I grew up without the benefit, or the misfortune of having a sister.
I was the youngest of 4 proceeded by 3 brothers of various shape, size, and punching strength. I think it is safe to say that I grew in a masculine environment. My mother was there, but it was 3:1 so the odds were never in our favor.
When I was a young girl, I would watch other families with plenty of girls, and ponder on how much better my life would be if only I had a sister too.
I concede that being in possession of older brothers is not without its advantages. My brothers are interesting people, and they taught me lots of useful things. For example, I learned how to avoid getting beat up, and what boys really talk about when their girlfriends are not around.
All of this education was helpful, but it did very little to assist me when I was attempting to safely maneuver girl friendships in junior high and high school. My dad observed that I would “shed” friendships periodically. Truth be told I often just failed to keep up with all the drama!
About this time I finally read the famous novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’. I thought it was outrageous. Female siblings don’t really act like that towards each other, do they?! I didn’t believe it.
When I started dating Rob at 22 it was no secret that I was very pleased with him. He had a lot of things going for him, not to mention 5 sisters! If things worked out I might just find myself with my very own readymade sister squad!
I knew 3 of Rob’s sisters before we started dating so I was not concerned at all when I was invited for a my first family dinner.
Yes, I was a fool….
When I entered Rob’s parents’ house that day I could instantly sense an unfamiliar, emotional intensity. The sisters found me right away, and swiftly separated me from the safety of their brother. I was hastily ushered downstairs where I was surrounded. I can’t remember what we talked about, but I straightaway recognized that when they were together this group of sisters acted like a single, living organism with multiple heads. The individual sisters I knew were not present today, but devoured almost completely by this unpredictable creature. Yes I had come face to face with a Sisterosaurus! Being a youngest I had learned how to protect myself in such hostile situations so I tried to remain very still, and be sure not to make any sudden movements…..
The sister onslaught continued at dinnertime when I found myself even more disoriented by the constant chatter that surrounded me. At my home having family discussions at dinnertime were the norm, but these conversations were one at a time, not concurrently! Perhaps that is not practical in a large family, but I was not used to eating with 5 different conversations going on all at once!
A recently married sister had brought the only other outsider to this family gathering. I remember a couple of times during that evening when things got particularly wild he would give me a knowing smile in an attempt to reassure me. I guess my initial shock was written all over my face.
More family gatherings followed, and I remained confused and baffled by Rob’s sisters. There was crying, shouting and hurt feelings constantly whirling around my 5 sisters to be. My boyfriend’s family house felt more like a foreign country during a civil war. I stayed close to him, and tried to avoid getting caught in any emotional crossfire.
When Rob and I picked a date for our wedding I received more education in sister subtlety. My new fiancée pointed out that it happened to be the date of one of his sister’s birthdays. I scoffed. First, I doubted Rob even knew his sister’s actual date of birth, and second I couldn’t imagine she would care. Still, I deferred to his sisterly wisdom and allowed him to ask permission to use the date, and he proved his instincts on sisters to be bang on as per usual.
I wonder if my brothers would even know when my birthday was if not reminded….
(Another benefit of having brothers is low expectations about that sort of thing.)
Over the years I have given up, and decided it is best to treat my sisters in law like brothers. To be honest the conventional sister act is lost on me anyway. For example, I have to remind myself that you don’t slug a sister when she ticks you off, or throw her against the wall with a hip body-check if you want her attention.
Also, I have learned that Jane Austen’s writing about sisters is not so shocking after all. I have accepted that is just how sisters relate to each other, even 200 years later.
I have watched my sisters in law grow up over the last 18 years. Since they have gotten over the most trying age the squabbles between them are rare, and clashes appear to be more easily mended. I see more acceptance, forgiveness, acts of kindness, and love.
What you need to know is that the love between them was always there it was just tough to spot – like wildlife in the forest. You have to know what you are looking for, or you will miss it.
Don’t get me wrong the 5-headed being still rears its head now and then, but it’s domesticated, and much friendlier.
It makes me wonder what the famous Bennett sisters would like be to each other 20 years after Darcy and Wickham graced the scene. We will never know, but I dare say I could venture a guess….
Despite my original trauma, I must say that I have really enjoyed my sisters in law over years. I have even picked up a few more sisters along the way. They are some of my favorite people, and I can’t imagine my life without them. I am so glad we got hitched 🙂
This blog was inspired by my sister-in-laws new book. Check it out! Sistering