June 2, 2021 – Somewhere in the middle.

Have you ever noticed that there are certain people who (when you spend time around them) make you feel better about yourself? Whereas, alternatively, there are other people who make you feel far worse (when you hang out together)? In high school, I had two different, close friends, both with the name ‘Julie’. They were both short, but that was really the only thing they had in common. The first Julie had blonde hair, was a little rough around the edges, and was not considered ‘a looker’ by the opposite sex. She was the same age as me but attended a different school. The second Julie had brown hair and was more refined in her mannerisms. She never had any trouble getting noticed due to her two very prominent assets. If you ‘read between the lines’, you’ll know what I’m talking about. She was one year older than me and attended the same school. I had very different experiences depending on which Julie I hung out with. As much as I enjoyed hanging out with the second Julie because she loved to go dancing at the nightclubs as much as I did, I preferred hanging out with the first Julie or Julie #1.

Why did I prefer to hang out with Julie #1? Apart from the fact that we had very little in common (other than being born on the same month in the same year), she made me ‘look good’. She was into fast cars and cruising, hanging out and playing pool, and a bunch of stuff that really didn’t interest me. Most of the time she could care less about going with me to nightclubs, but she would entertain the idea on occasion if she knew the club had a couple of pool tables that she was able to showcase her skills on. When we hung out together, I felt like the ‘belle of the ball’. All eyes would be on me. If we stood side-by-side, if a male approached, he rarely showed any interest in her. It was almost as if she wasn’t even there! I hate to admit it but I loved all of the attention! I felt strong and attractive, and getting all of that attention from the opposite sex definitely increased my self esteem. I also appeared more ‘normal’ around her because she was so quirky and strange. I’ve never considered myself to be ‘normal’, but when we hung out together I came across as much less neurotic.

It was a real ego boost whenever I hung out with the first Julie. I always came home in a great mood at the end of the night. I always felt pretty and smart and less like a ‘weirdo’. That was never the case when I hung out with the second Julie or Julie #2. If she accompanied me to a dance club, I was the one completely disregarded by the opposite sex. Guys would continually approach her and ask her to dance and wouldn’t even bother to glance in my direction. They always seem transfixed on/by her two prominent assets. As she filled up her dance card, I stood on the sidelines. I felt ugly and disregarded. I considered myself to be a pretty decent ‘catch’, but around her I felt like a troll and wanted to go hide under a bridge. I was rarely (if ever) approached when we stood side-by-side, so I usually ended up going out on the dance floor and dancing by myself. At the end of the evening, she’d come home with a handful of phone numbers from prospective ‘love interests’, whereas, I’d come home empty handed.

Hanging out with her really did a number on my self esteem. I would return home at the end of the night feeling lousy and insecure about myself. Before climbing into bed, I’d go into the bathroom and stare at my reflection in the mirror, checking to see whether a horn was growing out of my forehead or if I’d transformed into a cyclops. There had to be some valid reason I was always overlooked in her presence! It’s interesting because when I got married, I was still really good friends with both Julies and they both wanted to be my maid-of-honor at the wedding. I don’t know that I put a great deal of thought into it, but you can probably guess which Julie I chose to stand beside me. I picked Julie #2. Haha! Of course, I didn’t! I was checking to see if you were still paying attention!! No, I picked the first Julie. It was my wedding day, after all. It was my ‘time to shine’. Julie #2 was really upset that she wasn’t the ‘chosen one’, but can you blame me? She outshone me every single time we went out together, I was not going to give her an opportunity to do it on my wedding day!

It’s ironic because the situation is very similar between me and my two sisters. Just like with the two Julies, I feel like I belong ‘somewhere in the middle’. With one, I feel like the most beautiful, sane person in the room. With the other, I feel the exact opposite. Well, at least I did until she decided to hop on board the ‘crazy train’. She’s now giving me a run for my money in the ‘crazy’ department. My oldest (surviving) sister, Cactus Annie, has always been regarded as the ‘fat’ sister. My other sister, Diabolical Debbie, has always been known as the ‘pretty’ sister. ‘Smart’ and ‘cute’ were the labels affixed to me. Cactus Annie has had issues with her weight ever since she had her first child. Before that she was rail thin. She’s also had a reputation for being a bit on the ‘strange’ side as well as for making a lot of really bad decisions, especially when it comes to finances. Diabolical Debbie has used her looks to her advantage throughout her entire life. People have always said that she should have been a model. If she ever needed help with anything, it seemed like all she had to do was flash her bright smile and people would trip over themselves rushing to her aid.

Throughout the years, I’ve always felt better about myself around Cactus Annie because no matter how much weight I’ve gained, she’s always been bigger/fatter than me (but I nearly matched her at one point). She’s also a nut. No matter how many examples I provide about her odd behavior over the years, I don’t think you’ll ever be able to fully appreciate how unbelievably strange she actually is. Make no mistake, I’m a nut, too. However, when you put us side-by-side, I seem pretty darn normal. When I used to hang around Diabolical Debbie (which has been quite some time since we haven’t spoken in 14 years), I used to feel much like I did around Julie #2, ugly and disregarded. And I got so tired of everyone telling me how pretty she was! Diabolical Debbie was great at ‘putting on the charm’ whenever she needed anything, and most people only saw that side of her. But those of us closest to her were aware of the ‘other’ side to her personality. Over the years, her looks have held up but her diabolical side has far surpassed her charming side. In fact, there’s little ‘charm’ left.

My two greatest ‘assets’ have been my smarts and my sense of humor. I consider myself rather plain, but with a decent haircut and a little help from Loreal, Maybelline, CoverGirl, and Revlon, I’ve been known to turn a head or two (but it’s not a regular thing). I call it ‘plain with potential’. Since I cannot necessarily rely on my looks, I’ve had to really work on enhancing the two things I’ve always had going for me, my intelligence and my wit (aka smarts and sense of humor). Anyway, the reason I am talking about this particular topic today is because my sister Cactus Annie has been recently hospitalized due to complications from Covid. To most outsiders, this would be alarming news, but not so much for people that know her well. The thing is, she’s like ‘the boy who cried wolf’. Life has never done her many favors, so what she has used to get people to ‘take notice’ are her ongoing ‘critical health issues’. She loves to get on the internet and self-diagnose, and according to her, she has or has had about 100 different, significant medical conditions. Yeah, right! Because of this, most people tend to ignore her or not take her seriously.

This time around, there’s no doubt she’s actually sick. She has shared several videos from her hospital bed, made multiple phone calls, and sent numerous texts. I thought I was a pretty bad patient until she called and left me a voicemail message yesterday. When I had my kidney transplant, I can assure you that none of the nursing staff were racing to nominate me as ‘patient of the year’. And I do feel (sort of) bad about that. But let me tell you, after I listened to my sister’s voicemail message (not once, but twice), I didn’t feel ‘good’ about it, but I certainly felt ‘less bad’ about my own behavior during my extended hospital stay. Why is that, you ask? Well, despite the fact that I broke nearly every rule they set in place for me (for my ‘safety’) and was far from cooperative, my sister managed to ‘outdo’ me once again! How did she manage to do that? Ok, as much as I’d love to leave you in suspense a little while longer, I’ll come right out and tell you. Are you ready? Seriously, are you sitting down? My sister Cactus Annie actually called the cops on the nursing staff!

See? I told you! Just like all of the previous years, she never fails to make me feel better about myself! No matter how fat I get, she’s always fatter. And no matter how nutty or crazy I get, she’s always nuttier or crazier. When I first listened to the message, I missed the part about ‘the cops’. But my husband didn’t. I then listened to the message a second time and that time I heard her speak the words ‘loud and clear’. Even though her situation seems pretty dire, I can’t help but laugh. I do love her and I wish her nothing but health and happiness, but it’s hard not to laugh when I think about those poor nurses assigned to her and how she’s putting them through the wringer. If Diabolical Debbie ever was hospitalized, she’d probably have everyone eating off her feet. She’d be the ‘ideal’ patient, charming everyone with her high-wattage smile. Where would I fit if you put us sisters side-by-side? Probably ‘somewhere in the middle’. As much as I’d like to be considered the perfect or ‘ideal’ patient, I don’t have it in me. I’ve always been ‘a rebel without a cause’. But at least I can say I’m not the worst. I’m perfectly ok with that.

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