“I don’t want to listen to that music,” I insisted, but my descending vote fell on deaf ears.
So was the life of the only boy in a family of seven. Growing up with four sisters, and falling in line as the second to last, always prompted the question from those meeting me for the first time…
“The only boy, huh? I bet you were spoiled,” is an all-too-familiar inquiry I’ve encountered most of my life. “Yes, you are right,” I reply. “But not by my parents; I was spoiled by my four sisters.”
Spoiled I was for sure. I had a built-in cheerleading squad that cheered me on at every competition. I had four additional mothers who were ready to unleash the fury of a mamma bear whenever an unkind word was ever spoken in my behalf. And never did I ever date a girl that lived up to the measurements of my ever-protective sisters.
It wasn’t always that way though. The early years were fraught with the agonizing torture of having three sisters pin me down while the fourth would endlessly pull clumps of hair from my legs; and the ever so effeminate dress-up parties where I played the part of the little girl they put in a dress, applied make up, and curled my hair.
It’s no wonder that at a young age when family vacations were planned, I always begged and pleaded for the opportunity to bring a male friend along with me, a request that was often permitted.
Among the challenges of growing up with all sisters, I had a family that seemed to really enjoy the old-time twangy tunes of classical country music…especially my father. His favorite way to pass the time of a multiple-hour car ride was to turn on the greatest hits of Conway Twitty, George Jones, and the Gatlin Brothers. The rest of the family would sing along and I would suffer out loud with whining and general verbal displeasure, as the radio sang about a woman trying to hide behind her “Tight Fittin’ Jeans.”
On one such occasion, I remember very clearly the exercise of democratic practice, as my parents asked, “What should we listen to.” Quickly the answers filled the air as all the children voiced their particular favorites. Seeing the glimpse opening of hope, I joined in the revelry of musical suggestion.
I don’t remember what musical genre I unsuccessfully lobbied for, but I remember that I lost and before long, The Gatlin Brothers were singing about “All the Gold in California.” In protest, I placed both pointer fingers in either ear and pressed, all while trying to make my actions as obvious to all the other people in the car.
Song after song came and went, and my fingers remained firmly in place. Five minutes, 10 minutes, then 20 minutes went by. Everyone in the car engaged in a state of gaiety, singing each song, laughing and having a ball. Everyone, that is, except me.
By this time, I spent more effort trying to maintain my pose, not wanting anyone to see how laborious it had become trying to keep my fingers in both ears while acting with disdain. Another 15 minutes passed by… and now Dolly Parton was bemoaning the work life while singing “9 to 5.”
I then realized, that after all this time, nobody recognized—or maybe even more important—nobody even cared about the tantrum I subtly pursued. I removed one finger…and waited. Nothing. Nadda. No one noticed. I skillfully and slowly removed the second finger and quickly surveyed the rest of the car. Zilch. Zip. They all just kept singing along like nothing had happened. All that effort and angst. All those miles; song after song. The only person who suffered was me.
Now that I’m a parent, I’ve shared this story with my children on the many occasions each of them protest when they don’t get their own way and I teach them that in life it takes far more energy and exertion to worry about the small and insignificant things in life than its worth. Because in the end, nobody else cares, everything else matters, and we often times miss out on the great things around us while in the process.