Getting to Know My Sister
Evolution and enlightenment on a weekend visit
By: Emily Freisher
My younger sister came to visit me at college this weekend, and I spent the entire week prior worrying obsessively about how her arrival would affect the social dynamic of our pseudo-friendship. I spent my time taking all of the personality, wit and character I had gathered about her over the past 15 years and flattened it into one boring, lifeless outline of a human being. How is it that one of the people I love and know most in the world can simultaneously be the girl I know the least?
Our sisterhood has been a fragile one, spotted by the constant bickering and bitching that siblings of all ages will readily admit to. Only in more recent years have we begun to delve deeper into each other’s souls, challenging how far we can dig before becoming uncomfortable with our findings.
First, it was the mere mention of the word “boy”, not even in conjunction with “-friend”, “kiss” or “date”, which would have made the conversation much too heavy to handle. It would have meant going beyond the tangible-what we saw in each other’s daily lives- and into the realm of unknown thoughts and feelings. That was about two years ago, shortly followed by things like classes and teachers we had in common despite the five- year age gap. I even became relaxed enough by our discussions to curse and say “fuck” every once in a while, which may or may not have been a good idea. Still, our progression was significant, and I began to see her as more than just the little girl with short hair, chubby cheeks and an article of clothing that she’d stolen from my closet.
But these car-ride length discussions on a trip to the mall were nothing compared to the 48 hours of constant companionship facing me on Friday afternoon.
I saw her rise up from the escalator stairs of the train station and gave her an awkward embrace before robotically reciting a schedule of our weekend’s activities. The days had been easy to plan-exploring Philadelphia; watching the Chinese New Year parade. The nights were more difficult. Frat party or dorm hang-out? Will my friends drink in front of her? Invite their boyfriends over for the night? I was terrified at the thought of having to explain any of these things to her, despite recognizing that her age might mean she already understood. I worried that my friends and our behavior would be deemed irresponsible in her eyes and lead her to conclude that I was some sort of crazy, maniacal version of the straight-edge, straight-A sister she once knew.
As the evening wound to a close, our room filled with my friends, and the night’s destiny was understood-movies, games and good conversation.
No sooner had I finally relaxed at the notion of avoiding difficult topics than did my sister whip out Facebook on my computer and start discussing the cute boys in her grade with one of my roommates. What in the world was going on?! She wouldn’t even so much as mention them to me, but here she was interacting with a stranger in true “bff- lylas!!!” format.
“Who’s that?” I asked.
“Alex. I think he’s smoking,” she answered.
“No, he’s just really hot.”
“Oh,” I said, dumbfounded.
And so it continued. It reminded me for the first time in the last week that maybe she isn’t so easy to understand after all. I’ve always categorized her as the shy, quiet girl who never spoke up, and here she was objectifying boys, drawing on schoolbooks and talking back to teachers. Who knew I had such spunky kin?
This baffling character-sketch disagreement has given me reason to rethink the way I view people. Do I put certain personality traits at the forefront and categorize the rest? Have I gotten to such a point that learning the contradictions within my own friends has become a chore?
I don’t think I’ve gotten to this point yet. But it does make me analyze a bit harder, and maybe that’s the solution. Identities aren’t simple enough to pin down to a flat surface- they’ve got bumps, bruises and beauty marks, just like our exteriors.
Tell us: How do you relate to your siblings? Have your relationships changed in ways you never expected?