My older sister is obnoxiously kind. She’s always taking dinner to someone or sewing someone’s kid a tutu (even if they can’t plié for all the fruit snacks in the world). In school she was friends with everyone and continues to keep in touch with people she met in the 4th grade. A couple of years ago she was headed out the door to go horseback riding with so-and-so, “you know from elementary school?” I didn’t know. I probably burned my elementary school year book in a ritualistic fire before roasting tiny marshmallows over it. So anyway, the point is, she’s really nice.
So since she was born first she got to be the nice one (I’m convinced that’s how it works) I got the second option, spite. And thus, the mean sister was born. This is not a charge I took lightly. If there was to be balance in the world, I would regulate it. Heavily. With much rigor and dedication.
In our home the shortest distance between you and the mall was a sick day. Since we were usually faking it, (with the exception of my sister with her perpetual need to be genuine who would get frequent strep infections) my mom would move the trash can prop from the side of our bed and tell us to get dressed, we were going to the mall. It was a well-known tid-bit amongst the upper-floor bedrooms and abused heavily in elementary/middle school years. On one particular sick day when my sister was most likely faking it, my mom took her to the mall. She picked out a Barbie and my mom instructed her specifically, NOT to rub it in my face. Naturally, shortly after arriving home I rushed upstairs to check on my dear sister and found her out of bed and looking as fresh-faced as ever. With her most innocent smile she pulled a Barbie from behind her back and said, “Mom told me not to show you but this is my new Barbie. It comes with markers and jewels to decorate her hair.” Mother. Betrayer of Trust. What followed came very naturally to me. I leaned in to appear as though I was going to take a closer look, but before she could bat an eye, I took the Barbie into both hands, and popped off her head. Exit stage left. To be fair, recounting this story on paper does give it more of a Machiavellian (read: sociopathic) air than I originally desired, but regardless of how I rearrange the story it pretty much all washes out the same way. I will rip your head off.
My meanness evolved naturally, as most things do. Occasionally I would scoff at a well-meaning compliment, roll my eyes at anyone trying to teach me anything, but mostly all of this is describing a typically-developing tweenager. I advanced in my meanness by using my words to make people feel dumb, or inferior. By the time I was in high-school I was mean simply because it was what I assumed people expected of me. I thought I had a reputation to uphold. What didn’t help my situation was my affinity for scowling. My default facial expression was that of a jilted woman whose lover just told her she had muffin tops in her favorite jeans. Sadly, though I have made strides to move away from being a mean girl, my face remains the same. Forever frozen in a scowl of firey malice.
After moving away from home at the age of 17 I explored a new level of meanness. Men. Not to say that I wasn’t practiced in the art of meanness towards the male sex before then, but now I was living on my own, suddenly surrounded by men who were sincerely interested in meaningful relationships (mostly, right? Because we are talking about twenty-something year-old man-boys after all). Still being an obviously young and immature teenager I capitalized on what I was already familiar with. One of the first guys to ask me out was 32. Yes, too old for a 17 year-old. However, my rejection was, even for me, a bit over the top. In an email, I responded by telling him that even if he reversed his age, it would still be wildly inappropriate to ask me out, followed up by a “so you can pick me up at a quarter after never.” Now, if you ask my brothers what they think about this, they would say not only was it appropriate, but also, hilarious. And while both of those things might be true (if I do say so myself) I had gone out of my way to hurt someone’s feelings. And in a flash of light, I became self-aware. Don’t ask me how it took me so long to come to this realization, just repeat after me, “teenagers are the worst.”
Having the opportunity to create a new persona, I decided I wanted to switch things up a bit. Although my sister and I traveled together to Texas, we fell into different groups who didn’t know what roles we were supposed to be playing. This is about the time I began to dabble in the art of smiling, and generally being pleasant. I was learning quickly and finding success in my new techniques. However, if I ever wanted to truly be kind, there was one last thing I needed to take care of.
The year after I moved away from home my family all got together for Christmas. I sat down with my siblings one evening and announced that I would no longer be the mean one. It was big news to deliver and took everyone a while to process. After a thoughtful moment they all conceded that it was most likely for the best. And thus began a long journey to becoming the new me. A little rough around the edges but happy to deliver chocolate chip cookies to someone in need of a pick-me-up (assuming they were store-bought and I was free that afternoon).
10 years later, look at me. I am a ray of SUNSHINE.