notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Copycat

I was one of the all-time worst (or best, depending on how you look at it) copycats.

Being a homely, skinny, weird-looking thing with two older sisters, it was probably inevitable that I would want to copy them.

I both worshiped and despised my sisters – as anyone with older sisters will understand.

They went places without my parents. They had later bedtimes. They had long thick hair, and I had short thin hair. My mom took me to the barbershop for my pathetic haircuts. My sisters went to the beauty parlor.

Christine was smart. Really smart. Astronomically smart. Every teacher she ever had adored her. I was in awe of her brains, but I often hated being her little sister, with so many teachers saying “Why can’t you be more like Christine?”

Claudia was a fabulous musician. And funny as heck. I didn’t say ‘hell’ back then, but she was certainly as funny as hell. (Now that we are adults, she’s as funny as fuck.) No one could make me laugh like she could, and I was completely mesmerized when she sat down at the piano, but I often hated being her little sister, with so many teachers saying, “Why can’t you be more like Claudia?

I may have heard that a lot from teachers, but I never heard that from my parents.

Oh, I tried and tried to be like my sisters. Whatever wisdom Christine spouted, I spouted the next day. Whatever wisecrack Claudia quipped, I quipped the next day. I read their books, played with their toys, listened in on their phone calls. That I wore their clothes goes without saying — hand-me-downs were mandatory in my neighborhood.

But instead of “Why can’t you be more like Christine/Claudia” what my parents said was this:  “Why are you trying to be like Christine/Claudia?”

“We already have one of each of those,” my mother said, “We had you because we wanted a Nancy.”

That was a fabulous, amazing, wise thing to say.

But the problem was – I didn’t know how to be Nancy.

So I continued to copy my sisters. Then later, in high school, I did my best to be like the popular girls. Then like the hippies in college. And the executives at my company.

But little by little, I started to become myself.

Slowly and sometimes painfully, I stopped being a copycat. And a few times, people have even copied me.

In high school  – it happened just once.  Forty-seven years ago, and I still remember.

I was an office messenger during First Period. (Not sure schools do that anymore, but if you had a free period, you could sign up to run messages to classrooms instead of sitting in a study hall) I shared messenger duties three times a week with Diane, a girl so pretty and so smart and so sophisticated it was hard to believe she was still in high school. And I came in one Monday in a new skirt, a dirndl with a lace-up bodice like a little Bavarian barmaid. And Diane – gorgeous Diane – loved my skirt. I told her about the shop in New Britain where I found it, and she asked me if I minded if she bought the same thing. She asked my permission to copy ME!

Now because she was beautiful and popular, I was well aware that Diane would look much cuter in that skirt than me. And I also knew that once she started to wear the dirndl skirt, everyone might think that it was I who was copying her.

But you know… it didn’t matter. I was so flattered that Diane wanted to copy MY style, and that she even asked me if she could.

It was the first time I thought I might actually be somebody that somebody else might want to be. Even if it was just a skirt.

A skirt is a place to start.

And  gradually I became the somebody that I wanted to be.

*****

There’s a postscript to this story. Two years later Diane died in a motorcycle accident. We weren’t close friends, but we liked each other. And she copied me once – at a time when I needed to feel admired. Thank you, Diane.

diane

 

 

61 Comments

  1. My mother took me to the barber shop for a pixie haircut, too! I wanted long hair like my older sister and her best friend so I could tie it in a pony tail with ribbons or use a hair band.

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    • I wanted a ponytail like my sisters…. my hair was so thin my ponytail would have been like a single strand of vermicelli.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Another great post!! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We spend so much of our youth worrying about who we think we need to be, rather than just discovering who we are. I suppose this is part of the beauty of aging, it takes us that long to figure out we just need to be ourselves! Great post Nancy!

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  4. I felt your pain back in our childhood. I had a beautiful oldest sister, (Anita), mom’s baby boy (Roland) mom’s favorite and most talented (artistic Pauline) and the baby (Linda) I never felt I had a place. Same as you, haircuts at the barbershop (the awful shingle cut) Hand-me-down clothes (some from your family for sure) I was very shy in elementary school (St. Anne’s) and was crushed when my best friend (you) move all the way to Forestville. BUT, entering public high school I was determined to make my own way in a new environment. And I made it. I became outgoing, funny, smart in a business way and flourished in my first job at First National Store on No. Main. I had come out of the cocoon of childhood. But for all the negatives above, I loved my family, loved my neighborhood and loved our childhood friendship. So happy we have reconnected through this blog. I enjoy every word you write and often it brings back such wonderful memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Doris. We both loved (and still love) our families very much. We just needed time to find out who we were – and to be comfortable with it. I like myself very much now, and it does my heart good to see that you like yourself too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Christine

        Even as the oldest sister, I envied older girls. Like Doris, I wanted to be just like her sister Anita, who was a few years older than me. And I really envied Carolyn, daughter of our parents’ friends, who was beautiful and was allowed to drive her father’s convertible when she was 16!

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        • Oh yes, Carolyn! I thought she was a movie star!

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          • Susan

            Think what it was like for Linda and me. We had all of you to live up to – and I was just a cousin (who got the hand me downs also.) I used to just sit and watch you guys in awe – knowing I could never be like any of you. I even took the teasing, and you and Doris were very good at it. I think the way we were all brought up help us grow into who we were always suppose too be. Sometimes, being a copy cat can be a good thing!

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        • Oh Christine, I always envied you as being so wise and the smartest person a young girl could know. Claudia, I could have sat by the hour at your house and listen to her play the piano. Enjoyed her fiddle playing for many years bringing dad to hear the “Old Time Fiddlers”. It was great reuniting with your mom and dad at those shows. And Susan, the most lovely blond and pipe curled hair. Secret and don’t tell, such a crush on your brother Art through all those years. LOL. I miss my Foley St/Center St. friends. Thank goodness for Nancy keeping us all in touch.

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  5. What a nice post!! That’s so sad that beautiful Diane’s life ended tragically, but what a memory she left you with. I remember those dirndl skirts: always wanted one, but never had one. Your parents were so thoughtful to tell you that they wanted a Nancy. Too bad teachers always compare students to their older siblings.

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    • I think teachers are more careful nowadays, but I heard it so much when I was a kid – it made me a little insecure. Well, more than a little, since I really believed my sisters were so much better than I. I laugh about it now, because we are really so much the same, it’s amazing.

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  6. Loved that your parents thought to tell you that they had you because they wanted a Nancy ❤ I have 2 older sisters, and both seemed extremely glamorous and stylish to me. I was a knobby kneed tomboy with unmanageable curls; they had smooth blond pageboys. My hair wouldn't lie down for no one. Once I "borrowed" my sisters sweater without asking and Mom called me on it — "be yourself," she said. "There's no one like you in this world, just be you." And so I did. 🙂 MJ

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    • Our mothers were very wise. And right. We are so much better and happier being ourselves.

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  7. Your parents were incredibly brilliant! I hated being compared to my siblings. Hated, hated, hated it. That said, I always felt lucky that we moved and I didn’t have to go to the same schools as my brilliant eldest sister. I did follow behind my wild other sister, and always came up shining by comparison.

    And a nice tribute to Diane. I was an unpopular girl in grammar school, and am still friends with the girl who befriended me in junior high and was considered the coolest of the cool. Funny thing is, SHE thought nobody liked HER!

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    • Thanks, Elyse. I was lucky too – we moved after my first year of high school, and no one knew my sisters. It was freeing. Probably the real start of being me.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Such a great post. I think it’s very telling about childhood…with siblings. We have seven kids and two are very much like you were. Raising kids to be proud of their uniqueness is hard. Your parents sound like amazing people.

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  9. I’m glad your parents had a Nancy, too! You added so much to the life of the family. I too had two older siblings, but they were brothers. And all I ever wanted was a sister!

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    • I have a younger brother too… he’s five years younger. We were all crazy about him, after 3 girls in a row. But a kid brother is not someone you envy. More like a pet that you have to watch once in a while, but mostly you ignore.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ray G

        Especially, in his case!

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      • Yikes! I that’s how my brothers felt about me. (I’m 5 years younger than the next brother)

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  10. Diane really was a stunner! What a shame she passed so young.
    My older sisters have always tormented me in one way or another. Mostly in good fun. Mostly. I was jealous of them quite often. I don’t think I would want to be any of them. Of course there are days I don’t want to be me either. 😉

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    • My sisters teased me relentlessly when we were kids. We are close today – and very much alike.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s funny. We have similarities but I don’t think we are that much alike as adults. It often feels like we don’t know each other at all. Which is kind of sad because for a long time we were all we had.

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  11. I was always in my sister’s shadow, be it at home or at school, but that was just the way it was. She envied me my musical gift apparently, but I didn’t even try to follow in her footsteps for anything as there was no point, she was always better at it before me. The best thing I did after my divorce was leave the area, stand on my own two feet, and found Me. OK, it turned out it wasn’t a Me I liked, but all that is history now. I wouldn’t change myself (or my life) at all now.

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    • I got lucky too, because my family moved across town after my first year of high school. A new school where no one knew my sisters was a blessings. I started to find myself.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was always Jill’s sister Di, not Di, Jill’s sister. Just a little thing, but I always felt an afterthought (sensitive at the time, but grew out of it!)

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I was stuck being the oldest sibling and had no-one to copy. Look at all the fun I missed. 😀 😀 😀 I make up for it by reading your post, Nancy. This is a heartwarming post. The end is sad. So sorry. ❤

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    • I always felt the oldest would be the happiest, since she would be the most admired. But maybe all that worship becomes a responsibility. 😉

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      • Yup. The responsibility and having to set an example. Whew. It didn’t kill me. I’m not complaining. Nice to read how the other half had it. 😀

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  13. So it takes that long to become yourself eh?
    Do you think that’s kinda what life is about? Creating yourself all the time, making changes, adjustments and such, modifying who you are to make yourself more into who you want to be? I’m so curious.

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    • Yes, I think you’re exactly right. We are always in the process of “becoming” ourselves. Who you are at every stage is real and important, but I feel somehow more “real” than ever… more really me. It feels good.

      Liked by 2 people

  14. What a beautiful post Nancy. I smiled through the whole thing. ❤
    Diana xo

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  15. Dana

    I was branded the weird-o early on in my childhood, so I just accepted it, and never tried to be like anyone else. Being different kind of became my thing. It was actually fun, embracing my odd-ness! 🙂

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    • I think it would be kind of fun to be the Oddest. I think what I suffered from was that I was a pretty ordinary kid, and I was vaguely dissatisfied with ordinariness. I wanted to be special. Now – I finally think I am.

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      • Dana

        We’re all snowflakes! Each one of us is special in our own way, and no one is exactly alike! I was a lot more “not alike” than most. :》

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  16. LindaLuNC

    Great post as always! Sometimes I feel that I am still trying to figure out who I am – at age 60!

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    • So am I – at 65. But I am closer than ever!

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  17. I think as children it’s common to copy our older siblings. Then, you eventually embark on this complex journey of life to figure out who the hell you are. Luckily, you figured that part out. My heart breaks for those that live inside closets or feel that they have wasted their life for fear of facing the unknown. Great post! Thanks.

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    • There are still so many ways I admire my sisters. But I no longer have to be exactly like them.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Such a beautiful girl. Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  19. What an incredible story. I am the middle of three girls. My oldest was popular and I would sneak into her closet and ‘borrow’ her clothes, my youngest sister was gorgeous, and popular… I was hidden in the mass. My younger sister once dated a popular guy I sat two seats from, when he came to pick her up, he introduced himself and when I told him I was in the same class as he, he was stunned…. there are still times when I am with them that I feel that way, isn’t that awful? Great piece.

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    • That is so sad… and that you use the word “Anonymous” in your blog name may have some relation to your feeling of invisibility. Know that when you are with the right people, you are sure to stand out. In the meantime – wear some crazy underwear!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for this… I don’t get to be with my sisters often, so the feeling doesn’t surface often… in the meantime, I enjoy being me. This was an incredible post.

        Like

  20. My mother WAS a hairdresser and she did my hair. I never saw the inside of a salon till I went away to college. She didn’t like bangs, so in my junior high photos I have a great slab of wide forehead. Thus I’ve worn bangs all my adult life. You really did have remarkable parents.

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    • Haha. My middle sister Claudia decided once that no one in the neighborhood should have bangs. She cut them all off – she cut all the kids’ bangs off at the hairline. We all looked like doofuses when it was growing back.

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  21. Sue Marquis Bishop

    Well, I am the older sister to my dear, funny younger sister Nancy. Loved your story. Womenlivinglifeafter50.com

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    • I’ll bet Nancy worshiped and copied you… and sometimes detested you!

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      • Sue Marquis Bishop

        Of course! Now in our “older years”, we can’t imagine life without one another.

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  22. You are a beautiful woman…and fearless in accepting your weaknesses. Lovely post!

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    • “Fearless in accepting your weaknesses” – I love that idea! Thanks

      Liked by 1 person

  23. A office runner. That’s very cool responsibility.
    Hand-me-downs, following behind siblings, and teachers who have taught the whole lot – it’s hard not to look and mirror
    How insightful you had a parent that suggested they already had Christine/Claudia and wanted a you. And that’s what they – and you – got!
    Nice post

    Like

  24. I was the youngest and oldest, missed out on having sibs, thx for sharing yours. Toni

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I adore you. Fabulous as usual. Thank you.

    Like

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  1. Copycats – Part 2 (The Silly Side) | notquiteold

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