And have I got family … three brothers and two sisters. I could tell stories about each and every one of them of course but if I were asked who was the MOST influential amongst my siblings … who basically turned me into who I am now, it would have to be my big sister, Joy.
I am the rugby ball on the left.
Joy taught me how to read, showed me how to draw, how to play dama (the Filipino equivalent of checkers … except in her version, the corner pieces weren’t allowed to move. Hmm).
She also made me drink her share of the evaporated milk that Mom required us to drink every morning.
Growing up together, Joy was rather good at a lot of things and I think much of who I turned out to be is a result of trying not to be compared to my talented sister.
When I was born, Joy, aged just two declared that I should be called ‘Candy’ after her doll, Candy.
Oh how sweet, the parents said. Then Joy grabbed my foot and bit me. Hard.
One elderly aunt took one look at pudgy, waddling me and graceful Joy (even then, she was graceful) and said: ‘Why is Candy so short and duck-like whereas Joy is so beautiful and long-legged.”
I’m the duck-like one on the right.
Joy wore pretty dresses with matching handbags and frilly socks, sang beautifully and danced. she knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. A PRINCESS.
I knew what I wanted to be. A BOY.
Mom decided that this would not do at all. So she enrolled Joy and me in ballet lessons.
I HATED ballet. It was hot. We had to wear tights. I couldn’t follow the music. I STILL wanted to be a boy. Which is why Mom didn’t allow me to quit.
I stayed in Ballet Baby Class for what seemed like years and years. Here I am getting it wrong again.
Meanwhile, it turned out that Joy was REALLY good at ballet.
In fact, she was a prodigy.
Aged 11, performing the Blue Bird pas de deux in Sleeping Beauty.
Age 14 in a Filipino ballet suite.
It was only when our ballet teacher suggested that I might audition for Winnie the Pooh that Mom finally allowed me to quit.
At school, Joy was slim, elegant, fashionable. I wore random socks, pretended to be a cowboy and had to be shoe-horned into dresses that felt like straitjackets.
Our school noticed that we were both good at drawing and entered us into art competitions.
We usually won. First place, Joy. Second place, me.
(At some point our little sister Mia began to attend our school. We got into the honours list. Gold medallist, Mia. Silver, me. But that’s another sister, another story).
We three sisters. Did I tell you that I HATED wearing dresses?
Her ballet made Joy quite the gymnast. Whenever we had gymnastic displays in high school, guess which petite, pretty girl got to stand at the top of the pyramid? And guess which broad-shouldered heavy had to be at the bottom?
(Yes I do have broad shoulders. In the eighties when shoulder pads were the fashion, my mother ordered me to take my shoulder pads off. ‘It’s HORRIBLE. Makes you look like you’re playing American football.’ Except I wasn’t wearing any .)
Positive development: I discovered that I was pretty good at writing. I was funny as well. I once won a stand-up comedy competition before they knew what stand-up comedy was.
Negative development: I turned out to be shortsighted – I needed glasses. Thick ones.
And then we discovered that not only could Joy dance and look beautiful. She could sing.
I remember when we found out. Joy’s high school had a choir performance. Then right in the middle of it all, they suddenly said, ‘Joy Quimpo will now perform a solo.’ She sang Alfie. It was AMAZING. Dionne Warwick in a school uniform.
I wanted to lie down and beat my head against the floor.
After we finished school, Joy went from singing Alfie in a glee club to performing Billy Idol, Van Halen, Toto and Journey songs dressed in Spandex with green hair.
I remember taking my then Future Husband to a rock concert at the University of Life in Manila. Mom and Dad were there. Joy entered the stage suspended on a trapeze, wearing a flesh coloured leotards that in the psychedelic lights made her look rather … er … bare. Mom reached across and tapped Future Husband (who was rather gobsmacked by his Future Sister In Law) on the shoulder. ‘That’s my daughter!’ she said proudly.
During the break, the sponsor Pepsi produced a little skirt for Joy to wear for the rest of the performance.
It was the eighties. Heh heh.
Joy was singing in Indonesia when I got married in 1988 but a month later, she too got married. She asked me to be her bridesmaid!
I got to wear this FANTASTIC dress that made me look SO thin!
When I told Joy I was doing this article, I asked her what she had to say about giving me my terrible inferiority complex.
“I’m the one with the inferiority complex!” she cried. “I only bit you when you were a baby because I had mixed emotions. You were so cute and I was jealous … and everyone was minding you. Then you were so good at writing that I chose ballet and singing. And then when you were better than me at drawing I chose to work in interior design!”
Joy, people with inferiority complexes don’t do THIS:
The truth is of course, no matter how much I complain and play the martyr, I’m awfully proud of Joy. I have been and will always be my big (little – she’s a lot TINIER than me now) sister’s GREATEST fan.
We are now both wives, mothers, middle-aged, respectable (just) and (semi) retired from our wilder days … GROWN UPS. This is how we look now:
Even so, next to Joy, I will always and ever more feel like this:
Joy: Psst … Candy … Mia’s going to kill you when she sees you wrote about me and not her.
I’m the author of Tall Story. My next book for DFB is called Shine and will be out in 2013. Do leave me a comment below or drop by and say hello on my website! www.candygourlay.com