Archive | June, 2010

Who is the Big Sister?

29 Jun

Heathers’ Perspective

I am the oldest, tallest and fattest of four sisters.  Andrea and Zubedia (my half-sister and step-sister respectively) are fairly recent additions to my family and arrived in my life 14 years ago when Dad re-married.  But it is the relationship that I have with Suzanne – my full-blooded sister – that is the focus of this blog and our book.

Suzanne (on left) and Heather (centre) - 1984

Suzanne is two years my junior and our relationship has ebbed and flowed over the years in a manner typical of most siblings.  As is true of most relationships, we’ve been through good times and bad.  There have been times when we loved each other’s company and other times when we’ve hated each other’s guts, especially when we were teenagers.  She may have been younger and smaller than me, but it didn’t stop her from yanking fist-full’s of hair from my head,  sinking her teeth into plump flesh – or gouging craters in my skin with her sharp little nails.  Her actions earned her the nick-name “Vicious” – which I call her to this day, a name to which she happily answers.  Suzanne wears a very loud warning sign on her forehead.  It reads:  “You do not wanna mess with me!”… and as her sister, I can assure you, that you don’t.

I’m the peacekeeper in our relationship.  Suzanne hasn’t been much of a peace-loving person since I’ve known her.  She once threw her popcorn box at the head of a person who was chatting loudly in the movie theatre – a few rows in front of us.  When the offending chatter spun around indignantly (her throw was very accurate) – my sister quickly put him in his place by snapping:  “Next time, it will be my fucking shoe!”.  The man was quiet for the rest of the show.

On another occasion, she purged herself of no less than five girlfriends in one sitting.  Suzanne is fiercely loyal, and she demands the same courtesy from anyone she calls friend.  When she found out that the five had been spreading rumours and gossiping behind her back, she sat down and penned a generic letter addressed to all of them.  The letter included details of the offences committed and ended off by stating that she wanted all of the offenders out of her life and didn’t want to see them or speak to them again.  It worked.  They never saw her or spoke to her again and Suzanne drew herself closer to the trusted ones in her life; friends and family who loved her unconditionally in spite of her sharp bristles and the occasional verbal snipe.

Heather (on left) and Suzanne - 1980

Those of us who know Suzanne, know that beneath the prickly exterior (and I must admit, she’s a lot less prickly these days than what she used to be)… lies a sensitive soul with strong beliefs and a good heart.  There’s a lot about her to love.  She can be wickedly funny and unlawfully sarcastic.  She can get piping mad when faced with injustice, and doesn’t mince her words when she’s angry.  But she can also be marshmallow soft, especially around my two children, animals and the people she’s closest to.

I’ve made my fair share of assumptions, over the years, regarding the state of Sue’s life and inner workings… and I thought I knew her well and sometimes even arrogantly assumed that I knew her better than she knew herself.  It’s only recently, as I am now older (and hopefully a bit wiser) that the slow realisation is beginning to dawn on me that perhaps we aren’t as different as I always supposed.  It was only within the past 4 years that I discovered that Suzanne has obsessed about weight and about food for almost as long as I have.  This was a startling epiphany.  I had always assumed that, as the fat one, my morbid relationship with food and weight was my territory – and mine alone.

I can’t remember exactly when my obsession with food began.  I know only that it has consumed most of my life in the kind of all-encompassing way that a ruthless affliction might render it’s victim hopelessly incapacitated.  I’ve been fighting the demon of addiction for as long as I can remember and it’s a strange consolation to finally realise that I’m not alone in this war.  Stranger still, to realise that one of the people who has always been fighting alongside me is my little sister.  My thin, never-been-fat-ever… little sister.

Suzanne (on left) and Heather - March 1985

Suzanne and I are different in many ways, but I find it almost amusing to discover that the way in which I thought we differed most – is the way in which we are most similar.  We share an unhealthy love of food and an obsession with weight, but Suzanne, it seems, has managed to hold the demon at bay by managing to remain thin, in spite of it all.   I, on the other hand, seem to have lost the battle.  At 122 kilograms, I am almost 63 kilograms (139 pounds) heavier than my little sister and deeply ashamed because of it.

Suzanne (on left) and Heather - April 2010

Writing our book and this blog together, and the enlightening conversations we have shared in the process, has been wonderfully healing… I think for the both of us.  So much is beginning to make sense:  why we are the way we are.  Why we think the way we think.  And mostly – the understanding I have gained that Suzanne is not at all the shallow, self-obsessed individual that I thought she was some years ago.  She’s actually more like me than I ever thought or cared to admit.  We share something deeper than family genes.  We share… an understanding.  And I think that there are many millions of women around the world who share it with us, who may be able to relate painfully well to our particular journey, on a multitude of levels.

Allow me then, to introduce myself.  I’m Heather.  I’m taller, fatter and older than Suzanne.  In more ways than one;  I’m the big sister.



Pears and Apples

29 Jun

Suzannes’ Perspective

Pears and Apples.  Two well known body shapes, to which most women are assigned.  Possibly invented by the same nameless twits who came up with “endomorph” and “ectomorph” – or maybe it was someone who was trying to explain “endomorph” and “ectomorph” to someone dim and disinterested.

how do you like dem apples?

We loathe these labels for several reasons – for me it is the sheer finality of it.  You are a pear.  No matter how well you eat or how much you exercise, you need to face the reality of your large arse and small tits.  If you try to get more than your share of tits – you will get an extra helping of arse.  If you want less arse, it means no tits and a scrawny, bony upper body to boot.
If you are an apple, you get a big fat lumpy gut to carry around with you and a fat back soft enough to ooze around your bra straps and make any sheer fabric blouse, so flattering to the pear, completely impossible.  If an apple gains weight they will continue to grow humptier and dumptier while their legs and arms remain stubbornly skinny.  Also to be expected, particularly later in life;  a flat arse that looks sullen and beak-like in tight pants.
The apple and the pear.  I understand where they got it from – really I do – as much as it offends me.  It’s a shape thing and the visual comparison, is, I begrudgingly admit, appropriate.

"Besides being from the same family, the apple and pear don’t have much to remind one of the other despite both being fruit."

My sister is a pear and I am an apple.  Besides all the horrific physical incarnations that come with that (much much more about that later), I think the analogy can be taken quite a bit further when it comes to the two of us.  Besides being from the same family, the apple and pear don’t have much to remind one of the other despite both being fruit.  It is the same with Heather and I, or so I used to think. Up until about a year ago I believed that we couldn’t have been more different.  Heather, it always seemed to me, was a product of my mother in both temperament and desire, and my father had used my mother’s womb to incubate me.  Of course, things are never that simple.
We grew up in the same home with the same parents – what happened that made us so completely different?  Heather and I are certainly one hell of an argument for the nature vs. nurture debate.  I am sure you wouldn’t place us at sisters,  and I am not talking purely about mass difference here.  Weight was always an issue, but there were always bigger issues behind it  – bigger fatter issues – that neither of us had the equipment to appropriately deal with.  We are writing this book together as adults and I hope it helps heal us a little.  Maybe we can forgive ourselves, and each other, for a few things said, done and eaten, along the way.

"hey look.. we can both shine!"

Heather is an artist, both musically and graphically.  She can take what is in her head and present it as a picture or as a string of musical notes.  This has always been her gift.  She doesn’t like boundaries, restrictions or rules, and rebels when cornered.   She never took to school, although her academic progress was more remarkable than mine in the early years (check the report cards!).  Something put her off it, and when that happens for Heather, there is no turning back.  She is a brilliant friend and a loyal and supportive sister – a bond, which we only discovered, was worth pursuing once we were both married and out the big house.  She is married to a great guy and has two small, cute children.
I am a workaholic I suppose.  The little choo-choo train that could or whatever.  The one that has to win, that has to prove everyone wrong.  I finished matric and did my degree through correspondence while working full time.  It was deliberately matryish – which is this thing that I do (lots more about that later).  I overdo things, and pick away at them until they explode in my face.  I have been equal parts successful young exec and broke dogs body in my life (during the recovery periods from one crazy scheme or another), never quite managing to find a healthy balance.  My relationships seem to follow a similar track.  I love to write and it is my way to be crazy creative, but I don’t do it enough, because when I do.. it’s never RIGHT.
You will meet the rest of the family on the way down the road we are about to travel together, but let me summarise by saying my father is a workaholic (no, not a coincidence) pretending to be semi-retired who is remarried to a much younger wife and has another two daughters, one acquired, one made.  Dad is a determined impatient man who does not suffer fools but he has his own way of showing us he loves us.  My mother was a homemaker while we were growing up and is the idea fountain from which we both caught the creative bug.  She is a lover of hugs and kisses and wants to save the world through her work with the church.  She went through a lot in her life, but has found a new lease on it since her divorce which involved swearing off men and living on a plot of land in the wild wild South African west in pursuit of her dream.
This book is about lots of things, some of them can be eaten, others are hard to swallow.  A less important fact but one which in the context of this book needs to be noted : I currently weigh 59kgs, half a bag of dog food shy of my all time heaviest weight of 65kg and am 1.7m tall.
I am the little sister.

Suzannne (far left), Heather (far right), 1978