Monday, 14 January 2013

Sister from another mister

I have a little sister. And when I say she’s little I mean she’s 20 years littler than me. I can hear you screaming ‘ACCIDENT!’ but she was planned and the reason is simpler than you may think. My dad died young. My mum remarried. Enter Little Miss PIMA [pain in my arse].

I was the same age as my mum when she had me when Pima was born so my role in her life is one part sister, one part friend and two parts mum. Oh, and twenty seven parts exasperation.

Pima is about to turn 20 which means that as well as having two young sons, I have also spent the last 7 years with a teenage girl under my wing. In my every-day thoughts. Front of mind and under my skin. And I have had the joy of NOT being her mum.

We talk a lot. Sometimes too much. We talk on the phone. We text. We Facebook. We hang out. It’s a relationship high in maintenance, for sure, but rich in reward. Which is not altogether limited to having an amazing, trustworthy and reliable babysitter on hand.

The real reward is in my opportunity to mentor a young woman in today’s world.

It keeps me aware and relevant and stretches my thinking and challenges my knee jerk compulsion to judge. I draw on my own life experiences. My own mistakes. My own successes, fears, dreams and ideals. And from there – I counsel.

Stay at University little sister
No, you cannot have a gap year. No, you cannot defer. No, you cannot change direction mid degree. You will finish. You will pass. You will thank me later.

Stay away from anything you can smoke, little sister
Keep your lungs fresh and your mind healthy. That's all.

Keep your legs crossed, little sister
My generation got all confused about sexual empowerment. We thought it was cool and grown up and enlightened to sleep with who we wanted, when we wanted. We thought it would make us grow and show how liberated we were. We didn’t give enough thought to how that would play out once we actually did meet the ‘love of our life’ or when we became mums or when we joined the parent community of our son’s private catholic school... or so I’ve heard. Anyway, there’s no hurry. Hold off. Don't compromise. Don't believe that 'friends with benefits' is anything other than a crappy Hollywood movie. Wait for a while when you meet someone new. Maybe he's 'the one' in which case you can wait and if he's not, then don't bother. You’ll have plenty of years and plenty of options and just quietly you won’t reach your prime ‘til you’re in your  thirties anyway.

Don’t ink your body yet, little sister
Wait, wait. Wait until you know what you believe in and know who you are. Live in your body a bit longer before you stain it with a cliché that means more to your friends on instagram than you.

Love yourself, little sister
You are bright and gorgeous and smart and honest. You sparkle when you smile and you snort when you laugh. You are healthy. You are a woman. Your body is beautiful. Now. When you were skinnier. When you get fatter. It’s YOUR body. If you love it, taking care of it will be easy. Be comfortable in your gorgeous skin. Be true to your earnest heart. And for fucks sake, pluck your eyebrows.

Be proud to be a woman, little sister
Remember when you were so excited to find your first pubic hair [or was that me?]. It was exciting because it heralded the beginning of your journey into womanhood. Women have pubic hair. Prepubescent girls don’t. Strippers don’t. Sex workers don’t. Real men like their women to look like women. Don’t be sucked into this craze that makes you feel dirty or unclean to look like a woman. I read somewhere that there are some boys of your generation who have never seen a woman with pubic hair and feel ‘repulsed’ at the mere thought of it. Do not date those boys. I will be forced to hold them down and wax their balls and arse myself. Keep your hair down there.

Love your Mum, little sister
I know she’s annoying. I know she doesn’t seem to ‘get it’. I know she doesn’t let you sleep in or have boys in your room or like you drinking. I know. She’s my Mum too. The thing is, when you get older, you’ll realise she was right about sooooo many things. Boys, friends, fashion mistakes, husbands. Your Mum is cool. When she’s not being embarrassing.

Be yourself always, little sister
I know that’s hard. I know you struggle. It comes with the territory. I know you don’t know who you are yet. That’s ok. Be yourself today. And tomorrow be yourself then. If you get confused, come to me. I will remind you of who you are. I will help you see who I see.

Be grateful, little sister
The world does not owe you, despite what your generation thinks. Be grateful for your gifts of health and intellect and freedom and love. Use your gifts to make a difference. To matter. Start with your family. When you’ve got that right, move on to your friends. Once you’ve got the hang of it, the world is yours to make a change. Do not waste your youth and opportunity in a life unlived, unexplored or unappreciated.

Stop using hashtags, little sister
We have a language. It’s called English. Use it. Spell out the words. Use a pen and write the words. Send someone a real card in the mail one day. Words are beautiful. They’re long and descriptive and evoke emotion. Stop abbreviating. It drives me nuts.

Laugh out loud, little sister
Actually live in the moment. You do only live once. Make it worth it. And don’t fuck your life.

Listen to me, little sister
I’ve lived your years. I’ve known your struggles. I recognise your fears. I’ve made [some of] your mistakes. Learn from me. Lean on me. I love you more than you love yourself at the moment. It’s just the way it is with girls. Let me guide you. All I ask in return is that when you become an amazing, love-yourself, authentic woman... you pay it forward.

Oh, and I still need you to babysit.

Love your totes awesome sister and #bff in the whole world,

Tan x