FUNNY WOMEN #65: Literary-Minded Sister is One of the Guys

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As the only girl in a family of five boys, Sarah Thompson always felt left out.

“It was like, because I didn’t have a penis, I wasn’t allowed to pee standing up,” she recalls, shaking her head. Matters weren’t helped by the fact that Sarah was more of the quiet, literary type, while the boys were made of noise and brawn.

Sarah says, “I used to stand in the middle of their football games while they tackled and pantsed each other, and I’d shout, ‘This is a stereotyped scenario! These gender roles are blatantly archaic!’ But they never listened.”

Still, Sarah knew from the long magazine articles she read about dysfunctional families that developing strong ties with her brothers was important, so she made great efforts to reach out. Unfortunately, these attempts were one-sided.

“I was constantly lending them emotionally wrought novels about teenaged girls dying of cancer, staring at them balefully across a moor, inviting them to audit both ‘Jane Austen: The Biker Chick’ and ‘Liberated Vaginas for the Sovereign Woman,’ but they couldn’t even bother to circle ‘no’ on the calling cards I had specially made in London.”

But things came to a real breaking point earlier this year when Sarah asked her favorite brother, Eric, to read her first-person essay. Things did not go well.

Painting by J.C. Leyendecker

Eric reports: “I believe my response was, ‘It’s good,’ and I even gave a head nod to show her I really meant it. But when I went back to watching TV, she started ranting about how she’d hoped I’d said that the essay really captured what it’s like to be a woman in her mid-twenties struggling with assertion within a larger power structure that primes women to deny their own needs, and that her exploration of an obsessive female friendship was interesting and nuanced. I had no idea what she was talking about, but when I made the sound of a yowling cat, she just stormed out of the room. The next thing I knew she was hovering over the bathtub with stones in her pockets shouting, ‘If Virginia Woolf can do it, so can I!’”

It was clear that Sarah needed a new approach. “They think just because I’m a feminist I won’t ‘get’ it. But now I’m going to prove to them how much I do.”

Sarah’s efforts so far have been multi-pronged, including eating nachos on the couch and dropping cheese between the cracks, picking arguments about inane things and promising to “look it the fuck up on Wikipedia,” and not lecturing her brothers about feminism when they listen to rap (she’ll even go so far as to really enunciate ”bitches” and “hos” when appropriate).

“It’s been tough,” Sarah says, slapping a nearby gyrating scantily clad woman on the behind while holding a dog-eared copy of The Feminine Mystique.

More difficult still has been adjusting to all the talk about boobs. “At least I’m trying, unlike the guys, who just glared at me when I yelled at a passing hot chick, ‘Nice left tit!’ How is that not a compliment? It was like the guys didn’t even care that most women’s breasts aren’t proportional. Having seen so many lumpy, saggy, old lady breasts in filthy locker rooms, I think I know I thing or two about the subject.”

Her brothers, though, say they have noticed her efforts. “It’s really weird,” says Eric. “We love her for who she is and wish she would just relax.”

To that, Sarah’s eyes fill with tears, and as she clutches an Emily Brontë novel to her chest, says softly, “I get it. I really do . . . but man, did you see that right butt cheek? Holla!”

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Leah Kaminsky completed her MFA in Fiction Writing at the University of Washington in 2009 and has since placed twice in Glimmer Train top 25 lists. She is a big fan and producer of short-shorts and comics, which she posts semi-regularly on her website, leahkaminsky.wordpress.com. She just moved from Seattle to Austin, so give her a break if the website hasn't been updated lately. More from this author →