Thursday, October 02, 2008

anatomy of an older sister

i used to write for an online magazine, LegManila ("a decidedly literary site that remarked on the good and the bad in the city"). due to some business decision, LegManila was shut down about 5 years ago (not sure about this, i tried to block it from my memory) and my humor pieces disappeared into oblivion.


i've resurrected some of my essays here and there*, and today is a good time to bring one out. below is a slightly edited version of one of my favorite essays. i wrote this 8 years ago but it still makes me giggle. (if you can entertain yourself, you're set for life.)

my older sister is married and mom to two extremely pinch-worthy kids, who have starred more than once in my blog. she doesn't make life a living hell for me anymore and, on the contrary, has turned out to be one of my best friends – not to mention best shopping mate, eating mate, spa mate and salon mate. oh and she now lets me eat the full range of colors of m&ms. just fyi.

happy birthday, ate.


Anatomy of an Older Sister

by Orange de Guzman
November 2000

Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting the bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian. – Dennis Wholey

There used to be tan M&Ms.

Do not dare challenge the truth of this statement. There are only a handful of things that I am sure of in this world. The existence of tan M&Ms is way up there on my list, ranked somewhere below the reality of God and a little above the certainty of a hearty laugh while watching an 80s drama flick on the Pinoy Blockbuster channel.

Before I digress, allow me to introduce my villain, the true atribida of my existence. Her name is Ate. (Names in this essay have been changed, albeit quite uncreatively, to protect the unwilling victims of my diatribe. Regardless of my valiant efforts to conceal their identities, I will, most definitely, still be strangled upon publication.)

Being 4 years younger than Ate, I had no choice but to be the submissive sister. Blame it on blind obedience, but I simply never learned to disagree with her. After all, Sesame Street did not ever teach rebellion or vengeance. Sadly, the lowercase ‘n’ standing on a hill (who’s not lonely anymore, mind you) did nothing to affirm my dignity.

Ate loved to manipulate my pliable mind. While watching Discorama, Ate convinced me that Bobby Ledesma, as well as the rest of the cast, was part of a set of triplets. What other explanation could there be for three identical faces appearing on screen? That favorite camera trick was probably the height of technology in the 70s. It also marked the start of my gullible years.

I believed with all my heart that it was very magnanimous of Ate to take charge of dividing M&Ms between us. (I also believed that I would never have to use the word ‘magnanimous,’ so you can pretty much imagine how adulthood has corrupted me.) Every pack was carefully opened and the contents laid out on a table of questionable cleanliness. Somehow, I always ended up with the dark brown and tan M&Ms. While Ate had all the bright colors melting in her hand (yes, they DO melt in your hand), I had to settle for my blah-colored candies.

One time, I mustered up all the courage my feeble spirit could generate and asked her why I had to eat the brown ones. Her answer?

‘But those taste better! The brown ones taste more chocolate-y!’

How could I have doubted my idol? Even after I stole and tasted a bright yellow M&M from her pile, I convinced myself that my pieces DID taste better than hers. She was right all along.

For one with semiformed values, I was forgiving to a fault. I easily overlooked the times when I woke up with large scribbles all over my legs. I learned never to fight with impeccable reasoning (‘But Mama, it’s so nice to write on skin!’). Somehow, I always ended up playing with Bad-Hair-Day Barbie, whose short blond locks adamantly refused to be tamed, while Ate reveled at the way her doll’s shiny hair moved gracefully in the breeze. Thus was the story of my childhood: too Brand X for words.

One glaring proof of how badly she treated me still remains to this day. Back then, she called me Engot – the closest English translation of which would be ‘stupid’ or some other terms I cannot mention right now, on account of my refined nature. I’m still trying to fathom what possessed her to give me such an endearing nickname. Unfortunately for me, the name stayed around for 25 years. My family and dearest friends now call me Eng, a blatant reminder of my singular childhood with Ate. I’m just monumentally grateful that I didn’t get stuck with the less-appealing shortcut Ngot, which sounds downright foul, if you ask me.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t grow up writing dark, angst-y poems about the harsh blows life has dealt me in the form of an evil sister. I don’t even remember hating her. Not even when I realized that the layered look, which she instructed the gay stylist to give me, would not be in style until a good 10 years later. Did I mind that I looked like a hairy lizard in my elementary yearbook picture? Not one bit. Forgive me for the visual torture.

As a matter of fact, we’ve become good friends. A 4-year gap becomes negligible as siblings grow up. A priceless bonus I’ve gotten from all those years of harassment is that I’ve become tougher and less sensitive to teasing. I don’t remember ever being called pikon. I suppose it’s because no one comes close to Ate’s creativity in dishing out pure agony. Either that or I’m just all cried out.

Besides, we’re on the same team now. I’ve become an Ate myself. My younger sister, who arrived 8 years after my birth, thinks I’m the funniest person alive. And why shouldn’t she? I treat her infinitely better than how my Ate treated me. Need proof? Ask my little sister. I call her Gross.

Revenge is sweet. (About as sweet as tan M&Ms – but then again, you’ll just have to take my word for it.)

*someday, i'm going to resurrect ALL of my old humor essays ... and then some. watch out for that. oooooooooooooo.


Imperious Rex said...

That was twisted (and funny).

Les said...

I love your humor essays about family (I think one of my favorites was the birthday piece for Mia...hehe). :D

Too bad you don't have more siblings to write about...(more! more!)

Ooh, maybe you can write about Jesse. Hehehe. Oh wait, write about Topi!!! Hehehehe.

Emily said...

I remember this one. I also definitely remember tan M&Ms. They were much better than the blue ones.