Women who’ve grown up without a sister always seem to want one. I suspect they imagine a kind of intimacy they’ve never experienced, and they’re probably right. But when we don’t have something, we tend to romanticize it and think only of the positive attributes.
Sisters are different from friends, even BFFs. It’s a different quality of familiarity and closeness. But people with sisters know there’s an equal and opposite flipside to that intimacy.
Sisters can be maddening. They take you for granted and make unfair demands and push your buttons like nobody else. They say things to you that in a million years they wouldn’t dream of saying to their friends, in-laws or colleagues. And when they’re not happy or feeling insecure, you as perhaps their closest-looking and -living relative can be the recipient of their unintentional projections.
Depending on your closeness — and how much therapy you’ve both had — you might be able to discuss this in an objective, loving, helpful way. Or it could stew for days, weeks, months or, tragically, it could be the undoing of your entire relationship.
The Special Closeness of Sisters
But for all that, your sister is the one who will take your call at 3 a.m., when you haven’t spoken in a month and had publically proclaimed it would take a, quote, act of God to get you to talk to her again. She’s the one who, when aroused from a deep, warm slumber and sees your number on Caller ID, picks up, and when you say, “I need you now,” she says “Come on over, I’ll get dressed and put on water for tea” or “Stay right there, I’m coming to get you,” and she does, and listens to your situation or helps you deal with the crisis at hand or takes you to the emergency room and stays with you until the doctor says you’re out of the woods.
Friends are the ones you grouse to about your sister, but your sister is the one who knows everything about everyone: who’s about to lose her job, which friend is cheating on the spouse, who’s in hock up to his eyebrows, who you have a secret crush on … and she gets every unspoken nuance.
She not only remembers your best friend from growing up, but is best friends with her sister and just hung out with their whole family last summer and brings you back photos and a thoughtful souvenir.
Your sister is the one who will tell you that you look beautiful when you feel like crap and have to make a public appearance — and if you truly don’t have anything to wear, she’ll lend you her best outfit with the perfect matching shoes.
A friend leaves a message on your machine and you listen and erase it. A sister leaves a voicemail and for a split-second you think, “Wait, is that me?” She loves your kids like her own, and she remembers every important thing that’s ever happened in your entire life.
When the bottom falls out of your relationship, she’ll remind you how unhappy you were for years — recalling details you’d blissfully forgotten — and she’ll tell you how many people still think you’re hot, then will say the exact perfect thing to crack you up and make you both crumple into a fit of tears and choking laughter, and you’re not sure which are from joy and which from sorrow. And she pours you another glass of your favorite wine and you hug and look at each other and make the same stupid inside joke you’ve been making for 40 or 50 years.
And on that heart-wrenching day when you bury a parent, she’s the one sitting next to you, squeezing your hand, and of the almost 7 billion people you share a planet with, she’s the only one thinking the same thing you are: “Bye-bye, Daddy.”
Sisterhood is a bond forged of paper, stone, steel, blood and Kryptonite. And nothing could be more precious.