"How 'bout you, Hannah, do you have any siblings?"
"I have three sisters."
"Oh wow, that's a lot of women. Are you all really close?"
I never know how to answer that question. First of all, let us acknowledge the "Oh wow, that's a lot of women," comment. This brazen and equivocal response always makes me jagged and so I want to say something flippant like, "Well, right now we're close in proximity," as I am living with my family while I wait to move into my new apartment. The closeness of our relationship is a tricky one to explain though, because when I think about emotionally close sisters I think of- well, I think of The Virgin Suicides. Maybe a less morose example is Lizzie and Jane in Pride and Prejudice. You get the idea though. I think of close sisters and I think of brushing each other's hair and hand-me-downs. I think of secrets, mistakes and tears made together, and a kind of love that keeps complexions dewey.
My middle sister has only just begun being able to wear my hand-me-downs and my secrets, because she was born when I was thirteen. My younger sisters, the twins, would never cry for the same reasons I cry because they're making mistakes that I made eighteen years ago. We're all in completely different places in life. We all know different things. We are all experiencing drastically different childhoods, teenhoods, and adulthoods. So our closeness is unique, because it had to be.
I have always played with the boys. I'm not really a "tom boy", I just always preferred the company of male personalities, even when I was younger. This is a weird thing to think about, trying to define the kind of friendship dynamics I have had in my life, considering the current climate around gender. What I know, though, is I grew up in an age of "boy or girl," and so looking back, regardless of who they are today, in my memories I notice that almost all of my friends have been male. What's even weirder to think about is why that may be. What is it about the societally defined male archetype that showed me a friend?
That is a question for another blog post (or therapy session) maybe, but it's relevant to me when I think about how I relate to my sisters. Because now that I am at that age where I hear my female friends tell me about their soul sisters that they met when they were three, or see my Instagram feed transform into what could pass as stills from Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, I don't relate. Instead, I feel jealousy. Which is shallow, I know, and a waste of my time, but the relationship between female friends is deep and long lasting, and something I can only hope will happen for me soon because I want to learn the things that can only be taught from those bonds.
My middle sister is fourteen now. Not only can she finally relate to the things that I have to share with her, but I find myself finally able to relate to what she's going through. To make things even cooler, she is a part of a different generation than I am. She is the technology generation. She is the age of the social. She watches reaction videos, uses slang that doesn't translate to me, and comes from a time that when asked the riddle, "A father and son get into a car accident, and when they get rushed to the hospital for surgery, the doctor walks in and says, 'I can't operate on him, he's my son.' How is this possible?" she would have the popular response of "Well, it's either the mom or the other dad." Back in my day, this stumper was mind boggling because family dynamics were a certain way and only men were doctors. This transformation is so cool, and that is the kind of mind that I get to call my sister, but also my new friend.
Hanging out with her is a time warp. Everything she knows at fourteen is different from what I knew at fourteen, so I get to do it all over and she learns 90's trends from a real 90's kid. It's finally secrets, and hand-me-downs, and french braids, and mistakes. She listens to my advice and hears my stories and understands my perspective. I listen to her feedback and ask for her stories and understand her perspective. It's going to be so interesting when the twins finally get there.
Of course, we yell at each other, and are both very stubborn, and have those moments when instead of trimming her split ends I want to make a "mistake" and cut off a huge chunk of her pristine, never been dyed, thick hair. I don't though, because she trusts me, and that tempers the envy. One of the things taught by female friendships is how to not compare myself to other women. This is a lesson that is at the base of a lot of my anxiety and I'm sure most other women's as well. Female competition is a plague which plaques our hearts and warps our bathroom mirrors. I wonder what I would see in my reflection today if I let myself become vulnerable to a female friend growing up. Maybe I wouldn't feel like I have to use oil to keep my complexion dewey to boost my self worth. Maybe I would just see high self worth because I knew that all my life I had that friend that gave me that kind of love in trusting, platonic, intimacy. My sister is teaching me this.
A couple years back I was in a bar, and sitting at a table with some people I did know and some people I did not. It was a weekly LGBTQ night and The Orange Devil had just been elected. Among one of the people I did not know was an older woman, and she started out solemn, but as she told her story of her best friend voting for Trump because it's what her husband told her to do, she began to cry. Her sobs became punctuated with gasps and her arms became limp, and her story closed with the end of their friendship. To have been so close for so long, and then divided. This woman was grieving, and all I could think was how lucky she was to be so sad, because they must have had a profound sisterhood.
PS- Here's a dog video I really enjoy
PPS- This is a still from Stella Simon's surreal film Hände: Das Leben und die Liebe eines Zärtlichen Geschlechts (Hands: The Life and Love of a Gentle Sex) 1927–1928. It's beautiful, and funny, and weird.