By: Christian Bot
If there is anything meaningful to gain in the obsessive fandom of an English costume drama, it is surely to be found in the scenes of Highclere Manor, and in particular, in the personage of Ethel Spenser. It was so easy for the spark of sympathy to kindle in my heart for her, since she, like me, was the middle of three sisters. Few tragedies scratch with more persistence on the hearts of the insecure, and I was the most insecure of all young women. True, I had never been jilted at the altar, impregnated by my dashing editor (who died, of course), nor forced to abandon the by-product of our love in the hands of the humorless Swiss. That said, I obviously did not boast the honor of being my parents’ darling, doted on and pampered ad nauseam from the moment of birth. I was neither their favorite nor their second favorite, and I would not have even placed third had other children been conceived. I was adored merely a smidgen more than some obscure niece who resurfaced every second Christmas, or a distant cousin whom one could have a crush on without feeling excessively debauched. I resented my parents for it, of course, but I reserved my most biting acrimony for my sisters, who were so shameless in cultivating our parents’ naked favoritism. I saw thread after thread tying my dilemma to Ethel’s, and in doing so she became like a twin to me. I adored her profoundly, finding in her a sturdy ally who would always bless me with the liberating knowledge that, though I suffered, I did not suffer alone.