Readers, I have a sister. She’s sixteen, snarky as hell, and utterly delightful. Henrietta is excellent at Harry Potter trivia and understands the vital importance of pretty tea cups. I wouldn’t trade her for all the Turkish delight in Harrod’s! While that may not seem like a meaningful sacrifice, the lemon variety should really be renamed Gelatinous Grace Crack. Having a lifetime supply of it on hand is one of my fondest dreams. Moral: Wee sister, I love you.
What I don’t love is when the world throws around the word sister like it’s just another noun. As soon as a group of women is put together, we’re encouraged to call ourselves a sisterhood. Last year, I was lucky enough to final in one of the most prestigious writing contests in my genre. Not only was it a huge resume bonus, but it put me in contact with a group of extraordinary women: smart, helpful, and imminently talented down to a one. However, within a week, I started getting twitchy.
“We’re sisters,” they declared!
“I didn’t know you last Tuesday!” I thought, but wisely did not point out. (It’s mind-boggling, I know, but away from this blog I’m praised for my tact. Crazy, no?)
It wasn’t that I didn’t like them or that they weren’t lovely women, it’s just…I have a sister. Not only have I known her for sixteen years, but we’ve been through a lot together. We’ve cried through movies (Well, I’ve cried. She’s pointed and laughed at me.), I’ve given her countless Talks-with-a-capital-T, and we have both endured the embarrassment that is our father talking to strangers on vacation. Kittens, I changed her poop-filled diapers. There aren’t many people I’d still love, after their feces wound up under my fingernails. Sisterhood is a big damned deal. It takes love and trust and time. It doesn’t magically happen, just because two people have vaginas.
Sometimes, if she is truly lucky, a woman will have friends who become like sisters. It’s imminently possible. In my experience, however, these are rare and precious relationships. In my life, I have two: Kate and Mae. They are the women I’d help creatively dispose of a body (The swamp! The answer is always the swamp!) and whom I’ve called for every dilemma, from dating problems to the breed-appropriate naming of small dogs. They are also the ones who will stand up next to me, as my maid and matron of honor, when I marry Professor McGregor later this year. Pardon the cheese, but they are the sisters of my fucking heart. I love them and I wouldn’t be who I am without them. They’re family.
Maybe I’m too reserved with my emotions. It’s possible, perhaps, that I’m a stone cold ice queen who needs to work on letting people in. Honestly, though, I don’t think so. I think that people are entirely too cavalier about relationships, in general. If someone is your sister, you take a bullet for them. Telling someone they’re like family comes with a vow: If it ever comes down to it, I will change your diapers. That’s, pun unintentional-but-hilarious, some heavy shit. I love meeting new people and try to always ease life for those around me, but sister is reserved language.
Matching reproductive organs don’t make us family. Common experience doesn’t make us family. I believe in supporting other women, as a rule, but The Sisterhood makes me uneasy. I am a feminist. I am a citizen of the world. I am not, however, a sister to all.
Unless, of course, you have a pair of magic traveling pants. If that’s the case, welcome to the family, home slice.