Marty Feldman as Igor in Young Frankenstein (1974)
There are countless advantages to being the younger sister, the majority of which may be fodder for future posts. A unique, lesser-known pair of advantages for me was the ill-fitting hand-me-down clothes and trips to the grocery store sans-sister, who was off doing bigger-girl things like softball or camp. An odd combination? Hardly.
Different stores proved suitable for different make-believe. Clothing stores were good for jungle raids, for example, whereas the grocery store—with its long aisles—proved conducive to the painfully slow, drawn-out shuffling of a bug-eyed humpback, missing arm optional. Thus I amused myself while being towed from one errand to another. Mom would be pushing the cart and I’d follow, perhaps mildly interested in the produce on either side of the aisle at first…but that got boring pretty quickly, especially when you consider what’s at eye-level for a 4 year-old. Then Igor would emerge. I’d roll one of my shoulders forward, extend and drag the opposite leg behind me while exaggerating the bend in the other, and, if I were feeling particularly gruesome, I’d tuck one of my little arms inside my generally oversized shirt and wrap it tightly around my torso. I’d follow my mother in this state, hobbling and dragging my limb behind me, a truly pathetic creature.
But you must understand, this wasn’t just a one-off thing. Grocery shopping day was Igor rehearsal day. And I was committed. It wasn’t just a little hobble in the canned food aisle when Mom was spending too long comparing two brands of unsalted tomato paste. Oh no. This was the artist hard at work, perfecting her craft up and down every single aisle after the cart was procured up until check-out. It’s just too bad nobody really took notice. Or so I thought. For 20-some years I was pretty pleased with myself, thinking I’d gotten away with one of the most embarrassing non-tantrum behaviors a child can inflict on a parent. Turns out Mom knew the whole time. She told me when I was in college that she let me go at it because she didn’t want to stunt my creativity.
Just think of what so many other great things girls all over the world could do—beyond impersonating Igor—if their parents and communities gave them the same chance I had.
-K. Sarah Ostrach
Girl Museum Inc.