Role Model

When they were children, Jill’s little sister copied every aspect of Jill. She chose her favorite foods by her sister’s inclinations. She followed every hobby — piano, karate, theater, video games, origami, track, underage drinking — and came out as lesbian, right at the same time.

“I actually am,” Jill said sternly, and her sister insisted, “I am too. You’re not the only one in the world, you know.”

Jill decided later she was bi, and when she married a man and went to live in Colorado, she expected her sister to follow along behind her somehow. When they fell out of contact, Jill took the opportunity to take up knitting and existentialism, pleased that for once her interests were her own and would remain hers. Her husband wasn’t interested in anything, and that’s why she loved him.

Her daughter was a similar blank slate. Occasionally Jill noticed the baby mimicking one of her gestures or trying to imitate her speech, but she did her best to gently discourage this behavior. She left the television on, just so the baby would have some other input. The baby had her eyes, and that was enough.

“I want to learn the piano,” her daughter said, age five. Jill frowned. “I already know how to play the piano. We don’t need two pianists in the family.”

When the girl came out as lesbian, Jill was supportive, if skeptical. “You should talk to your aunt,” she said, after a obligatory hug.

Her daughter made the call, and when she was finished, hugged her mother again. Jill wasn’t sure what was going on, but the girl, now a teenager, wouldn’t let go, and she kept saying, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

Jill didn’t know where that self-loathing had come from. It certainly wasn’t from her.

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