Age Gap Dilemmas

Dearest Reader,

Due to poor family planning strategies, my sister and I are 8 years apart, me being the younger one. She told that I was the long-awaited little sister, the mate to play and share secrets with. Imagine her disappointment when I was brought home from the hospital and she realised I was entirely unable to do anything. While she was free to share any secrets with me, I wasn’t old enough to even have a secret.

So there we stared at each other, 8 years of development between us. Me, embarrassed that I didn’t even know where my nose is, and her, annoyed because by the time I’d be old enough to do anything interesting with her, she’d be almost too old. It was then that we made a silent agreement; I will try to somehow grow up faster, and she will try to make grown-up things easier.

The first thing we tried was playing Barbies. I eventually learned how to sit by myself and hold a Barbie, more or less upright. I also learned how to undress a Barbie, but my motor skills didn’t yet allow me to put on any clothes. So, there we sat together, me with my naked Barbie, drooling, and my sister playing out a story in which she somehow managed to incorporate a naked, silent and slightly slanted Barbie.

Next, we played board games. I couldn’t count or read, but somehow we managed to play games like Monopoly and Cluedo. To avoid me having to read the names and rooms in Cluedo, my diligent sister glued little corresponding symbols on the cards and the board, so I could talk to her in symbols. Instead of saying, “It was Madam Rose in the Dining Room with the Candlestick” I said “The woman with the star, in the room with the circle, with this candle.”

While my sister made this effort for me, I also made an effort to pretend that I know how the hell this game works. I had no idea whether I was winning or not, I didn’t have the logical elimination skills needed to draw conclusions and I didn’t really understand how she always knew who did it and how. To me, she was this amazing magician or super genius and I was just trying to keep up with the abilities currently at my disposal.

Finally, when I reached more of an age of reason, my sister challenged me with new things, such as riddles or jokes. She was in high school, and was learning all sorts of interesting things about sex, relationships and the human body, while I was still tagging along drawing my A’s and B’s in primary school.

I remember that she tried to make a pun which she had heard at school. In this pun, the word ‘orgasm’ was the key word – a word I would not come to know for another 8 years or so, and that she herself only vaguely understood. As she made the joke, and I stared blankly into her face, I remember her frustration as she repeatedly yelled “orgasm!! It’s orgasm!! Don’t you see?”

I finally gave up and asked “What’s orgasm?”

Clearly also not really in the know, she tried to explain it by saying: “You know, when men and women do… things! And they like it.”

This poor explanation had of course the explosive potential to make me run around and ask adults who were enjoying themselves if they were currently having an orgasm. Luckily, I knew better than that and generally let my sister do the talking when it came to handling adults.

Fast-forward a couple of decades, we are pleased to announce that I have finally caught up with her in terms of human development and that we can engage in social life as equals.

I am still no good at Cluedo.



Queen of the Grocery Store

Dearest Reader,

Judging from the adult I’ve become, I would have been an incredibly loud and annoying child. Needless to say, I recall whiningly arguing with my mother about things I wanted her to buy for me at the supermarket. 

There were all sorts of items I would try to negotiate with, my major weapon being the tears of disappointment as I was stuck into a shopping trolley and simply moved away from the item of my desire.

One such instant was a bottle of shampoo in the shape of Maggie Simpson.

My parents, hard-working migrants, were delighted at the introduction of a cartoon that was aired in the evenings to give working parents a rest. They sat me in front of this TV show in 1989 without realising that said cartoon was The Simpsons, and that it was all but a kid’s show.

In any case, I grew very fond of Maggie as we were roughly the same age and both heavily dependent on a pacifier to get through the day. However, due to my tender age I wasn’t truly able to comprehend much and called the entire show ‘Bart Simpson’. This wouldn’t be so upsetting, but I also called every single character ‘Bart Simpson’. As I couldn’t operate the TV yet, I also said ‘Bart Simpson’ when I wanted the TV to be switched on.

So there I sat in my shopping trolley at the grocery store, and suddenly spotted a figurine of Bart Simpson, aka Maggie, and immediately wanted it. I remember my mother picking up the item, thus giving me false hope that I might miraculously get what I pointed at, which generally never happened.

She read the label and explained to me that it wasn’t a toy but shampoo. Excited at the thought of being able to take my new toy into the tub, I voiced the possibility of using it as a shampoo on the palm-tree shaped hairdo she had given me. She said that the shampoo would burn in my eyes and put it back.

I didn’t need an eye-burning shampoo to burst into tears. She had just ruined my chances of playing in the tub with Bart Simpson. 

Fast-forward many years, I find myself at a grocery store as an adult, being able to do all the things I couldn’t back then – walk around, reach things, carry things, pay for things and effectively communicate with other human beings.

I am the Queen of the grocery store, I can buy anything I like! Wheeling the trolley around, my eyes finally light up at the sight of a shampoo bottle with a sticker of good old Bart (Maggie) Simpson. Sure, it wasn’t as cool as the one I saw back then, but here was my opportunity to undo the injustice that was done to me. I reach for the bottle and inspect its content.

A mother walks past me with her two children climbing all over the trolley and sees me reading the label of Maggie’s shampoo.

Clearly, I am now old enough to be mistaken for a young mother in need of advice from more seasoned caretakers, because she approached me with the following:

“Excuse me, I just wanted to warn you – I bought this last week for my girls, and it really burned in their eyes! I use this other one all the time [points at a boring shampoo bottle], it’s great. Works on curly hair like yours, gorgeous! Hope I saved you some headache with the little ones!”

So then we stood there.

She looked at me, smiling, waiting.

Disappointment of a whole new level washed over me. Heartbroken, I forced the world’s most agonised smile, mumbled a pained ‘thank you’ and put Bart Simpson back into the shelf. 

I stared at my shopping basket on the ground, feeling powerless despite my adult position in society. Inconsolable, I walked out of the store, empty-handed.