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.

Confessions

Dearest Reader,

My parents spent so much time fighting about parenting, they entirely forgot about my spiritual wellbeing. Thus, while they are members of some pretty big religions, I was kind of left behind and not enrolled anywhere. I didn’t even get a ceremony of any kind, nor any gifts, blessings or anything that would prevent my certain demise in hell.

So it comes at no surprise that I’m a little behind when it comes to some very common rituals, such as the Catholic tradition of confessing. It was brought to my attention that it is mandatory to engage in said confession in preparation for one’s holy communion, which I understand occurs sometime in primary school. This is apparently the age of reason. Anyone who’s ever been in a room with a primary school child might doubt its ability to reason, but I digress.

As I was explained how confession works, and that it had to be done at such a tender age already, I asked what kinds of things a 7-year old might have to confess. Sins included shouting at one’s sister, lying about breaking mom’s vase, and picking one’s nose. Once I heard this, I wanted to suggest revisiting confessions at around 18, when there’d be much juicier sins, but again, I digress.

So there I was, thinking about what little 7-year old Zozan might have confessed. And I have to say, I came up with some rather disturbing things.

First and foremost, I would confess and apologise for all the self-inflicted paper cuts. This is not because I was in emotional distress and somehow at risk of self-harming, but rather because I discovered that paper cuts were a loop hole to get out of dish-washing duty. Anyone who knows me is aware of my deep hatred towards this activity, which goes back to the very point this chore was explained to me. My mother was adamant about me helping with the dishes from a time when I still needed a chair to reach the counter, but I realised that she let me off the hook if I had little cuts on my fingers because the dish soap would burn.

My mother later purchased rubber gloves and the only way to get out of washing the dishes was death itself.

Next, I would have to confess that I told everyone that my parents were Italian millionaires. In my defence, this is more a mathematical misunderstanding than a sin.

By the time I was 8, my family had already migrated from Germany to Italy and back again, and as the Euro had not been invented yet, 1 Deutsche Mark converted to 1000 Italian Lire.

My parents jokingly said “Well, at least in Italy we are millionaires!”, not realising that their child, who clearly was not at the age of reason, didn’t have the mathematical resources to understand this conversion joke. All my chicken brain was able to comprehend was that somehow, in Italy we are millionaires, and in Germany we were not. Hence, it was only natural that I bragged about my Italian millionaire parents.

The final sin I would have to mention to whomever had to listen to a primary school child’s confession was that I took food to the bathroom to test the existence of God. My mother, in her Turkish upbringing, told us that if we took food to the bathroom, God would throw stones at us and kill us. My older sister told me she tried this out and said nothing happened, but I assumed this was a trap to make me do it and get me killed. But I also figured, if I die, I’d die knowing there was a God.

Shakily, I took an apple to the bathroom. Nothing. I locked the door. Nothing. I sat down on the toilet. Nothing. I started eating the apple. Nothing. I waved the apple in the air and chewed really loudly, and operated the flush to give the illusion that I was actually peeing, but there was no sign of stones, or God for that matter.

I wish I could tell you all I did was break a vase, but I didn’t.

Instead, I was involved in deceit, money laundering and blasphemy.

And I’m sorry.

Love the Disney way

Dearest Reader,

As a child, like many other children, I enjoyed watching Disney movies and hearing fairy tales, and it is no secret that at least in the 80s and 90s when I was watching them, they were quite gender-targeted.

So, all female leading roles were princesses; I grew up watching Snow White, Cindarella, Ariel, Bell, Jasmine and heard stories about ladies like Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty.

While all of them have different stories, they all end the same; With some prince who gets them out of their pickle and marries them which is the key to achieve happiness ever after.

There are huge problems with that. Because real men, dearest reader, ain’t no princes saving you from nothing.

Also, love doesn’t just smack you in the face; I mean half of these ladies were unconscious when the guy arrived. Evidence suggests that very few couples found love by sleeping, and very few women find a nice young man just by waiting around the house.

The only two proactive ladies putting some real effort into it while dealing with men who resemble actual dudes were Ariel and Belle. 

Ariel leaves a life of luxury under water for some prince whose life she saved (way to go Disney!) and her mission is to make him fall in love with her with the added challenge that she can’t speak.

I feel that this is a perfect summary of the many relationships in which women try to have men read their minds, and men being all but human and slightly less intuitive, have no idea what the fuck is going on with women. Eventually he gets it and it works out, as it always does, and one wonders why Ariel never took the time to write a letter and explain herself, but that’s a story for another time.

Belle on the other hand is confronted with the challenging task of turning a beast into a socially acceptable human with table manners and politeness, which women all over the world are trying to do with their men as we speak. She teaches him grooming, proper diet, how to dance and how to be a little less of a hermit, and eventually she does turn him into a prince.

It gives little girls hope that you can change a man, or at the very least make him less hairy and smell nicer.

 

 

 

A word on ‘football’

Dearest Reader,

For many years now, I’ve had a beef with the term ‘football’. As I’ve travelled across nations, continents and hemispheres, I realised that while we all enjoy some sort of ‘football’, we clearly don’t agree on what it is.

I am of course deeply biased as I start this conversation. However, please be reminded my point is not which sport is the better one, this is a subjective and free choice, dearest reader, and you must enjoy whatever makes you happy.

My point is a linguistic one. I argue that ‘football’ sounds like a game played with a ball in which you use your foot, and your foot only.

I’m from Europe, and in Europe, football means, well football. It’s what we play during the FIFA World Cup, where we all get together to kick a ball with our feet and/or shout suggestions at the people who are.

Across the pond and down under, I encountered both American football and Australian football, both of which I found hardly involve any feet, nor a proper ball in the traditional sense.

Firstly, I understand that the ball, rather than being round, is more like an ellipse, which doesn’t lend itself particularly well to the kickage of a foot. Needless to say, it is not meant to be kicked around the field, but rather, it is meant to be kicked into the air, into some sort of general direction of what I understand to be the goal and/or finish line.

What follows this kick can only be described as some sort of puzzling homo-erotic adventure of several grown men piling up on top of each other, grabbing and pulling, and at this point I am quite lost.

Finally, because of some rule I don’t understand, the ball is released and then carried by hand and somehow the game ends in either someone throwing a ball, or kicking it through some fork-like goal, or simply placing it on the other side of a line.

Now, I don’t wish to rekindle old colonisation sentiments but if mother England calls it football, why rename it to ‘soccer’ and use the word ‘football’ to describe a brand new sport that hardly involves any feet?

 

This is a serious issue; I have had countless frustrating conversations about Rugby vs Australian football, Australian football vs American football, and football vs football, and it is tearing us all apart!

If anyone has any useful information on how these two sports and words got all mixed up with each other, leading to global confusion and misunderstandings, I’d love to solve this mystery.

 

Where are my rewards?

Dearest Reader,

I don’t know about you, but when I was a little girl I used to be rewarded for good behaviour, accomplishments and for overcoming challenges.

For instance, it was very common to get a lollipop at the doctor’s office if you were a brave little girl during the appointment. If I helped around the house and did a good job, my mom allowed me extra TV time. I also got sweets at restaurants for behaving well and everyone remembers the golden stars at school.

In all fairness, it is true to say that childhood wasn’t all easy. Learning how to control your emotions, to accept authority and to do things you don’t want to do is tough.

However, adulthood has turned out to be a much bigger challenge, yet I no longer get lollipops for anything.

For instance, my dentist has pulled a total of 6 teeth out of my skull over the past 5 years and I do not recall any rewards. Instead, I just keep getting big fat bills after each appointment which I have to pay with a mouth full of bloody cotton. Where is my lollipop??

Similarly, now I do ALL of the housework ALL THE TIME, continuously doing this everlasting chore of maintaining a house which never seems to end, which means if anything, I have less TV time than ever.

Restaurant owners no longer appreciate my good behaviour, but they don’t know that deep inside I want to eat with my hands and walk up to other tables and tell those people exactly what I think about them, their outfits, food choices and mind-numbing conversations.

Alas, my efforts to suppress all my natural instincts is again, followed by a bill. If I want a sweet treat, social etiquette dictates that I have to pay $15 and share it with whomever I brought along whether I like sharing or not.

I also haven’t seen any more golden stars at school. I recently handed in a 10,000 word literature review, and instead of any stars or candy, I received five pages of feedback with comments like “how certain is your current certainty about your past certainty?” which I understand to be the academic equivalent of the opposite of a golden star.

So life is harder than ever, but rewards are sparse. What to do?

The first option is to coerce doctors, restaurant owners and distinguished professors to give you rewards.

Alternatively you could embrace the fact that you’re an adult now, which comes with some perks – you could simply reward yourself! Why stop at lollipops when you can have an entire chocolate cake?

Why not buy actual golden stars with your hard-earned money?

Get yourself some flowers when you finish your housework.

Enjoy a day of doing nothing after a day of doing everything.

And for the love of God, let’s all stop sharing desserts!

Home is where the bra comes off

Dearest Reader,

When I was about 11 years old, my mother announced to me that it was time to take the first step into womanhood, which was the acquisition of my first bra.

Disturbingly, the shopping experience involved both my mother and my father, and a bra was chosen for me after carefully inspecting perfect fit and overall decency as to not corrupt my innocence.

The result was a white cotton bra with all around elastic straps, a very comfortable model, and I was very excited about it.

Fast-forward a couple of years, I got acquainted with the metal-wired, flesh-biting version that would become the norm, as cotton and elastic were unable to support the increasing weight of my bosom which continued to grow long after everything else had stopped.

They pull on your shoulders, they restrict airflow, they require constant adjusting and despite becoming as normal as wearing underpants, it is not the most pleasant item of clothing.

In addition, it turns out that boys don’t fancy white cotton brasiers, and one is forced to invest in expensive, even more uncomfortable ones that convert everything into crispy-looking juicy apples with a lot of decorative embellishment that may be very pretty, but also very impractical.

Not surprisingly, the height of a woman’s day is the arrival at home and the subsequent removal of the bra.

All my sisters out there will know the freeing feeling of unclasping that hook and finally releasing the pressure of the day. Now you can finally breathe and walk without limitations! Nothing in this world feels better than that moment!

Most importantly, once the bra is off for the day, there is no way we’ll put it back on. There is no spontaneous date or activity that is exciting enough to put the tigers back into their cage after they breathed in the fresh air of freedom.

I truly believe that if the ceremonious bra removal happens at the house of one’s significant other, it is a sign of true love and commitment – because home is where the bra comes off.