The Ugly Duckling

As is the case with most sisters there is a healthy amount of competition between Julia and me. She has always been more charismatic and fun (lately earning the moniker of “Fun Aunt” to my brother’s children. Bitch.) and I have always been more … well, more like me.

When we were young the chief source of our competition was our looks. Every young girl wants to be pretty and Julia is an incredibly pretty girl. Her personality shines through and men and women alike have always flocked to her. She has an ease of character I’ve always admired (and been more than a little jealous of). I, however, only recently came into my looks.

This youthful competition reached its peak when I was around 13. Boys that I had mad crushes on were only interested in me as a way to get closer to my sister and I was exceptionally sensitive about it. One day this competition turned into a full blown argument, which we then brought to the Ultimate Authority (my Dad).

Both of us were frustrated after nearly an hour of arguing over who was prettier and we ran downstairs to my Dad who was on the computer playing FreeCell, ready for him to settle the situation. Now, as the daughter who went out of her way to spend time with my Dad, grocery shopping on Sundays being one of our many Daddy-Daughter outings, I was pretty confident that he would at least comfort me in the way that only Dads can do.

“Dad!” Julia and I demanded in unison, he glanced over but continued his game. “Which of us is prettier?” I asked, turning to glare at my sister.

Without missing a beat and with zero hesitation my Dad responded. “Julia,” he said, still playing his game. Julia managed to look both smug and horrified at the same time, happy to be declared the prettiest, but also sad at my reaction which was to burst into tears that quickly escalated into full blown sobs.

My reaction is what made my Dad finally shut down his game and turn to look at me, also horrified at my response to what he thought had been a purely academic question.

Dad quickly explained that while Julia was the prettier of us I was something better; I was unusual looking. (This made me cry harder. What 13 year old girl wants to be unusual? And who on earth would believe that unusual is better than pretty?) He then went on to tell me the story of the Ugly Duckling who was only considered ugly because she didn’t look like any of the other ducks.

This temporarily stopped my sobs, but only so I could exclaim in absolute horror. “You think I’m ugly?!”

Dad blanched. This conversation was definitely not going the way he intended, and he was quickly learning that pre-teen girls are not always the best at rational conversations. “But you’ll be beautiful one day” he tried comfort me.

I cried some more, pausing occasionally to ask him why I was ugly. Dad kept trying to salvage the conversation, going on to explain the differences between unusual and ugly and using examples of actresses who were not conventionally pretty but were still more beautiful than their pretty counterparts. The conversation peaked when he finally told me “I would grow into my looks one day.”

At the time this was extremely traumatic, but now that I have in fact “grown into my looks” I can appreciate what my Dad was trying to say. Though Instagram filters can occasionally help me join the ranks of pretty girls, I really am more unusual looking than anything else. My eyes are strangely shaped and my nose (the same one that works great on my brother and sister’s faces) just doesn’t sit right. But still, my face is completely my own and it works.

I am unusual looking and I like it that way.

Nostalgia for Johnny M

I’m a pretty big wuss at the best of times. When given the choice, I always go with “moderately frightening” over “absolutely terrifying”. I never watch horror movies or slasher films and I avoid haunted houses at Halloween.

Last summer I was even freaked out watching back to back episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark? (The clown and the stolen cigar episode still gives me the heebie jeebies.)

But the scariest movie I have ever seen? The Watcher in the Woods. That’s right. In a world where scary movies are a dime a dozen and gore is literally splattered across film screens everywhere, the movie that scares me the most is a PG release by Disney from 1980.

I haven’t watched the film in a decade, but I still feel a little tingle of terror whenever I think about it. The premise was pretty simple. A family moves into a creepy house in the countryside where they quickly learn a girl disappeared “under suspicious circumstances” years before. Throw in a creepy man who lives in the woods, an alien portrayed by a light beam and a girl trapped in mirrors and you’ve got yourself a genuine scary movie.

I can’t even count the number of times my sister and I watched this only to end up awake all night talking, not because we had anything to say but because both of us were too terrified to sleep.

Yup … still creepy.

Over the years there have been several instances where I almost rewatched this movie. I even went so far as to rent it one Friday night last year when I still lived on my own, but it remained in its case. I have had too many wonderful childhood memories ruined by being revisited and I can’t bring myself to destroy this one too.

What am I so afraid of, you ask? Well, what if I watch it again only to see it for the campy, dated film it is? What if I end up sitting through an hour and twenty minutes of bad movie, instantly overriding all the great memories I have of being scared with my sister?

Or worse, what if I watch it again and it’s still terrifying?

I’ll just stick to the memories, thank you very much.

A Long Time Ago, or Back in the Day

A Story of Two Sisters

As with all other stories, this one starts with a beginning …

A long time ago, in the Western Coast of Canada, two sisters were born. Both beautiful and smart, together they became everything they ever wanted to be – adventurers, mermaids, explorers, damsels, architects and everything in between. The possibilities were endless. They starred in a soap opera (Hospital Happening), built an entire city (Barbie Land), encountered a Killer Moth, survived a daring encounter with a dark tunnel and fed mud to obnoxious neighbours.

Their summers were filled with inside jokes: closet coke fiends and shrine misunderstandings, pond-digging and fly swallowing, uphill encounters and downhill adventures, paint repairs and bedroom baseball, all night card games and Mario Party giggles, orange cake mix and flour fights, SNES Routines and dance numbers (“Hat’s off to Larry!”), paper mache and perfume, bedroom window pulleys and a hidden brick wall. Together they got in (and out) of trouble, one always convincing the other that if it’s already been done you can’t get in trouble for it … and one always believing it!

They did everything together, including take the most life-changing trip either could have imagined. FANZ, a summer of Aussie loves and Kiwi hikes through creepy woods, of ‘canoeing’ and crocodiles, of bottles of rum and drink coupons, of sprite explosions and sugar cane, of dancing boys and sky diving, of jungle treks and movie premieres, of King Arthur and I Robot, of tattoos and zoos, and the dangers of a credit card – a summer neither expected and neither will ever forget. Ziggay say wha…?

Through the tears and laughter they have always been the best of friends – a special bond that only sisters can share, even from a province away.

To Johnny M,
With Love,
Johnny M