Sunday, January 11, 2009

Juliette, Quite Contrary

I am one of four daughters. I am 'Number Three' as my father used to refer to me. He found it easier to number us than go mentally sifting through the four names to chance upon the correct one.

Although I do know my sisters' names and can recall them at will, for the purposes of this blog they shall be known as 'Spanish Sister', 'Beach Sister' and “Snow Sister'. Spanish Sis is three years older than me and Beach Sis is 18 months older than me. As you can see my mum had essentially 'three under three' which I don't think was a whole lot of fun for her. Snow Sis came along when I was 6 years old and rudely usurped my position as the baby of the family. I could be unkind and dub her 'Spoiled Sister' because that's what it seemed like at the time. In reality, being born such a significant time after the other three daughters meant that Mum & Dad were in a different period of their lives as she was growing up.

Spanish Sis, Beach Sis & I were children and teenagers during the 'tough' years. Mortgage repayments, constant 'do-it-yourself' renovations on the house, camping holidays because hotels were too expensive, mum working shiftwork and struggling to sleep during the day, all our clothes being homemade and general tightness in the budget. By the time Snow Sis was a teen, the rest of us had nearly left home. Mum & Dad were both executives for a major company doing work they enjoyed for a great wage. Holidays were more upmarket and life was easier.

Also, they were more relaxed in their parenting. They had raised three teenage girls, back to back and were enjoying the ease of just raising one (and a much better behaved one than the last teenage daughter … ). To this day, Snow Sis has a great relationship with our mum, a relaxed companionship as well as the usual mother/daughter connection.

My sisters all have dark brown hair and brown eyes, taking after my father's colouring. I had light blonde hair and blue eyes, more like my mum. For as long as I can remember, my sisters referred to me as 'the adopted one'.

I guess there must initially have been a time when I was hurt or insulted by this verbal ostracising, but I simply don't remember feeling that way. My memories of being called 'adopted' revolve around looking at my sisters and hoping that it was true!

I liked the idea that I was different from the others. I have never desired to conform and have found myself frequently on the outer of social circles and work environments because I don't conform. I think it stems from two sources.

Firstly, I think conforming is boring (refer to Billy Connolly's concept of 'beige' people). I believe the cliche that 'variety is the spice of life'. I think that if we're born inherently different, why try to merge into mirror images of each other? It defies the natural law of creation.

Secondly, I've come to the conclusion that I'm naturally contrary. Now, I actually think that's good thing, although my family, friends and colleagues may differ. (I can hear their eyes rolling!) I always seem to go for the loophole in an argument or a twist on a theory. I rarely accept things at face value, needing to assess all the facts myself.

I understand it is quite frustrating for others when it comes to areas I know nothing about, like installing stereos. The conversation with my audio engineer husband might go something like this ...

Me: I want to listen to my ipod in the car
Him: You can't
Me: Why not?
Him: Because you don't have the right equipment
Me: Why not? I've got a stereo.
Him: It's not compatible
Me: Can't we just get the right cable (See, I know stuff!)
Him: The problem isn't just a cable. Your stereo is too old. It hasn't got a ***insert incoherent technical term here***.
Me: But I've seen other people with old stereos using their ipods
Him: There's specific wiring required
Me: What kind of wiring?
Him: (Sigh) Proceeds to give a 10 minute detailed description of the ins and outs of car stereo technology and their applications in the context of ipod compatibility
Me: (pause) … but I want to listen to my ipod in the car
Him: Arrgh....

I am an intelligent and quick minded person. But the downside (for all concerned) is that I tend to dominate and try to direct situations. As a student, I was frequently the first with answers in school or catechism classes, not allowing others to get a word in. I always have something to say at meetings (there's no such thing as a rhetorical question!), I notice exceptions to rules and demand explanations where others will accept what they're being told. (All those who know me are nodding out there in cyberspace … I can see you!)

My long suffering husband has taught me two little words that have been a huge hurdle, but very important for me.
“Juliette …. trust me.”
“Just trust me”
“But.. I …”
(Big intake of breath, prayer for capacity to cope with this monumental step)
“Ok” (exhale loudly)

It's scary for people like me. It's like walking out on thin ice. I need to know how things work, what's going to happen next, what's the goal, what's the timeframe, what's the big picture. I'm a very intelligent woman, but sometimes a very slow learner. I'm learning to trust. Trust others, trust God and allow myself to step forward without knowing what lies ahead!

In another post, I will expound the benefits of being contrary, because I believe too many of us are too compliant in things we should be making noise about, but for now let's leave it at the important lesson of relinquishing control. I can still be myself – a little left of centre – but be a willing part of the group, being a team player rather than only ever wanting to be a team leader.

It's a process. Bear with me.


  1. Hey there, to tell you the truth, I envy you, I was born among 5 brothers. And my parents treat me like a boys.I don't even have pretty dresses. Thank god I have 2 girls now... haha

    p/s: I'm following your blog. Let's be friends?

  2. I loved your post. It says a lot about your character and shows that you are willing to challenge the things in life you dis-agree with.

  3. Thanks so much Hippomandak. It's interesting how it often swaps around each generation. Now I have three boys! It's great fun ... noisy, dirty and tiring! Love to be friends.

  4. Hey dreed, that attitude often got me into a lot of trouble - but I wouldn't want to change it. Thanks for visiting.