Sister, do you know my name?*



I do not have a sister.

Not by blood. Not through marriage. Not even through friendship.

I have one brother who has never married. We are not close.

My husband is an only child.

I once had a friend with whom I was so close we often referred to each other as sisters. In childhood we promised we’d always be there for one another for the happy times, the big moments, the darkest hours. We were, for the most part, there for each other through childhood, teen years, college, careers, marriages, babies, divorces, rebounds, and the little things in between.  But as we hurtled toward midlife, our lives grew more complex and distant. She began to turn more to her biological sister. There were issues of a personal nature that, I guess, were best kept within the bounds of bloodlines.

Until recently, I fully blamed her for the loss. Now I know I’m responsible, too.

I don’t understand the responsibility of having a sister, of being a sister to a woman.

I fantasized about having a real sister. I begged my parents to have another baby, hoping the next one would be a girl. But my parents assured me that two was enough. I imagined a world much like the Brady Bunch girls, coated in pink frosting and slumber parties and silly little fights over borrowed headbands and shoes.

I was insanely jealous of my friends who had older sisters who could teach them how to wear makeup or smoke a cigarette properly or how to act on a date.

When I went to college, I left my neighborhood friends behind and never replaced them. I didn’t pledge sororities. I joined a few clubs but never found any kindred spirits in any of the women I met on campus.  I spent most of my adult life seeking and maintaining relationships with the opposite sex. I was at different times a girlfriend, a fiancee, a wife.

I’ve also been the woman who more easily befriended the men than the women at work. Friendships with the opposite sex are a delicate dance on a very thin line. It is the rare spouse who tolerates 2 a.m. phone calls from “she who is just a friend'” or appreciates letters sent by “he who moved away but we still keep in touch.” Those friendships rode away on a tide of jealousy.

My mother does not have sisters. She has sisters-in-law, but they are not close. What I saw of her friendships during my childhood were a string of women who seemed extremist in whatever path they were following. The alliances seemed short-lived and ended dramatically.  Mostly, I had no idea what my mother did with her friendships. It was a part of her life I didn’t see.

I’m much better about friendships today. I make the effort. Through career, common interests and motherhood, I’m blessed with a bounty of wonderful women friends. But are any of them a “sister” to me?

I have two daughters.

They are sisters. They delight in this. They call each other “sister” and “sissy.” Nothing thrills me more than to see the two of them holding hands or entwined on the couch under blankets watching a Disney movie or one sitting still while the other paints her toenails. They already are miles ahead of me in understanding the sisterhood.

Are women without sisters missing out on something? Am I yearning for something that is over-rated?

Is is through the mother-daughter experience or luck of the sibling lottery that we learn how to forge these relationships?

I’d like to know what you think.

* Post title taken from a sweet song written by one of my favorite bands, The White Stripes.

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9 thoughts on “Sister, do you know my name?*

  1. Well, first, I’m honored that I inspired YOU to write this!!
    My mother has sisters – and they’ve always been close. Like creepy close, and not in a good way. My family is truly dysfunctional, so their relationship is built on banding together against the rest of the world, in a sense.
    I have a two “blood” sisters. And while I love them both… it’s more because of the bloodlines. I never felt that connection with them, no matter how hard I tried.
    When I thought I’d given up on having that “made for TV movie” type friendship/sisterhood, that’s when it found me.
    If I had set out looking for that friend, I never would have looked twice at Em – she’s 11 years younger than me. She’s my husband’s sister. And it wasn’t like this in the beginning – it was just the small realization that we could TALK to each other, without reservation… and it just kept growing. When I wrote that post, some of the things I said I hadn’t even realized myself.
    When you realize that you enjoy talking to someone, that you miss them when a few days go by, when they become the first person (or second, in case hubby’s reading) you want to call with either good or bad news, when you realize you’ve just told them something that you’ve never spoken out loud before without a second thought… that’s when you have to start working at the relationship. We have down times, just like a marriage – where we get on each other’s nerves, and need some space.
    And the other thing I’ve realized? Is that over the past few months, I’ve made other friends that have become lifelines for me. Would I recognize them if they crossed my path? No. Because we’ve never met. An online friendship may not offer the chance to go out for drinks, but if that connection is there, nurture it. You never know where the future is going to take you, and it may just be to their front door.
    In other words… don’t rule anyone out. There may be huge differences in the two of you, but if it feels right… it is.
    I used to think it was over rated, and that it ended when you became a grown up… but I was wrong. I wouldn’t trade my sister friends for anything in the world – they (along with ativan) are what keeps me sane when I’m hanging on to the ledge by my fingernails. (And yes, that happens often.)
    Geez, I can’t shut up today, can I?? Sorry bout that!!!

  2. My sister and I were not close growing up because of bitter sibling rivalry–on my part, not really hers. It was not until my junior year of HS that I woke up to how awful I was. It was not until recent years that we’ve starting truly bridging that gap. We’re still working on it.

    My husband’s younger sister was the younger sister I never had in terms of closeness and confidance. As she’s grown up and on, however, we’ve drifted apart a bit, and now the impending divorce is straining that too. Neither of us wants to lose the other, though.

    It is just very recently that I’m finally connecting with women friends–including those I’ve considered my closest friends–in a way that approaches sisterhood. It requires a vulnerability and transparency that I’ve never been willing to have before.

    Just so you know, I’m coming to treasure our new friendship. I mourn at the thought that you might move away, because I would love to see that friendship grow, not just online, but face to face.

  3. I had a best friend once, she was my soul sister. But just like and your friend, we drifted apart too. I guess that’s the way life goes. You meet the peole you’re supposed to meet, you love them, learn from them, share your life with them and them it’s over.

    One thing I do know though is, you must keep your heart open. Who knows maybe the sister you’re looking for is already in your life, you just don’t know it yet.

  4. Brenda: You are right about this. I must keep my heart — and eyes — open.
    TeacherMommy: Thank you for such kind words. Feelings are mutual.

  5. I have two sisters (well, technically three, but the third I have never met and only spoken to on the phone a few times), who are 10 and 11 years younger than I am. Our relationship is more akin to an aunt and nieces. Or it was. It’s slowly starting to morph into something more…something more sisterly. However, I can’t see Diana or Amanda or I ever being as close as we would have been if we were closer in age.

    I was never the older sister they looked up or wanted to emulate because of the age difference. And what I wouldn’t have given for a sister who was a year or two older than I was. What I still wouldn’t give for that.

    Once I left home at 17 I developed closer friendships with men. Those friendships have all fallen by the wayside because our respective wives and husbands prefer it that way. I have one very close female friend but she lives in Idaho and we talk…well, rarely at this point. Maybe we aren’t even as close as I have always thought we were.

    Oh and by the way, the photo you used…totally cracks me up for some reason. I think it’s the hair accouterments they used back then. Or are those ear muffs?

  6. No sisters here, either. I’ve also been without any sisterly friends for some years now – at least any close by – and though I tend to be a loner, I’ve started feeling that kind of longing lately.

  7. Wow! This is a great post. I have 2 sisters myself. I am the oldest, the next is 2 years younger & the “baby” is 6 years younger than me. I pretty much brought them up from the time I was 5 y/o. (Looks like I have to do a blog) We’ve had our ups & downs. We are all very different personalities. If something happens, we are there for each other. We see each other quite a bit doing family stuff, but I don’t talk to them everyday & they are not my confidants. I used to have friends here or there that I was very close to, but lately I feel closer to my online friends. I have a daughter, only child, but she is very close with her cousins & a couple of friends. I just hope she doesn’t feel like something is missing being an only child. She says she likes it! Sorry so long. Check out this website for a story on friends.

  8. Pingback: Man, this explains a lot | Mom Zombie

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