Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Death of a Brat

The way I  remember it, I was an obnoxious adolescent.

I was the youngest of the three girls with a five year gap between us. Virtue did not develop within me in a timely fashion. Mother didn't seem too disturbed about it, perhaps she had enough experience under her belt to know the ugly duckling stage truly was a stage, but I grated on my older sisters. The one, in particular. (If  I grated on the other one she was too meek to mention it much.)

Being lazy, I didn't want to pull my weight in the housework department.
Being stubborn, I didn't want her telling me what to do regardless how diplomatically she said it. And she was extraordinarily diplomatic.

I could spot from miles away her housework "bargains".... the ones where she would agree to do 2/3rds of the housework if I would do 1/3 of it. The only legit bargain I would officially appreciate was the one where I would slip unnoticed out of the house and do what I pleased. I never pleased to do housework.  Mother could make me, but my sister wasn't my boss.

Being a brat, I said things to her that were just mean.
I told her once, "I love you, but I don't like you."
 It hurt her, and she told me so, but I didn't care.
I remember feeling smug when I said it. She bugged me. Always and forever presenting me with "bargains", when all I wanted was to go walking along the pond, or a tree-lined creek, sit on a big rock in the middle maybe, watch the water go around it on both sides and try to predict on which side of it approaching leaves would float.

I'd think about things. And imagine myself in the middle of interesting stories.  I was the quintessential tom-boy and I thought boys had a lot more fun than girls did. They didn't, for instance have to do housework. Not in my family they didn't.

But I was right there at "that" point in life....
I was kind of excited about growing up. Being a young lady held a certain appeal. I imagined being pretty, even though I wasn't. And having nice clothes, even though the ones I wore were just plain practical and I made them dirty with activities like lounging on the backs of the steers while they grazed, and sitting on boulders in the middle of the creek.

It never occurred to me that maturity was part of the package. Or working.

I did lots and lots of thinking. I didn't really, at this stage of my life, have any close friends because of factors that were beyond my control. This did not bother me at all. I liked being by myself to think. I thought of lots of things. I considered a lot of issues. I loved nature and solitude and making up story  plots. I did not love housework. Especially not cleaning. Or washing dishes. I didn't want anyone bugging me about doing it. Except maybe Mother because she was my legitimate boss.

I could hold up the only bathroom and experiment with possible ladylike hair arrangements in there for 45 minutes, but please, do not expect me to sign my name to any house cleaning "bargains" especially ones that make you look good and me like a wretch for doing only 1/3 of the work!!

 I can still hear her saying brightly, "Rhon, would you agree to do so and so if I would do so and so and so and so and so and so and so and so?" She actually could hardly wait for Sundays to be over so she could start cleaning again. That's the truth.

Spare me.

In retrospect, I cannot stand the girl that was me. How my sister managed to keep her manipulation diplomatic is beyond me, but she did. I was self absorbed and selfish and lazy and meanish. And ugly. I have pictures of me sporting the results of some of those 45 minute bathroom sessions.

But somewhere along the way the tension between us started to fade. I didn't know when. I didn't notice it at all. But here one day, we were friends. And I liked her. A lot. And I loved her.  And she liked me too.

We had good times. We did things together.

I never did like to do housework and I still don't, really. But I did do it.

One day, years later, she told me this:

She was forever frustrated with my stubborn, selfish, brattiness. And nothing she ever tried could dissuade me from my irritating resistance of her reformation attempts.

So one day she changed tactics and decided to treat me as if I were a princess and she were my servant.

And so, if I expressed a wish, no matter how small, she would jump to fulfill it. If I asked if anybody had seen my jacket, she would hop up right away and help me hunt for it, instead of simply saying "no".
Her entire mentality was geared toward serving me in any way possible.

Of course I was too self-absorbed to notice. Or appreciate it.  Or resist.

And so, we became friends. And I think after I quit defending against her improvement programs, I  became  invested in actually improving myself.

And then, by the time she told me what she had done it was too late to defy her efforts.
The door of opportunity was shut. There was no turning back.