The day I could have killed my sister and died of embarrassment!
Sounds dramatic, right?
How often do we, without thinking, blurt out the words “I’m going to kill you” or “I nearly died” at times when we either feel angry or embarrassed. Well, one day back in 1991 was just one of those days.
I was 19 and my sister three years younger. I was at college, and my sister was at school. It was early evening. The two of us had been left to prepare our own supper. No problems there. Always competitive siblings, we loved to play Ready, Steady, Cook, randomly knocking together weird and wonderful culinary miracles from whatever we could find in the cupboard.
My sister would always win. She was much the more accomplished cook and somehow always managed to conjure up something delicious out of random ingredients, however inedible they might seem.
One particular evening, she seemed a little reserved. This was highly unusual for my normally chatty and outgoing sibling. I asked if she was okay. She became evasive and began asking probing questions about my appearance. Finally, she blurted out,
“Olivia – would you ever consider entering Miss Burton Mail Competition?”
I shot back with, “Nope. Never, there’s no way…”
My sister quickly lowered her eyes and half turned away. “Why?” My single-word question was drawn out. I already harboured an unpleasant suspicion as to what was to come next. Following a prolonged silence, she replied with,
“Weeell – I think I might have gone and sent in your competition entry form on your behalf.”
Now it was my turn for silence. I was thunderstruck. I froze in shock, looking my sister up and down; searching for body language clues to confirm that my practical joker of a sister was pulling my leg. Alas – she was not.
“When… where… how…?” Once I realised she was deadly serious, questions raced through my mind. How had she managed to organise this when normally handing in her homework on time was a challenge. She confessed that she’d posted it off days ago along with a photo of me with my dog.
I was mortified. The Burton Mail offices would be closed. It would be tomorrow before I’d have a chance to call the paper and cancel my entry. Suppose I was too late and the paper had already gone to print? I was distraught. The thought of my face staring out from the pages of the local rag filled me with horror. Not to mention the prospect of having to parade in front of the judges.
I could have killed her
I was so cross at my sister. How could she? I lay awake in bed for half the night, terrified that I was too late to stop publication. How would I prepare in time for the wretched beauty contest? All those pounds I’d have to shed – all those sessions at the gym that would have to be paid for. As with so many teenagers, my self-image was poor. I was shy and lacked self-esteem. I was definitely not good enough to push myself forward as some kind of beauty queen.
The following day, I called the Burton Mail. To my profound relief, it was not due to go to print until the next day. The lady from the Mail chuckled kindly and popped my photo back in the post.
Now that those teenage years are so far behind me, I often wonder if things have changed. How much worse might my fears, however unfounded, have been in the modern-day environment of social media, filters and associated apps?
She thought I was beautiful
Of course, now my sister and I can look back and laugh about the story. Beneath the tale lies something quite wonderful – you see, my sister thought I was beautiful. Beautiful enough to take the time and initiative to buy a copy of the Burton Mail and enter me into the competition.
This is so often the case. Have you noticed how, in life, we rarely see ourselves as others do – they see positives in our personality or physical appearance to which we are blind?
The reality? It doesn’t matter a jot what they think. What is important is how we see ourselves. Looking to others for validation can be a destructive cycle. We see this time and again through social media.
The simple truth is that we need to learn to look in the mirror, smile and tell ourselves –
“You know what? You’re OK!”