I grew up with four sisters, each of them amazing. I’ve been told that they were sensitive, kind, dutiful, humble, even-tempered, articulate and smart from the very beginning. I have no reason to doubt this assessment since it matches perfectly my own direct experience over the years. My parents had three girls before I arrived and, I fear, rocked their world. A year and a half later they had my younger sister, who surely provided a sweet, feminine counterbalance to my decidedly boyish influence over the household. Even at a relatively young age I was aware of how different I was from them: They were (and are) pretty, even delicate. I had abnormally ruddy cheeks, a constantly dripping nose, and swollen eyes that gave me the appearance of “Winston Churchill after a bender,” as my father put it. They were clean, tidy, and fresh-smelling. I emitted a kind of Pig-pen vibe throughout childhood: A cloud of dirt accompanied me everywhere, I was disheveled, and I smelled like stale sweat. They spoke in descriptive, grammatically correct, complete sentences. I grunted or otherwise communicated in two or three word clips. My mother once observed, for example, that my favorite expression was “Huh?” They regularly consumed normal amounts and types of food-stuff. I ate all day, every day, like a 350 pound NFL lineman during two-a-days in the heat of the summer. A daily five-figure caloric intake comprised of peanut butter, ice cream, and sugar-saturated cereal was pretty average for me. You get the picture. We got along, we loved each other ferociously, but we were very, very different.
Let’s move forward 40 years or so, and observe a modest family scene in present-day Greenville, OH. My daughter Abby is turning 11 years old and, accordingly, welcomes three girlfriends for a slumber party to celebrate this milestone. Abby, her friends, Krista, Daniel, Luke, and I are at the dinner table eating pizza. I scan the scene and recall elements of my childhood, described above. Daniel and Luke are devouring pizza and apple slices like a pair of famished lions chewing a fresh carcass. Krista and I know not to waste our breath or energy asking either of them a question now. We might get a cryptic “nnngggggghhhh” in response, but nothing more. Meanwhile, Abby and her three friends are chattering away between dainty bites. “Have you read the new ‘Warrior’ book??” one of them asks. “It’s awesome. I just love how they….” and away they go, describing plot elements, characters, themes. I try to interject a question at one point but can’t wedge my way into their nonstop conversation. Questions, answers, and well-reasoned opinions of every sort ricochet back and forth in a blizzard of verbal interaction. They talk about their classes, their friends, their teachers, their parents, and their favorite internet websites without a pause. Between the four of them, at least two are always speaking at the same time and I’m fascinated by their ability to hear and process everything. Meanwhile, Daniel and Luke continue scarfing down slices of pizza, apparently pleased that these silly creatures are too busy jabbering to compete with them for the remaining food.
Later in the evening Krista and I announce it’s time to get ready for bed. I take the boys to their bathroom upstairs and monitor them as they brush their teeth and potty. The entire process takes approximately three minutes, and Daniel would do it all with the door wide open if I allowed. Luke is more (appropriately) modest. We then go to their bedroom, pray, and say our good-nights. Luke sits up in bed drawing pictures of people picking their noses and making slightly off-color remarks. He shows Daniel and they giggle together. “Luke, that is SWEEEET!” Daniel announces, and then disappears under his sheets to reenact some scene from a movie or cartoon he’s seen recently, gyrating and banging into the wall that abuts his bed. He’ll do this for a few more minutes before he settles down and reads a book as he drifts into sleep. Luke works on a comic strip/graphic novel he’s titled “Captain Toilet”. Nice.
I depart and walk down the hallway where the girls are now taking turns, one at a time, in the bathroom before retiring. The remaining girls are in Abby’s bedroom, again engaged in a blitzkrieg of discussion. “Did you see what [name redacted] was wearing today?? It was soooo cute.” “Yeah, I did. You’re right. I loved the cat on her shirt.” “Yeah, me too. Speaking of animals, have you ever been to the Columbus Zoo?” And so forth. Roughly an hour later the girls complete their bathroom activities and they continue their exchange with all members present.
Around midnight I lie down in my own bed, pull a heavy comforter up to my neck and kiss Krista goodnight. The girls are still murmuring enthusiastically next door. As I slowly lose consciousness I hear one of them ask, “What’s up with boys? They are so weird!” I smile and drift blessedly to sleep, thinking of sugar and spice and puppy dog tails.
Timothy Swenson is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in these opinion pieces are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.