Keeping up with the Pets

The Kardashians: Living proof that you don't need pet siblings to stamp out loneliness

Yesterday I learned a new word: pet.

Not the word one would normally use when referring to a four-legged, two-legged or even legless animal that has been bred and broken into a domestic environment, but the word one uses to refer to a person.

Like a pet sister. Or a pet brother.

I was quite taken aback when I heard Eza refer to someone as her husband’s pet brother today. My initial response was “What is that?” and after she waved her hand to disdainfully dismiss the term, she explained that “a pet brother or pet sister is a good friend who can be considered family. It’s a name we all used when we were in school.”

Clearly, the name Kardashian was not yet known to man.

Despite being rather disturbed by the fact that people in Malaysia — fully-grown, at-least-partially-mature human beings — are running around using the word pet to define fellow adults, I was quite intrigued by this trend that apparently has been running rampant on this good earth (really just Malaysian soil) for decades. I suppose at the Age of Knowing No Better, teenagers must have felt a sense of closeness and kinship by calling one another their pet sisters or pet brothers, and to some it would have been better to have pet siblings than their blood ones. By all accounts that may have also been the teenage boy’s way of befriending the girl of (his life’s) moment before venturing further into adolescent limbo. And — this one I’m fairly certain of, purely by taking into account individual cowardice and indecisiveness — it was probably the easiest way to say “Let’s just be friends.”

However, once the uniforms have been shed and these young Impressionables go out into the world to experience what they thought they already knew of as life, I strongly believe it would be most advisable to disregard all former knowledge of the term and its usage. Possibly the only definition of it that I find remotely appealing is the association with one’s family. After all, if there were ever two people in the world I would consider family, they would be Becca and Shirley, and even then, this curious little designation, however affectionate in nature, has its restrictions.

“Becca can’t be your pet sister, because she’s your age,” Eza explained, as one might explain potty-training to a toddler. “The pets are usually people who are older or younger than you. Becca would only be your BFF.” Now there’s another term which requires some utilization control before it makes the entire world female population sound like they came straight out of The Hills.

Which leaves me, according to the Malaysian Book of Idiosyncrasies (and surely there must be one out there, given the bizarreness of this country), with a tally of two one pet sisters — and at this point I will use the term very loosely, because I must ask which self-respecting person can suffer the indignity of being called as such without gagging — and one BFF, and one jie jie (only because Eza calls me her mei mei).

Oh, to be young (or youth-deprived) and spouting jargon only your fellow countrymen can make sense of.