I promised to give the bitterness a rest, didn't I? Ignore that last part.

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