“You’ve got my sister!” I gushed to Mario. He looked quite startled by this statement.

“In with Gwynn,” I clarified. “She’s getting a massage!”

Mario, one of the Big Brains at Body Dynamics (in Falls Church, VA), looked both disinterested and relieved that he wasn’t being accused of kidnapping. “Oh,” he said – which, honestly, is about the only acceptable answer under the circumstances.

I’d waxed so rhapsodic about Gwynn, the therapeutic masseuse (one of four at Body Dynamics – and I’m sure the other three are just as brilliant) (but how could they be? I mean really) (No, I’m sure they are) (methinks she doth protest too much)… lost my train of thought. Hang on.

I’d waxed so rhapsodic about Gwynn that my sister Twig finally caved and made an appointment. Just in case you don’t keep track of these details (what – you’re not a crazed stalker?), Twig is my sister who says things like “Damn it, I’m going to have to miss cardio tennis” or “I just had the greatest kick-boxing class.” She lives for Orange Theory. Beneath her beautifully tailored, utterly simple wardrobe is one long, springy muscle; Twig could kick your ass but wouldn’t because DARLING how rude would THAT be??

Her inaugural Gwynn massage was at 10:15 yesterday, and I was working out with Barbara at 11 – so when I arrived, I knew that Twig was lying on Gwynn’s massage table, being brought to the very edge of pain and then washed in the euphoria of a muscle that was at last getting oxygen again. I knew Twig was being educated about things in her body that she’d never known before. I knew Twig was prone and near drooling. And I was as excited as a kid on the day parents come to school to talk about their careers.

“My sister’s here!” I crowed to Chip. Chip, who I see on Wednesdays, wasn’t even looking for me. He was eyeing the waiting area for his next client when I all but body-tackled him. “My sister’s here! In with Gwynn!”

“Oh,” he said. (He and Mario use the same playbook.) “That’s nice.”

“You can look at her when she comes out!”

Chip regarded me with a slightly alarmed air.

“To see if she’s like me! You know – is she lordotic? Do her hips do what my hips do? Don’t you want to see a sister? Like a control in a lab experiment?”

Worn down by my puppy-like enthusiasm, Chip allowed as how that might be interesting. “I have a client with six sisters,” he said. “There’s not a commonality among ‘em. All different.”

Huh. At the stroke of eleven, Barbara appeared, and I swiveled my focus to her. “My sister’s here!”

“Are we running?”

“Yeah – come on. We have to run now to get back to catch her before she leaves. I’ve already stretched. Let’s go!”

I gasped my way through my little mile while Barbara trotted gracefully alongside me, a tug boat guiding the Queen Mary. I tried – I tried! – to run a little faster, but even the promise of “My sister’s here!” couldn’t turn my engines up to eleven; it took the same 15 minutes it always takes. I was doing my panting cool-down walk out front of Body Dynamics when we finished (down to that curb cut – touch the curb with my foot; pivot, walk back up – breeze, hopefully, blowing away the thermonuclear level of heat I generate when I jog – past the front door to that curb cut – touch it with my foot, walk back – an anal-retentive ritual that must be observed) and peering hopefully through the windows to see if I could see her. Nope.

And then as I went past – “Oh, whoo-hoo!” The call we all learned from our mother (her “come down for dinner” call) rang along the street and I swiveled like a laser-guided missile. Look! It’s Twig!

I trotted back as eager as if I hadn’t seen her in years (rather than spending the last two weeks at her side cleaning out Mom’s house). “This is Barbara!” I said eagerly. “Hello, Barbara,” said Twig politely.

“Nothing like you at all,” Barbara said. “Not even close.”

And somehow, this made me howl with laughter. Barbara knows what my feet are doing inside my sneakers; she has the most uncanny ability to understand how a body is working purely through her astonishing powers of observation – and she could see in an instant that Twig’s body was completely different from mine. Of COURSE our bodies aren’t anything alike. Something in Twig’s chemistry makes her crave cardio tennis. Something in my chemistry makes me measure every piece of furniture for its potential value in a marathon novel-reading session.

Twig and Barbara were having a friendly, gentle chat while I was biting back a ridiculous grin. I wanted to shout. It was like a lifetime of struggle clarified in one moment. I don’t like cardio tennis because I am nothing like my sister. I wanted to go up to every gym teacher I ever had, every scornful saleslady in a dressing room – I wanted to get Mom’s ashes off the shelf in the hall closet and say I AM NOTHING LIKE MY SISTER! Isn’t that awesome?!

It’s not strength of will (or lack thereof) that has padded my entire middle like I’m swaddled in pink ceiling insulation. It’s not a lack of effort.

I’m just not like that.

I’m so proud of my sister… and I’m so proud of me.


By the way – Twig says she’s a total Gwynn convert. Her massage was amazing. TOO RIGHT, IT WAS! This photo is of me (on the left) and Twig in the “fascinators” she cleverly made for us for a luncheon of the Smithsonian Women’s Committee. Twig is off-the-charts creative.

2 thoughts on “Genetics

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