Right before the New Year, my sister Shelli asked me what it was like being the good daughter. The good daughter? I thought to myself. I didn’t quite know how to answer. How does one really know what it is like to be anything other than what one is? And how does one describe one’s ultimate reality of being?
I tried to answer her, but as you can see from this post, I’m still working out what it has meant to be “the good daughter.”
The truth is, in childhood, I didn’t know how to be anything but good. I followed the rules. I did what I was told. The one time I recall refusing to follow the rules, I was about three years old and I was at our family friends’ church rehearsing for a Christmas program. The evil program director tried to get me to do something I didn’t want to do and I said no, crossed my arms in front of my chest, and refused to follow her directions. They called my mom and she came to pick me up. My parents were pretty strict so I’m guessing that after we got home, I got into some sort of trouble from my mom and dad. Perhaps that’s why at age three, I chose to always follow the rules. But honestly, until about age 18, I did whatever I was told.
As an adult (which in the US, we consider 18 years old and older), I started to challenge life a bit. I started having more adventures. I traveled. I spent my money rather than keeping it all in the bank. And I started to get snarky. In reality, I don’t know that I’m actually snarky or just candid to a fault, but I started to make things a bit uncomfortable for others by being the most brutally honest wench in the room.
Not everyone appreciates my candor. In fact, I’ve lost friends, offended my siblings, and even angered my parents. I figure this is good though. It’s as if I’m making up for lost time from when I was the perfect, blond-haired blue-eyed angel making everyone else look bad.
Besides my candor, I don’t know how devilish I have ever become. When Shelli was talking about our vast differences, she mentioned how she was the kid who would touch the hot burner right after being told not to. But, as I was always at least 6 inches shorter while also blonder and smarter, I didn’t follow her lead. In fact, I feel as if for most of my life, I researched life by observing my siblings grow, change, fail, and develop into people. And I didn’t really take any steps to be myself until I was finally all by myself without my research subjects. As the youngest child left at home alone with my parents, I had the chance to do whatever I wanted. There was one time I recall talking to my brother Shane on the phone. I told him that I hated the FFA and I didn’t really want to be in it anymore because I wasn’t really a farm girl. And he told me that I never had to do the things my siblings did just because they had done it before me. At that exact moment, my world changed. I started taking art classes. I got into theater and wrote hall passes to get my friends out of class to hang out with me. I rode in my friend’s car downtown in direct violation of school policy only to run into the principal. I pretty much did what I wanted. And it was beautiful. I also got away with everything because I still had 17 ½ years of being perfect on my permanent record. Slight, harmless rebellion didn’t hurt anybody.
But, when your rebellion is harmless, are you really changing your M.O.?
I suppose my fate as “the good daughter” continues to this day. Yes, I get sassy, political, and snooty about mud in my parent’s driveway. But I’m the kid that shows up. I help my parents with their dishes. I listen to their entirely misguided political views (mostly without shouting or tears). And I drive the speed limit. I don’t know why, I just would never want to be rebellious like Shelli. Shelli’s a blue girl living in a red state. My heart shutters when I try to imagine living that life. And Shelli drives too fast. She was actually with me the one time I ever got a speeding ticket and she tried to hold in her laughter before I blew up at her over the irony and injustice of it all.
You know – I’m okay with being the good daughter. It means that usually I can convince my parents to partake in spending time with me – watching intellectual shows, movies, and visiting interesting places where we can embrace art, literature, and fine food! And, let’s be honest, I would have cried my eyes out if I had burned my palm on a burner as a kid. It would have ruined my perfectly sweet skin.
Tata for now.