We didn't have the Olsen twins in Russia.
In fact, we didn't have much American TV in Russia in general. I was able to watch some crudely translated kids' TV shows growing up in The Motherland, but my exposure to the glory of the Olsen twins began when my family and I first moved to America.
The first (and arguably best) advice I've gotten about learning English is to watch a lot of TV. So, I did. I inhaled children's shows like the gospel. I knew world news better than my teachers did because I watched the programs every single night, like clockwork. I could say, “It's 10 pm, do you know where your children are?” before I knew all the colors or all the letters of the alphabet.
It was then that I was introduced to “Full House.” I would watch an episode every afternoon after school and follow the lives of the Tanner family like they were my own kooky uncles and sisters. To me, they encapsulated the American dream, providing hints as to what a “perfect” family should be like. I resolved to one day move to San Francisco and have my own family just like theirs. I even concocted a plan to steal Uncle Jesse away from Aunt Becky and raise Nicky and Alex like my own children. You really should ask me about it some time when I'm drunk.
I loved Michelle most of all. I was jealous of her -- jealous that she grew up in a large family with a strong, male presence and that she was decidedly American.
When I learned that Michelle was played by a set of twins, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, I was obsessed. I forced my mom to buy me MK+A everything — duvets, body mists, lip glosses, the works. I grew up with the twins, acting like they were the two sisters I never had (until fairly recently, anyway).
Of the two, I loved Ashley the most. She was always the “girly” one of the pair. She loved makeup and boys and was ambitious and feminine. There was something so entirely unattainable yet approachable about her, which made me love her even more.
I mean, don't get me wrong, Mary-Kate was cool, too. She was always the sportier of the two and the more childish. She was also always the one who got the twins into trouble, leaving Ashley to brainstorm ideas to get them out of it.
I think I liked Ashley because she was everything I wasn't at the time: put together, proper and ambitious. To a girl who wore sweatpants every day to school, had no idea how to talk to boys and continuously flunked out of class, Ashley represented something better.
Does that sound cliché? Probably. But she also served as a role model -- or, at least, the characters she always portrayed did.
Eventually, I grew out of my Ashley phase. I now love both twins equally, mainly because they head up Elizabeth And James (which I love) and The Row (which I can't afford to love).
Regardless, Ashley was my OG sister before getting a real sister. Plus, I always wanted those beachy waves. I'm low-key hoping it's a wig so if I ever were to run into Ashley on the street, I'd be able to nick it off her head and wear it like a trophy.
Happy birthday, Mary-Kate and Ashley. May you continue to get awkward shout-outs on "Fuller House."