Sisterless by Deb Jenny

Remember that song from Bing Crosby’s White Christmas? No, not that song. The other one, the one where Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen dance around and sing about the joys and tribulations of sisterhood? God, that song used to really bum me out when I was a kid. I was so darned jealous that those two were lucky enough to have the chance to be sisters. I know, I know, they weren’t really sisters. But still.

Having grown up the only girl in a house with three boys, for me sisterhood was an elusive concept that remained just out of reach, something that seemed like the thing I must have been missing out on, but couldn’t, no matter what I did, do anything about rectifying. I had so many friends who had sisters, and even if they fought and screamed and stole each others clothes and make-up and sometimes even boyfriends, they still had this irrevocable bond, this thing that only sisters share.

A sister is a ready-made Barbie playmate. Someone with whom you’d fight over the most handsome date while playing Mystery Date. A sister is the one you can cuddle up to even if you’re a teenager, when your parents are screaming at each other yet again at three in the morning and you can no longer fall back asleep to the sound of your own sobs. She’s the one you turn to when your first love breaks your heart and you don’t think you’ll live another day.

A sister is the one you take along to find your first prom dress, the one who helps you pass your chemistry class by giving you all of her old exams. She is your maid of honor, your confidante, the one you diet with, the one you soothe and comfort when her husband walks out and leaves her with two small children and a mortgage. She’s the one who tells you the truth about childbirth. And married life. She watches your kids and you watch hers. You both leave the kids with your husbands and meet for drinks just to catch up on life. A sister is the first person you think to call when you just need to talk. She is the one with whom you will share the burden of a dying mother, that mother who can’t abide either of you, but together you act as a unified force to suffer her harsh words and vitriol while easing her dying days.

In a world of brothers, such bonding rarely occurs. Brothers grow up, they do things together. They’re golf buddies. They go to Vegas together. They share a fascination with fine wine, talk shop, business, politics. In a scratch-and-sniff-grunt-and-groan sort of way. Maybe they’ll watch the big game together. A sister doesn’t fit into that mold very readily, and so grows up in a salad dressing kind of world: the vinegar to their oil. Occasionally blending for the good of the family, but most often separate and not easily mixed.

I remember once as a girl crying mightily to my mother because I never got that sister I so dearly longed for. It was only then I learned of those babies lost, those possible sisters that never had a chance. Something she never shared but suffered over in silence. And for that, I always felt so very guilty, having imposed my irrational yearnings on someone who could no easier fulfill this desire than could I.

Now that I have girls, I lament the lack of bond I just assumed all sisters shared. I hold out hope that with time and age, they will find commonality in their lives, and remember to bolster each other during life’s most trying times. I don’t expect they’ll soon be dancing on stage, crowing about their wonderful relationship. But perhaps some day they’ll figure out what a gift they have.

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19 thoughts on “Sisterless by Deb Jenny

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  3. This brings all the pain rocketing to the surface, Jenny. Just like you, I mourn for the sister I never had. I have four brothers and still ache for that relationship.

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  5. Oh Shiksa twin – don’t fret; we have each other, after all. I don’t remember wishing for a sister, but I do remember wishing for DIFFERENT brothers. 😉 As the last addition and the one adopted memeber of my family, I guess I always knew there would be no more after me, so there was no point wishing anyway. But our childhood experiences make us who we are and really, when I think about it, although I was never super close with my brothers, I still appreciate them for helping shape who I am.

  6. Wow, Jenny, what a heartfelt post… I have a sister but she is 6 years younger and by the time we would have bonded the way you describe, I was already at college. But I feel my girlfriends are my sisters including you and the other debs! Thanks for sharing, sista!

  7. Oh, Amy FOUR brothers? And I thought three was hard…And yes, Joanne, we are shiksa twins, and that counts! I don’t know about you but I’d have considered trading all three of my brothers for one good sister LOL
    Thanks Gail! It is true, girlfriends are so important–it definitely compensates to a certain degree for that missing link!

  8. I have a couple “sisters of choice” sure we weren’t born sisters- but they’ve been in my life long enough to count.

    Great post.

  9. Jenny,

    Great post. I too, am sisterless. A big brother, yes and tons of close in age boy cousins. And like you, I envy women who have sisters. This post gets me thinking about trying for child #2.. 🙂

  10. Girlfriend power is the best. And Joanne has a great point–it’s so much of who we are.
    I honestly think being the only girl amongst boys was fabulous preparation for a career as a writer–I mean I learned how to handle rejection from an early age! AND I learned how to stick up for myself. There was no coddling in my world, so no doubt it made me tougher, but tougher is sometimes a good thing. At least I hope 😉
    Thanks, too, Keri and Larramie!

  11. Jenny – you’re so right. Having only brothers taught me so much. Like how not to get clausterphobic when locked in a closet for hours, how cooking entire meals for them and their friends ensured the cute friends were extra nice nice to me, how to throw a good punch when necessary. All very usefull life skills.

  12. LOL. My brothers kept their friends far from me–not to protect me, mind you, but because they didn’t want me taking their friends from them. Ironically one married one of my best friends!

  13. Aw, this post makes me want to call my sister-in-law! (She doesn’t have any sisters-by-birth.) My own sister is 10 years younger than me, but in many ways she’s also ‘older’ (she’s an old soul, we say…and she’s a mom before me!) I feel very lucky to have her.

    And you know, I always wished I had older brothers (or sisters)…all that character-building from the tormenting. 🙂

  14. I have a sister, but we’re four years apart and that’s a lifetime when you’re a kid, or at least it felt that way to me! So we didn’t do much in the way of prom dress selection or anything.

    As adults, we definitely have a better relationship.

  15. Hey Jenny, Great post! My sister and I are 5 years apart. It was tough when we were little, but great now.I am lucky that she even lives in the same town as me! So there is hope for your girls!
    I can be your girlfriend/sister any time!

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