My sister is in the changing room. I am at a clothing rack looking through dresses. She wants to try a larger size. I find one and also bring another dress I see on my way back to the changing room. Maybe she’ll like this one, too.
Later, after she’s picked out her dress, we look for shoes and accessories. This is a big deal after all. It’s not every day you go from being in middle school to being in high school. Everyone knows there’s a world of a difference.
While she’s trying on shoes, I shake my head at the ones she has strapped to her ankle. “Not those stripper shoes,” I say. “Look for wedges. They’re more comfortable.” I say this like she doesn’t already know this fact. The kid is more stylish than me. Owns more shoes than me. I’m sure she knows that wedges are more comfortable than four-inch heels. But I have to say something – I’m the wise and worldly older sister, come home after being gone a long time. After being gone for basically the entirety of her middle school years.
She quickly unstraps the tall shoes and then I think, oh great – did I just instill some kind of disparagement against strippers? Perhaps I’m passing on thinking and behavior that reinforces dehumanization? As if a person who strips is no longer a person.
She puts the shoes back on the rack.
Then I think, also, I highly doubt all strippers wear these kinds of shoes. They look uncomfortable. Wait. Does one even know about strippers at this age? When is the average age a child would become aware of strippers?
Why are you still thinking about strippers?!
My sister spies a rack of jewelry and digs in.
You might be overthinking this older, wiser sister thing. Just maybe.
I stand next to her and look through the necklaces, trying to find something long and gold because her dress is white. This is a simple, satisfying thing to do. You cannot do this type of thing over Skype. Not really.
I was gone a long time. Even though I am back in my hometown, everything about my life is different. While gone, I’ve wondered about all the things that were changing for her. I wondered about all the things I didn’t know. All the things I couldn’t find out about through email and through the parents. Like does she have a secret boyfriend? Does she want one? Does she really get along with her friends? Has anyone offered her pot yet? Alcohol? Does she truly believe in God? What does she want to be when she grows up?
But right now, I don’t think about those things.
Right now, it’s a little overwhelming: this simple, satisfying existence of standing next to my sister, poised to enter high school, shopping for jewelry. I let it wash over me and just be.
She holds a necklace up, but doesn’t say anything. I really hope she isn’t wondering if this is a stripper necklace.