June 21, 2005

this is how you know i love you

My sister has always been self-conscious about her stomach.

I’ve always thought she was gorgeous and pish-poshed away her hyper-criticisms of photos (Do you see my gut?!). I thought she was crazy, but at the same time, I understood. If it were possible to suck in my hips, I’d have done so. All the time. Because, although genetic products of the same parents, the two of us were clearly built by opposing craftsmen. Pear and apple. My weight settles into my hips and tush and she’s got a tummy she’s often trying to hide. At the beach, I hid behind a sarong. And she refused to wear a bikini, lest the world see her less than perfect tummy.

She was just as modest around the house.

The evening that J and I ended for the first time (there were at least a half a dozen times after), I tossed my cell phone onto the living room futon, sat down on the floor and cried. My sister looked stunned. I had never been an outwardly emotional pear and in twenty-something years, I bet she’d only seen me cry a handful of times. Immediately, she went into crisis mode.

She offered ice cream. I declined and cried some more.

“Alright,” she said. “You asked for it.”

Up went the blue tank top she was wearing. She grabbed either side of her stomach, squeezed them together, pursing them into what resembled a toothless mouth. The mouth began talking.

“It’s okay, Heather” the Stomach Mouth said. It had a voice like Fezzik, deep and dopey. “Come on, don’t cry. Boys are dumb.”

It doesn’t matter what it said after that. I stopped crying. Granted, I exactly didn’t laugh right away, just stared in disbelief as the Stomach Mouth kept right on talking, trying to cheer me up. Then I laughed, and let it talk me into taking a walk for frozen yogurt.

I knew right at that moment that my sister loved me. I mean, she was my sister – of course she loved me. But I got a sense that this was more than the obligatory love that runs through familial veins. She loved me, she liked me and she was willing to abandon her own comfort to show it.

That’s the part about love that’s always been hard for me – stepping outside of my own security, to take a chance at humiliation to show I care. But I’m learning as I get older that it’s not about me. It’s about dropping defenses (or lifting up tank tops, as the case may be), exposing previously hidden faults and letting people hear me say, “this is how you know I love you.”

Posted by This Fish at June 21, 2005 12:21 PM

Worth having hit reload two dozen times last night.

Posted by: Ari at June 21, 2005 10:28 AM


Posted by: Wendi at June 21, 2005 10:35 AM

There is nothing like a sister friend that can turn heartache and loss into bowls of laughter.

Posted by: Sass at June 21, 2005 10:35 AM

That, is love. Pure and simple.

Posted by: Torrie at June 21, 2005 10:43 AM

powerful!! one of those life lessons i'll be keeping in my memory bank.

Posted by: faith at June 21, 2005 10:54 AM

Tears and giggles, man what a great combination. Thanks for sharing--good story, great sister.

Posted by: syd at June 21, 2005 11:15 AM

Aw, that's precious. Good sis.

Posted by: mingaling at June 21, 2005 11:23 AM

that is priceless.
i wish i could express love with the same ease that i can feel it.

Posted by: annush at June 21, 2005 11:54 AM

it's scary to step beyond your comfort zone to show someone how much you love them, but so worth it.
thanks, great story!

Posted by: rg at June 21, 2005 12:50 PM

I swear if you make me cry at work again I'll stop obsessively reading your blog...don't push me, I mean it!

Posted by: dorothy at June 21, 2005 12:58 PM

Well said.

Posted by: PLD at June 21, 2005 01:03 PM

You couldn't have described my own sister any better ... we are so lucky. :-)

Posted by: eclecticblonde72 at June 21, 2005 01:05 PM

Makes me wish I'd had a sister growing up. I don't think I'd do that with my stomach for anyone...

BTW, missed you on Thursday night.

Posted by: Esther at June 21, 2005 01:20 PM

That is so sweet that she did that! I would have added some eyes to go above the belly button

Posted by: mrsmogul at June 21, 2005 01:21 PM

Wonderful story. Sometimes I think a lot of us miss these signs of love and affection from others.

Posted by: MsOktober at June 21, 2005 01:33 PM

Great story. My brother and I spent too much of our childhood making each other cry. We are very different people, but also very much the same. I know if I needed him with the chips down, he'd step up. Nobody is on your side like your brother.

Posted by: Mike at June 21, 2005 01:51 PM

that's definite love.

my sister and i are exactly the same. i have your sister's build. and there are only a precious few who would ever see me do something like that. cherish those moments!!

Posted by: Ali at June 21, 2005 02:07 PM

I always wanted a sister growing up but have never appreciated my brother more than in the past 4 years. Our obssesion for the Red Sox is what pulled us together.Everytime I've cried in the past year, I've gotten an e-mail or voicemail from him demanding that I cheer up because "The Red Sox just won the fucking world series!!!!"

Posted by: Jasika at June 21, 2005 02:08 PM

You know Fish, a lot of times when I read your stuff I think to myself (or comment here) that the post I have just read is your best one yet. I feel that way about this one too. (and I don't even have a sister) Bravo.

Posted by: Binsk at June 21, 2005 02:14 PM

Sister love is one of the best kind of loves in the whole world. And, as usual, you captured it perfectly!

Posted by: Heather at June 21, 2005 03:19 PM

I love when you blog about food, H!

Posted by: G at June 21, 2005 03:24 PM

that is precious. often times, my sister is the only one who can make me laugh. but you can bet the next time she needs some cheering up, i'm pulling out the toothless stomach mouth. :)

Posted by: red at June 21, 2005 04:22 PM

seriously, this is like the 4th time this month that i've been caught at my desk crying because of your blog! your writing inspires me to be a better person to my family, my friends & myself. thank you!

Posted by: kat at June 21, 2005 05:00 PM

I think we're going through the same thing right now... Someone knows I love them when I show them love. I don't hand that out to just anyone...

Posted by: lou at June 21, 2005 09:32 PM

Awwwwwww! That's special!

Posted by: Di at June 21, 2005 11:42 PM

as the oldest of 3 girls, i totally relate. in fact, i've even done the tummy bit. having hated and loved both of them on and off throughout my life, i know i would not be complete without them. sister love is wonderful.

Posted by: Rebecca at June 21, 2005 11:56 PM

Gosh, the undertones in your writing are phenomenal. When I read the line about stepping outside of your own security, you could have been talking about me.

I've had boyfriends before who accused me of being cold -- truth is, I was always afraid to just go ahead and do something silly and self-deprecating to show that I cared.

I've gotten better, but your post was a reminder.

And what a cool sister you have there!

Posted by: funnygirl at June 22, 2005 10:21 AM

aw, she's the greatest

Posted by: sas at June 22, 2005 02:30 PM

It's good to know that other sisters use that wretchedly embarassing tool in times of crisis as such.

Posted by: Porkchop at June 22, 2005 04:44 PM

sisters kick ass when it comes to broken hearts. mine cried harder than i when she last saw me being hurt by the other gender. bless our sisters.

Posted by: surbee at June 22, 2005 06:46 PM

You are blessed, great sisters dont come around often but when they do, they make you and your life better.

Posted by: Stitch 'N' Match at June 22, 2005 07:57 PM

i immediately sent this post to my sister. i also immediately thought of who around my office i could show the stomach trick to.

Posted by: court at June 23, 2005 02:51 PM

I wish I had a sister. However, I have a brother, and he would have done the exact same thing for me. And I would do the same for him.

Posted by: indigo at June 23, 2005 11:03 PM

Very moving, honest, and refreshing.

Posted by: Dazzle at June 24, 2005 10:40 AM

What a loving sister you have! What a great story.
I surfed into your blog for the first time today by way of "yoga pants" (amazing what google picks up...) I uh...happen to be at work and when I looked at your main page and read about the stomach mouth, I nearly died laughing and attracted the unwanted attention of my coworkers!
I have never been into blogs... but I like your writing enough that I am sure to return!

Posted by: Astroiguana at June 24, 2005 04:52 PM

I just love this post, it's so moving, insightful, wise and honest. You sound like you have a great relationship with your sister and that you are indeed well loved.

Posted by: lindsay at July 5, 2005 05:46 AM