The Inevitable Truth About Having Sisters
It’s the same in every family.
The youngest sister looks adoringly to her older sisters; mimicking their every move, outfit, and catch phrase. The older sister looks down to her younger sisters with the kind of fondness that says Oh, I’ve been there. And if you find yourself in the middle of someone older and someone younger, well, you’re sandwiched between days gone by and what’s still to come.
Except… it’s not as poetic as that, is it?
Not. Even. Close.
Because the truth is, if you are blessed enough to have sisters that are relatively close in age you will spend a large portion of your time in that sisterhood playing games of comparison. It’s inevitable. It’s like if three strawberries were lined up side by side on the kitchen bench you would naturally notice which strawberry looked the juiciest, the brightest, the freshest. You don’t do it consciously but you do it nonetheless. You think, well if I had to pick one…
Sisters that are close in age face the greatest challenge, as milestones are ticked off within quick succession of each other. You shift from being a safe distance apart from your sisters, watching the eldest as she makes mistakes, studying what she did wrong and vowing to not be so silly when your turn comes around. Or you’re looking enviously at the youthful attributes of your younger sister; their free spirit that hasn’t been tainted by job loss or heart break. The way your younger sister is fixated by young love and newly-straightened teeth, a wardrobe paid for by your parents and not needing to learn the value of money just yet. Or you might actively take measures to assert your independence from your sisters; choosing a university solely because your sisters didn’t attend there, or only travelling to those parts of the world your sister hasn’t been so as to avoid the, “Oh that’s weird, because when I was backpacking around eastern Europe…”
But then you start evening out in height and weight and suddenly you look dangerously similar with only the smallest degrees of separation which are easily missed by the naked eye. I’m one of three girls who are all between 5 ft. 3 and 5 ft. 6, of an average build, with blonde hair, fair skin and extensive orthodontic work. To any stranger, the Walker girls are triplets. One is mistaken for the other, the twenty-four year-old is asked when she’s graduating high school, the youngest is asked if she’s the eldest, the eldest is asked if she’s twenty-three – not twenty-six- and don’t even get me started on the ages and stages I apparently represent. When you look the same as your sisters it seems to emphasize your insecurities even more; who got the “good with numbers” gene, the more olive skin, the smaller nose, the smooth talker. Charlotte has never had a pimple in her life whereas I spent my teenage years with a band of offensive pimples only hidden by a greasy fringe that was ultimately contributing to the volcanoes on my forehead. But then again, I’ve always had straight and rather cooperative hair whereas Charlotte has always been – dare I say it – borderline ginger with a particularly unruly mane. Charlotte was Deputy Head Girl, I was a Prefect and Issy was a House Captain. Which might all sound like a parenting lottery but the reality couldn’t be further, intead it was a constant game of “Compare and Contrast” like those circle diagrams we had to draw in English class. The sad part is that Char, Issy and I very rarely talk about all the wonderful qualities we have in common; we’re all conscientious, extremely hard working and, I like to think, relatively good people. And not one of those things has anything to do with brains, grades, or appearance.
I’m so grateful to have siblings, and I’m particularly grateful to have my siblings. I’m grateful for our inside jokes and sense of humour, for the way we support and nurture each other, and – when we’re not mercilessly teasing each other – I’m glad that we think the sun shines out of each other’s backsides. But when you’re part of a family that live in each other’s pockets it’s not surprising that you become hyper-aware of all the things your sister has that you don’t.
I wonder what happens as you get older? Do you stop comparing the “trivial” and start comparing the “big”? Do you over-analyse things like marriage, husbands and parenting styles, or do you finally take back that sense-of-self that you carelessly gave to your siblings when you were growing up?
Hopefully it’s the latter.