Dear Sister-Self (my true soul sister) ME!
I’m sixteen today. Can you believe it? I have breasts, curves, and I passed my driving test this afternoon. Dad gave me the keys to his prize possession, the Gold, mint condition, Chevy Impala, and told me to take it for a spin – ON MY OWN! Now I can drive myself to work. That’s right, Sister-Self, I have a part-time job at the mall. I’m working at a pet store. Besides all the puppies, which are the best ever, I have all new friends. They are so cool. They’re older than I am, a few are ancient, thirty-something, smoke and drink, but they treat me good, as if I’m one of them.
That’s the best part about working here; I’m an equal in their eyes. They don’t care that I’m different, you know. Until getting this job, I was miserable and certain I’d be one of those tormented teenagers who suffered under the weight of not fitting in all through high school. It was brutal. Once the bell for first period rang, my daily life consisted of dodging verbal assaults and the death ray eye evaluations, the up and down once overs, followed by the tsk-tsk, and finger in the back of throat. I changed the lyrics to Pat Benatar’s song from ‘Love’ is a Battlefield, to ‘Life’, and hummed it to myself while walking from class to class, as sort of armor. It helped get through the crap.
“Why do you dress like a hippy? Why are you always reading? Why does your mom work? Doesn’t your dad make enough money?”
I like vintage and funky. Is that a crime? What do these kids know about hippies. We’re in the middle of orange groves and cow pastures, smack in the middle of no-where-ville, twenty miles southeast of Hollywood in one of those new housing developments. As for Mom, well she went back to school. She says she has a job with potential now. Even though she is the only mom with a job, I think it’s good for her. It’s good for us too; we drive into Hollywood every month, go to dinner, and see a play after. Dad still reads literature aloud (it’s kind of weird) but he wants us to know the greats he says. His favorites are Chandler, Hammett, and Maugham, but I like it when he reads Poe the best. I guess we were always going to be different with parents like ours.
Between Mom and Dad, and my new friends from work, I’ve realized there is not a damn thing wrong with being who I am, just as I am. I get it now, being different is scarier to those who conform to norms than those of us who don’t. I totally understand people now. It gives me an edge. I’ve found out something I want to tell you about, something I never want us to forget.
Being different is lonely. It takes courage, more than I ever knew I had, to be honest. I don’t know why I’m the way I am, or if you, my future sister-self, will stay this way, but I hope you do because being different is a cut above average and another kind of special. It’s what Norma Jean must have felt like the day she put on her white halter dress and stood over the vent. No matter what happened before or after, she left a mark on this world. It took some kind of courage for her to be who she was. Make sense?
That’s what I want you to remember. I know it’s gonna be hard, brutal even. It’s not something you can read about in a book or something mom and dad can tell you, it’s something you just have to be. It’s inside of your skin, in the beat of your heart, and in the rush of your breath. But it’s okay. Being different is who you are it’s us.
Maybe turning sixteen fried my brains and amped my hormones, who knows. All I can tell you is to stay true to you, to us, and life will be amazing. Promise to tell our kids, if we ever fall in love and have babies (ICK!!), they should know, too.
That’s it Sister-Self, Brenda. One more thing, don’t forget what it feels like to be sixteen and amped. I’m sure it will come in handy one day when you’re all stressed out about being grown up.
I’ll care of me if you promise to take of you.
(Oh, the picture is of us at work on Halloween – we had a blast).