The boxes we're put in
Once when I was a teenager, my Nana said to me, "Mairi's so nice and slim, not like us, eh Lauren?" and that was probably the moment I realised my sister was conventionally attractive and I wasn't.
It's never been a secret in our family that I wanted a brother. I was devastated when Mairi came along, not only a girl, but the girliest girl there could be. Getting her into an outfit that wasn't a party dress was a daily struggle for our mum while I wore the same pair of dungarees until they fell apart.
And I'm still that girl in old dungarees. If I had to put my finger on the one thing I struggle with most, the thing that keeps me awake at night and has be crying in the shower on my bad days, it's the insecurity that I'm not a 'proper' woman.
And I mean proper woman in the most sexist, one-dimensional idea of what a woman is. Loves makeup and knows how to use highlighter but takes almost no time to get ready because she's low-maintenance. She is slim (but not too slim - men don't like a bag of bones!) and hates sci-fi. She is scared of spiders. She's athletic and a good dancer but hates watching sport. She loves Harry Potter but has never read the books.
After years of my family patting me on the back and saying, "Don't worry Lauren, we think you're lovely and my ex boyfriend's mates hilariously telling him he picked the wrong sister, I was fed up. I just hated myself and my round face and love of loudly patterned clothes. I found myself staring at bottles of fake tan in Boots and tried desperately to lose more weight, despite being a size 10 already.
Then Zooey Deschanel in New Girl happened.
I almost felt sorry for the men. They'd spot me at a party with my big eyes and fringe, doing something 'kooky' like PLAYING GOOD MUSIC or DISCUSSING PLAYSTATION GAMES and I'd see their brain leave their body. When I talked to them about Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, they had a meltdown. But I realised they weren't actually asking me anything real about myself. They thought I was their manic pixie dream girl. They were just projecting fantasies on to me. And it made me feel like my genuine interests were gimmicks to make them like me.
It was around this time I started to feel sorry for my sister. She has it much worse.
Mairi has the goofiest sense of humour of anyone I know. She's generous with her time when it comes to her friends and she's really smart (straight As at school) but what does that matter when you're pretty? When you're self-sufficient, socially awkward and beautiful, as well as a sufferer of 'resting bitch face', women especially do not like you.
I can be pigeonholed by men but at least I can make friends when I want to. Nobody assumes I'm out to steal their boyfriend. People care that I can hold a conversation. Nobody mistakes shyness for being stuck up. Nobody will ever think I'm doing well at work because the boss fancies me.
My Proper Woman insecurity is still going strong, but I'm not jealous of my sister any more.