Tobey is a writer and content creator with a penchant for art, nature, and the invisible.
I was the youngest and only male child in my family. And I was a bit of a laggard academically. My three older sisters were high-flying scholars, each besting the other term-after-term and were the pride of our parents. My siblings would usually ramble about their scholarly exploits. And I’d be seated calmly around the corner, busy fiddling with the Rubik’s Cube my dad got me when I successfully secured the fifth position at a spelling bee. It also proved an invaluable escape whenever, although occasionally, I felt left behind, thanks to my bookworm sisters. I would, somewhat earnestly, pray that my parents would spawn me a little brother that would play soccer with me. And have someone look up to me for inspiration and protection in my little way. But despite my longing for a male sibling, perhaps by some cosmic arrangement or deliberate human intent, no new family member came along. So there I was, stuck with three older sisters whose favorite pastime was idle chatter and devouring voluminous works of fiction.
While my sisters would be engrossed in the books, myself and the kid next door would venture deep in the woods to hunt fairies and goblins; of course, we never caught the slightest trace of any. I’d often spend time at the community recreation center, where I made more friends and with whom I had more fun than my listless siblings. Despite my sisters—scarcely spending time to frolic with me and the grimness of being my seniors, I was nonetheless, weirdly, protective of my older siblings. Sometimes, neurotic boys clad in baggy jeans and outsize shirts (fashionable in the 90s) would swing by to see my sisters. And whenever I answered the door, I would be a little curt with my responses; plus, their visits made me somewhat territorial and a tad bit jealous. Talking to girls other than my sisters made me a little nervous; socially, it wasn’t quite my forte—especially when the girl I sought was in the company of her friends. I was lousy at approaching the female folk, but I tried when the ‘coast was clear.’
I observed and understood the varied temperaments of my sisters and was privy to their banters about boys generally. They would take turns to mock and poke fun at the unfortunate boys that asked them out. I would keenly observe their reactions and grimaces as they unpacked presents sent in by smitten lads and admirers. And would take mental notes of items that got my sisters upbeat (about a guy) and presents that they deemed off-color (a weird sense of entitlement that trails a hotshot). I’d keep tabs on the things they appreciated—what got them emotional and stuff that got them downright pissed. I’d listen in on their conversations—pretending to be busy with my homework. And would glean from their chitchat the Dos and Don’ts of approaching girls—plus the appearances, postures, and mannerisms of boys they found attractive.
As an introverted kid, I was more adept at conversing with the male folk than with girls. It was pretty easy for me to strike up conversations with the guys. But, when it came to the female folk, I usually got weak at the knees. Ironic as it seemed, anyone else would expect otherwise of me—growing up in a household of predominantly females. I should have been a virtuoso with females in social contexts. That said, after creating a quasi-playbook containing carefully articulated notes of everything that my sisters admired in boys—character, persona, personality, including objects that gave them the thrills. I would set about dutifully imbibing these (female-pleasing) traits, leveraging the ‘focus group’ of my sisters.
I would be holed up in my room exercising my intended image—stirring up and holding convos with an imaginary female for moderately lengthy periods. I would routinely unleash bits of my work-in-progress personality to the public until it gradually became a part of me. And it would spontaneously come to bear in my interpersonal relations and everyone else I came across. My confidence around girls gradually improved, as did my persona. Starting conversations with the female folk came to me a lot easier until it became a cinch. As I grew older, my social skills consolidated. People found me personable and regularly invited me to their parties and soirees. In one of such social gatherings, I met a beautiful damsel. She found me interesting (no hubris here); we conversed for quite a bit, and today she is my wife. I guess it was serendipitous being an only son amidst several older sisters. It all panned out quite nicely.