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Ok, now that that’s out the way, hey y’all!

The show that has been on the tip of most TV-watcher’s tongues this past week is none other than Love Is Blind. Have you seen it? It’s basically a show where they bring single people who are so fed up of the dating world IRL that they’d rather try and meet their soulmate by talking to a bunch of different people through a wall for hours on end on Netflix. If they like the person, they’ll proceed to go on a honeymoon and eventually get married—unless the other person says no at the altar (which happens a lot). It’s fascinating.

This may be a spoiler alert, but it’s been two seasons and Black women have been WINNING. Both seasons have produced gorgeous marriages for Black women and I’m like… is this how we should be dating from now on? No race or stereotypes in the way, just voice and vibes. Make sure there’s a wall between you on your next blind date and watch it flourish.

This Week’s Story

You know when you read something that resonates so deep it hits this random part of your core, and you just gotta nod or shout an audible “yessss” into the void? That’s me after reading Megan Beauchamp’s piece this week. The eldest daughter struggle is real and Megan does such an eloquent job of sharing the highs and lows of being a “second mother” to her younger siblings in a Caribbean household. A black girl subdued, indeed.

Are you an eldest daughter, or maybe the youngest or middle child? How did that affect your relationship with your siblings and/or parents? Did you think it played a role in who you are as a person today? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Take Care,

Anayo Awuzie
EIC of Carefree Mag

Tales From An Eldest Daughter

by Megan Beauchamp
Edited by Yolanda Baruch

The ‘eldest daughter’ phrase is something I just recently started noticing in conversation and on social media. Things like, ‘You know you’re the oldest daughter when…’ and a corresponding anecdote. Or, this viral tweet of a girl no older than eight years old in a deli gathering groceries.

I’d always seen discussion about birth order in terms of the oldest sibling versus the youngest; and, of course, the plight of the middle child. But putting a distinction in adding gender was interesting to me. Reading through hundreds of the dark jokes, frustration, and memes on the ‘eldest daughter’ hashtag, shared on social media resonated with me fiercely. The core of being the eldest daughter wasn’t just about the expectation to be responsible for yourself and your other siblings; it was the presumption that you should be that and a nurturer.   

I remember driving back from JFK airport with my dad and little brother. I was twelve, and he was seven. We’d just dropped off my mom for a short trip to Florida, and I was sitting in the front seat listening to California Girls by Katy Perry on the radio, the glow from the sun giving the road a glittery shine. Back then, I’d always felt just a little unsettled when my dad was left to look after us. He was great, but our mom just had a certain finesse in getting things done. I remember dried sweat and the smell of grass on my body from softball practice earlier that day. My dad is sitting lax, one hand on the steering wheel, occasionally thumping his finger to the beat. 

We’d made it thirty minutes into the car ride when my little brother announced he had to go to the bathroom. Looking at his squirming little self in the backseat, I realized immediately it was not an I can hold it situation, but a right now situation. The next rest stop wasn’t for a few minutes, and my dad swiftly pulled outside a tiny McDonald’s when it presented itself, but by then, it was too late. I quickly assessed the problem and jumped in to fix it. 

First, new pants. 

My extra pair of softball shorts didn’t exactly pass the smell test, but they would do for the moment. Second, finding something to put his soiled clothes into. I found a wrinkled plastic shopping bag on the backseat floor full of tools from one of my dad’s last projects and dumped it out. Balling up the bag and shoving it underneath my armpit, I held my brother’s hand and made for the McDonald’s bathroom, telling my dad we’d be back. It didn’t register to me until we were halfway across the parking lot that he had just let me go. 

Maybe I could believe that if I’d done nothing—If I’d looked to him for direction, he would have taken the lead. But it was like I knew I should. My mom wasn’t around, so the next person in line to handle such things was me. When we returned to the car, my little brother was wearing my maroon shorts folded around his waist. Thank God, you had other clothes,” said my dad. I was also thankful. I felt weirdly proud that I handled it. I donned the responsibility and came out on the other side successful. 

But as I got older, what had felt like such pride started to feel like a curse. 

My parents are Caribbean, and that right there should tell you everything you need to know about how I grew up.  As the only daughter out of three brothers, and the oldest to one of them, I tried to exist as unproblematically as possible. There was no other choice but to be the child my parents expected me to be. 

She knows what she’s doing; she’s always been independent. Yup, that’s Megan, 12 going on 20.

I’d heard things like this said about me countless times when I was younger and loved it. I absolutely preened under the approval. Up until I was in high school, I thought that one of the best compliments I could receive was that I was mature. Not pretty, or funny, or talented—fucking mature. Like I was a wheel of cheese or something. I think back to that time and shake my head to erase the cringe at thinking I was so much older than I was. Sometimes I can’t help but laugh. If I could go back, I would tell myself that being grown is overrated; eat cookies and watch The Cheetah Girls for the rest of your life.

It’s no secret that Black girls are afforded less grace to be children. Researchers with the Initiative on Gender Justice and Opportunity at Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality call this, ‘adultification bias.’ A perception that presumes Black girls as more adult-like and less innocent. It’s freeing now to say that the adults in my life robbed parts of my childhood from me, and I lament fiercely on what I missed out on.

I wish I hadn’t known any of the business in the lives of the adults around me. I wish some of them didn’t count on me as an ear to listen and I wish I hadn’t listened. Being the eldest daughter also came with its specific handicaps. Mainly being remarkably self-contained. And isn’t that just a crime? A black girl subdued? Outbursts or little fits of rage and frustration were not feelings I could indulge because I knew better than that. 

In reading more about eldest daughters, I came across a book by Patricia Schudy called: Oldest Daughters: What to Know if You Are One or Have Ever Been Bossed Around by One. In Chapter 4, she details the concept of “little mothers.” Essentially, Schudy had been labeled this by her mother for taking care of her younger sisters. While reading this section, I felt like a kid again, sitting shotgun, this time with my mom. 

Car rides, for some reason, always seemed like my best opportunity to coax out answers. Something about being in a space where there was nothing to drag away her attention helped me buck up the courage to ask things I usually wouldn’t at the house. Like, just why was it so different for me? Why was my little brother able to skate by doing things, I could never do at his age? Why did I have to be so accountable for him, even for his mistakes? These were questions I often asked, not always in the same way, but every time she’d reply imploringly: It’s different for you; you’re the girl.

After hearing such a woefully disappointing answer for years, suddenly, it all seemed so severely unfair. Being a girl seemed so unfair. Back then, I had no concept of ‘eldest daughters’ or any language to express how I knew that being a sister was more important than being a “little mother”, and in the end, it was a role I actively refused. The other stuff was non-negotiable; being a good student, staying out of trouble. I made peace—albeit bitterly—with the fact that I couldn’t just forsake everything. But that was my one little rebellion; My one act of defiance was choosing to be my little brother’s sister. 

I wouldn’t be accountable for not anticipating his mistakes anymore or giving lectures on right and wrong. That wasn’t my job. My job was to give him advice, and if he fucked up—try to be as un-judgemental as possible. My job was to be someone he could vent to because I also understood how exhausting it was to carry the burden of expectation from our parents. I wasn’t going to be his mother, and in the long run, I feel like that saved our relationship—and my sanity.

There’s an adage that fuels almost every rom-com that there’s a fine line between love and hate. Schudy describes something similar in the last chapter of her book, saying, “I discovered that resentment and appreciation exist on both sides of the sibling fence. I learned to see myself in the eyes of those closest to me.” I recently asked my brother if he ever felt like I was overbearing growing up, and in his listless way, he replied: “Nah, you were kind of just there.” With that charming depiction, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief; vindication. Because, while I was only trying to be his sister, that’s all he ever saw me as. 

Some things are inescapable, though. 

Not too long ago, I was out with friends and one of them had left behind their wallet from the last store we visited. The entire time we were driving back, this twisting feeling of guilt sunk in me. I kept asking myself why I hadn’t ensured we had everything before we left? I should’ve known somehow that he would’ve accidentally left it behind, and I agonized over whether he would find it—which he eventually did. It was irrational to think it was my fault, and I knew that. But I couldn’t fight it. Like being 12 years old again, tending to my little brother in a McDonald’s bathroom, knowing it was me who had to do it. The urge to fix and find a solution plagued me, and I’m not sure if little triggers like that will ever really go away. 

But when the gravity of that thought gets overwhelming, I try to think about the link between my little brother and me. Unexpected moments when he teaches me something, or the dragged-out laughter from sharing an inside joke, and that somewhere along the way, we became friends—even though he’d never admit that, but maybe that’s the key to being the eldest daughter.

Family is a tricky thing to navigate, but I remind myself that I can choose myself.

I should as often as possible, and not gently, but with vigor and spirit. It only took 24 years, but the power in speaking these things out loud is like a balm to a younger Megan. 

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Megan Beauchamp is a New York based writer, digital creative, and reality television enthusiast. When she’s not conjuring up ways to make fictional characters fall in love at her day job, she’s creating her own stories, and tinkering with her film camera. To read more or just connect, you can follow her on Instagram or Twitter.