The writerly art of tongue-biting

A couple weeks ago, we headed to Victoria for a few days with my sister-in-law. While we were there, my own sister Sandy popped by to visit for a few hours.

Afterwards, my sister-in-law said this:

“You’re so nice and accommodating, until Sandy arrives. Then you get bossy and start making all sorts of suggestions.”

Ha! This is completely true. I hear all those “suggestions” coming out of my mouth, but I’m powerless to stop them. It’s an elder-sister thing. And Sandy’s so used to my nagging that she now denies noticing it.

Here’s the thing, though. I don’t actually become more critical and controlling when my sister’s around. I just become more likely to say what I think. The rest of the time, I’m biting my tongue.

This is a learned behaviour. I distinctly remember my dad telling me in high school, “You know, if you were less critical of what other people wear, you’d be less worried about your own clothes and hair all the time.”

And while I (a) immediately recognized the wisdom of these words, (b) have become less a member of the fashion police, and (c) can’t actually dress myself appropriately anymore, anyway, I’m still prone to walking around cataloguing other people’s quirks and oddities, and planning ways in which I would alter the world if I could.

I think this is part of being a writer. I think we may all be constantly wondering at weirdness, and collecting absurdities for future use, all while outwardly appearing “nice and accommodating.”

Consider yourself warned. And if you want to know what I really think, I guess you’ll have to hang out when my sister visits.

4 thoughts on “The writerly art of tongue-biting

  1. Sarah

    I think this is universal big sister behaviour. My “little” brother is now a foot taller and 80 pounds heavier than I. He has a big booming voice and commands the room when he tells a story. And yet, according to my husband, I boss him around like he’s my slave. And he jumps to heed my request without missing a beat. And neither of us had even noticed we did this until my husband mentioned it. Some behaviours are so ingrained they can’t be unlearned.

  2. Sandy

    Ha. I agree with sarah. I don’t notice any bossing sis. I do however find it ironic though since I recall being called ” the boss” by you, back in my dating years 🙂


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