Apparently, my Dad is going to Thailand with my big sister next year when she has reassignment surgery. He doesn’t want her to be alone.
There’s so much beauty going on in those two sentences. It still seems crazy to me, though. My mom just happened to mention it in passing on the phone the other day while I was walking Margie in the park. “Oh…You didn’t know?”
No, no, I guess I didn’t. “About the surgery, or about Dad going too?”
“Neither,” I said, as I pulled a poop bag over my hand and leaned down to pick up a steaming Margie turd. “I guess it’s not really my business, anyway.”
My big sister lives all the way across the country. I’m super supportive of her, but sometimes I feel like I don’t know her very well anymore, and that’s really hard. She transitioned on the west coast years ago after finishing college, and I’ve stayed on the east coast, mostly just catching occasional glances of her new self on Facebook. She looks great.
I think I’ve probably held some resentment toward my big sister. Growing up, she had much more freedom than I did. I’m closer in age to her than I am to my younger sister, but my big sister got to hang out with her own friends alone, playing 007 on N64 and crafting role playing games over pizza, behind closed doors, while our parents always made me and my friends include my much younger sister in our very sophisticated make-believe games. “Be nice, girls,” my parents would say to me and my friends when we would roll our eyes.
When we got a little older, my big sister, scruffy and deep voiced at the time, always had a steady girlfriend, someone who was always over at the house, someone a little dorky, perhaps, but smart and eccentric and totally engaged in my big sister.
I, on the other hand, never had a romantic interest throughout middle or high school, and was put through the usual barrage of demeaning comments that girls receive from their peers (and teachers) as they become women. I was told by a boy in my class that I’d never lose my virginity; I had friends comment that they bet I couldn’t wait to start waxing my eyebrows; a teacher taking a yearbook picture at school once told us that she needed someone with a big butt to fill a space in the back row and then pointed at me, saying, “You – you’ve got a big butt! C’mon, get back there!”
Later, my big sister dropped out of high school and spent what would have been her senior year hitchhiking across the country and back. It was a very cool scandal, and it was the talk of the very small, boring town. And, of course, my parents were worried sick about her. I, just two years younger, felt like I had to work my ass off to get my parents’ attention by competing in music competitions and skipping lunch to lose weight. I wasn’t allowed to walk home after dark.
I thought growing up as a girl was bullshit. As a young man, my big sister, recklessly, perhaps, seemed to move about the world however she wanted, and I was jealous af.
Looking back, though, I can think of some moments that break my heart.
I remember for one of my big sister’s middle-school-era birthdays, my dad gave her a Kink’s album and made a huge show of how hilarious the song “Lola,” (about a dude who dances with a chick and then finds out that the chick is actually a dude) was. He then taught my big sister how to play it on her guitar.
We have an old picture of my big sister when she was little, maybe four years old, wearing a frilly dress. I would show it to her girlfriends, laughing.
When my big sister and I were both in high school speech and debate, at one of our local tournaments, my big sister’s ex-girlfriend started a “rumor” that my big sister liked to put on mascara sometimes. I overheard groups of high schoolers gathered in the hallways giggling and whispering about it throughout the entire afternoon. I defended her honor. “No he does not! I think I would know” I told the other kids.
And after she started transitioning, post college, she came home for Christmas one year, and I remember she started crying when we were decorating our tree and she found an ornament she had made in elementary school – a little plastic tree, itself, holding a picture of a boy with big glasses and a dorky, toothy smile. She tried to throw the ornament away.
The truth is, while growing up as a girl honestly was bullshit, I had no idea what my big sister was really going through. None of us did.
And now, our wonderful dad is going to Thailand with her when she has reassignment surgery next year. He doesn’t want her to be alone.
There are so many questions I have but don’t ever want to ask. There’s so much nostalgia tainted by envy and guilt. I know it’s really not about me at all, but I miss her – not just inexplicably, but in the most inexplicable ways.