Natalie: My sister and I were born 18 months apart — she is 22 about to turn 23 and I recently turned 21. We have no other siblings and her and I could not be more different. While she wants to pursue a career in investment banking, I want to work in public-interest law and non profit organizations. My sister is incredibly organized. I could not organize a pantry to save my life. Seriously, she is the type of person to have her fridge beautifully and meticulously organized with all of her food in the little cute storage containers. You would open my fridge and laugh. I am really loud and extroverted (seriously, my mom calls me “Nat the Chat” or “chattynat”), while she is much more quiet and reserved. I am a liberal arts nerd at heart and she prefers finance and business administration courses. The juxtapositions between us are endless, but they are also unimportant. Our differences are what make our relationship so special. I am grateful to have grown up with my sister. She pushes me to see the world from a unique lens and to grow in the areas that I struggle in. In many ways, she is the ying to my yang.
Sophie: Like Natalie, I have a sister who I would describe as “the yin to my yang.” Lucy is sixteen, three years younger than me, and while we are connected in a way I connect with nobody else, there are a lot of ways that we could not be more different. I am pale and dark-haired, the spitting image of my mother and maternal grandmother; Lucy has almost red hair and striking blue eyes, and as she gets older, she looks more and more like my dad every day. As a child, I was cautious and sensitive, prone to loud crying and anxieties (who am I kidding? I still am), while Lucy was a risk-taker (and still is—she had the guts to jump off the VERY HIGH bridge in our town into the ocean last summer, something I do not think I will ever do). One of my family’s favorite stories to tell involves a toddler-aged Lucy leaping into the deep end of the pool after being told not to, and once she had been rescued by my fully-clothed mother, she just laughed and exclaimed “Well, I guess I won’t do that again!” I love to read and I’m a total nerd for history, but math makes me shudder. Lucy is at the top of her class in math and science but scoffs at my attempts to get her to read the books I like. When we are upset, I cry and scream while Lucy shuts down like a brick wall. Despite these differences, she is my very best friend. I keep my eyes out for her, reminding her of how to be cautious and when she might benefit from a more sensitive approach, and she keeps my caution in check, encouraging me to take risks and making my life a whole lot more fun.
Natalie: For the majority of my life I felt that my relationship with my sister wasn’t ‘perfect,’ in that it didn’t fit the idealized mold of siblings I had seen between my friends and their sisters (like Sophie and her sister). I was never able to get along with her. I was so focused on our differences that I misconceived them as insurmountable obstacles when in reality they were not obstacles, but merely learning lessons. The more I harped on our differences to the point of arguing with her, the more tumultuous our relationship became. It wasn’t until recently that my sister and I started to forge a bond that transcended the vehement disputes that we previously had. I realized that life is too short to fight with your lifelong friend. My sister and I may never be as close as Sophie and her sister are, but this doesn’t mean that we do not have the potential to be, nor does it mean that we cannot derive value from our bond. I have learned incredibly valuable life lessons by navigating tensions of differences with my older sister.
Sophie: I have always felt really, really fortunate to have the close relationship that I have with my sister. I mean, it is definitely far from perfect: sometimes Lucy drives me absolutely up a wall and just the sound of her breathing is enough to send me into a raging spiral. But, I think that is going to happen any time you live in that close of proximity with another human being. Because we have been through so much together— the divorce of our parents, three stepbrothers, five new schools, eight different houses, high school, college, this cursed pandemic — we are tied in a way that is entirely unique. We were raised by the same parents at the same time, an experience that nothing else can totally match. Sometimes, listening to the two of us talk just sounds like two halves of the same whole. Lucy feels like a part of me. I’m fiercely protective of her (overprotective, she sometimes tells me) and as much as I complain about her antics sometimes, you can be sure I am never going to stand for hearing a bad word about her.
Having a sister means hearing and getting the advice that none of your friends would tell you:
Natalie: What I love about my sister is that she always gives me the advice that I NEED to hear! Unfortunately, sometimes it is the advice that we need to hear that can also put us on guard and make us feel defensive. I have come to realize how I am lucky to have such raw and genuine advice — maybe I was feeling defensive about the advice merely because it wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but what I needed to hear. She gives me the advice that my friends, or even my mom, maybe too afraid to tell me. She tells me honestly how she feels about a guy I may be crushing on, what she wants to eat and not eat for dinner (and if you’re anything like me, I am super indecisive), how to best present myself to employers in interviews, and what clothes make a sick outfit. She speaks her mind freely and I know that she genuinely wants the best for me, so she would only extend advice that would help me better myself.
Sophie: As the older sister, I think that my perspective on this is a little bit different, especially because my sister is still growing up. Lucy is absolutely someone I go to for advice when I need someone to keep it real with me (“Will this look dumb on me?” “Yeah, kinda…”), but I think that, at this point in our lives at least, I am usually the one giving the advice. Maybe it’s a little sister thing, but my sister is painfully indecisive like Natalie, so sometimes she needs me around to tell her to cut the crap and make a decision. I love that. I love being someone that she can come to for help, someone with just a little more real-world experience and with her best interests at heart. I love being a role model for her and, hopefully, someone that she can look up to. It used to drive me crazy when I was little and my favorite color was always hers. Now, though, I can really appreciate it, even if it is terrifying to know that someone is looking to you for guidance on how to face the world when you barely know how yourself.
Having a sister means learning how to forge compromises:
Natalie: One of the earliest lessons I learned through having a sister was “life isn’t fair.” To my mom, this meant that no child, or adult even for that matter, gets what they want simply because they want it. When my sister and I were kids, we used to fight over who would get to sit shot-gun in the car, pick their seat at the dinner table and lick the spoon from the mixer when my mom made cookies. My mom would divide these privileges between my sister and I — my sister did not get everything her heart desired and neither did I. My sister and I have had to share. If she gave me part of the spoon with cookie dough on it, I would give her some of it the next time my mom allowed me to have it. If she got a new American Girl doll, she would invite me to come play with her because one day I would (hopefully!) get a new doll as well and we could share in playing with our dolls together. Having to share with my sister taught me that life isn’t just about what I want and it isn’t merely about what she wants either: it’s about building compromises based on what all parties desire.
Sophie: I think the experiences Natalie describes are pretty freaking universal for siblings. I remember wrestling my sister to the ground in a parking lot trying to get shotgun and taking forever to make sure we each got the same amount of Kool-Aid in our glasses. I remember sharing a room with her in a small apartment and drawing a line across the room with masking tape to split it in half (which didn’t work very well, considering her side contained the closet and my side contained the door). Sharing is something you get pretty darn good at when you have a sibling. It still drives Lucy crazy when I dip my spoon into her ice cream, of course, but we are always thinking of each other. I see it in the way she grabs my favorite snack at the grocery store for me without me asking and guards it from the rest of the family or how I always pick up her favorite drink when I drive through Dunkin’ Donuts. Learning how to think of others and share with them graciously is something that I am not sure that I could ever have learned so well without a little sister.
Having a sister means knowing how to listen and apologize when you’ve hurt someone:
Natalie: As I mentioned before, my sister and I have different worldviews and interests and this has created some tension between us. It is not productive for me to assert why I am right and why she is wrong, or vice versa. What is productive is to sit and hear how the people in your life feel. What is so important is to listen to the people in your life and cultivate a genuine sense of empathy that will in turn allow you to forge compromises and apologies for your own wrongdoings. No one is perfect, hell, I have messed up a lot in life! But, what matters is how you turn around from these mistakes and how you make it up to the people you have hurt. You cannot genuinely apologize for your mistakes and dedicate yourself to growth unless you listen.
Like many sisters, my sister and I experienced a tumultuous period in our lives where we fought a lot with one another. We seemingly struggled to see eye to eye or to understand each other. I am a firm believer that the majority of fights can be solved by healthy communication and that the origin of anger can many times be misconstrued sadness or anxiety, not pure anger in itself. I will always love my sister and she will always love me, and that is one of the beauties in having a sister: knowing that you have to work through miscommunication and fights because you both love one another.
Sophie: In the same vein, I’ve found that the fights I have with my sister are like no other. We can be screaming at each other one minute and the next I’m knocking on her door and asking if she wants to go get a bagel with me. I have never felt like I can’t forgive my sister. Sometimes we have to sit down and talk about whatever difference led up to a screaming match, but it never feels that heavy because I know that, no matter what, Lucy will be my best friend and we will move on.
So What Does Sisterhood Really Mean?
Natalie: My relationship with my sister is arguably the most important relationship in my life. My mom will forever and always be my best friend, but my sister and I share a unique bond: we share the same blood and we come from the same parents. She has known me since I was born and she has experienced the seasons of life with me. It is crazy to think that she is graduating from college this year and entering into the world of adults. I know that she will achieve unparalleled success in everything she does and I am so grateful to be standing in her corner and cheering her on. It has taken me a while to understand that our differences make us special and stronger, but I know now, more than anything, the inherent and necessary value in sisterhood.
Sophie: Sisterhood is not about sameness, but rather about knowing someone so completely that you can appreciate them for exactly who they are. It is about recognizing that you are different, but at the same time recognizing that your differences are what allow you to complete each other. My sister is someone who I know I can count on no matter what.