Jan 13, 2009

the pretty one

My mother had a twin sister (fraternal twin that is). They didn’t look alike. My mom always thought that her sister was “the pretty one” because of her sister’s smaller size and “all that curly hair” as she would say. The thing is, when looking at pictures of them from long ago, I thought my mom was just as pretty. Her sister had sort of “obvious” good looks with light colored curly hair and small fine-boned features. My mom had a more classic look with her thick straight brown hair and a more serious expression, but she was striking and attractive, I thought. Different but attractive all the same.

On the extremely rare occasion when she would inadvertently speak about her youth (on accident, I assure you, because my parents were not the self-disclosing types), she always qualified that her sister was “the pretty one.” I know her perception of herself was influenced by her mother who struggled to keep 4 children clothed, housed and fed during the Depression. That was when my grandmother (who was a schoolteacher) raised her children as a widow.

Fast forward about 40 years. I have a sister and we are not twins. She is (and has always been) several years older than me (ok, 8 years). We are very close friends so we do a lot of stuff together. When we go places, we usually run into some well-meaning stranger somewhere who will say, “Are you sisters?” I frown and say “no” and she smiles and says “Yes we are.” And then they say, “Are you twins?” We say, “No” and they ALWAYS say, “Which one of you is older?” I roll my eyes. She laughs and grins her cheesy “picture” grin and admits guiltily that she is. I tease her that she is “the pretty one.” She just denies it. Of course. Humility is easy for the physically appealing.

To be sure, I have no disfiguring scars, or misshapen features to render me freak-show eligible but I am definitely just regular looking. She has the big grin, the good hair, the better proportions and the public speaking ability. She says, “but Jo, you are pretty and you are soo SMART, and clever and you know way more about how to work the computer than I do.” “Right,” I say. “I have inner beauty.” My dad used to talk about “inner beauty.” When someone was ugly, he used to say they had “inner beauty.”

The thing is that I think my mom’s whole life was adversely affected by feeling somehow lesser than her sister because of perceptions regarding their differing looks. We often reflected that if she had been a single birth instead of twins, her whole life might very well have been different.

Maybe that means that if I hadn’t been born (and my sister has kindly informed me on several occasions that I was, in fact, an accident), my sister wouldn’t be nearly so beautiful, without a plain Jane sister to be compared to. So I figure she owes her beauty to me. (You’re welcome…) Perception is everything. (And Mom always vehemently denied that I was an accident). Right...

1 comment:

  1. You're the one that said it...Mom smiles. Maybe that is the difference. Plus, you know you have better feet than her. (well, at least you used to :))
    If I had a sister, would I be the pretty one?


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