It was in elementary school that I first realized there were two kinds of kids. There were the prodigies, who learned to read in pre-school, played either the piano or the violin, and were able to kick a soccer ball around with incredible skill for someone who wasn’t five feet tall yet. And then there were the kids like me.
While the prodigies were living their seemingly easier lives, coasting through the trials and tribulations of puberty, receiving remarkable report cards each semester, and generally getting away with anything due to their dynamic charisma, the non-prodigies were basically just freaking out all of the time.
These are the confessions of a non child prodigy.
I don’t tell people this fact about me until we know each other relatively well, because they will definitely judge me for it. I have been writing Girl Unaffiliated for a few weeks now, so I feel safe to reveal it: I hate peanut butter.
I know. I’ve heard it all before. It’s delicious! It’s a staple! Are you telling me you don’t eat PB&Js?! Yes. That is exactly what I am telling you. But this is not a mere taste or texture related hatred, though I’ve honestly never liked peanut butter’s particular brand of either. My loathing of peanut butter has psychological roots.
My sister is eight years older than me. Having such a large age difference, we do not have the typical sibling relationship you see in movies and on television. In fact, our relationship is downright unusual. As I like to say, frequently, “I’m an only child, except for my sister.” Basically, we are only children. She spent the first eight years of her life without me, and, when I turned ten, she went to college. We were used to day-to-day routines that didn’t involve a sister. So when we were living under the same roof, it could get rough.
Don’t get me wrong—I love my sister. I love her deeply, and unconditionally. But holy cow did she test that. Of course, I tested her unconditional love on many occasions, too. It was tense for many years between us, but now that we’re older, it’s a lot easier to find common ground.
But this Confession has nothing to do with common ground, or warm and fuzzy family feelings. This Confession is about peanut butter.
Both of our parents are workaholics. We spent a lot of time after school alone in our childhoods, waiting for them to come back from whatever job they were doing. Who was in charge during these little after school specials was naturally my sister, being the eldest by a large margin.
Looking back on these afternoons and evenings, I am shocked I didn’t cry or call our parents at work more. My sister often had older, cooler, not the nicest friends over, and I was a little devil of an instigator. But most of my memories are fuzzy. There was a lot of clashing, fighting, and tears, but the details are unclear so many years later.
However, the minutiae of one episode have never faded.
Like all children who have just come home from a long, exhausting day of elementary school, I was starving. Being too young to use our admittedly complicated, antique, gas stove, it was my sister’s duty to provide me with sustenance. At this point in my life, I didn’t have the passionate negative relationship with peanut butter that I do now, but it was still a spread that I didn’t enjoy eating, or even smelling, for that matter.
My sister was well aware of my aversion to peanut butter. And despite there being a plethora of perfectly suitable food products in the kitchen of our family home, it was peanut butter that she insisted I eat.
There were several problems with this. Firstly, she was already eating peanut butter (this is probably why she made this my only option—it was a convenient choice). That doesn’t sound like a major transgression to the normal human being, except most normal human beings do not know my sister.
Here’s the thing: my sister eschews utensils. Probably also because of the convenience factor, she just uses her hands. This is the girl who will take leftovers out of the fridge and eat them out of their Styrofoam containers without heating them up first, tearing pieces of meat with her bare hands. This is the girl who, before Thanksgiving dinner has officially started, will tear the turkey’s deliciously browned and crispy skin off with her nails to eat. This is the girl who will stick a probably unwashed finger into a jar of peanut butter, scoop out a sizable dollop, and put it in my face.
I may have forgotten to mention that, in addition to being a non child prodigy, I was also an avid germaphobe.
Quite understandably, I freaked out. The peanut butter was not even in my mouth. To be precise, it was somewhere to the left of my mouth. I could already imagine the stickiness that would ensue once I finally got this sister-germ-infected peanut goo off of my person.
To make matters worse, she then wiggled her finger around, effectively spreading a glob of peanut butter all over my face. This time, it got in my mouth, and I scolded myself for foolishly thinking that peanut butter in my mouth might be a more bearable experience. It was so dense that I looked like a giraffe chewing when I was just trying to breathe. It was to the left and right of my mouth now, and above and below it, too. I rushed to the sink, most likely flailing, determined to do only one thing: get this heinous, pungent-smelling sludge off of my body.
My sister laughed hysterically the entire time, a shrill, cackling, witchy laugh that still haunts me to this day.
I did get the peanut butter off eventually. But, like Lady Macbeth’s bloody hands, it is ever present on my skin.
I have never forgiven peanut butter. It’s never really been a void in my life; I’ve never felt deprived of anything. I have no desire to try the ubiquitous peanut butter and jelly sandwich, no matter how many times I’ve been offered one (please stop offering them to me). But I did forgive my sister, because if I had let this truly traumatic experience come between our friendship and love, there would be a void. For sure.