Wednesday, March 30, 2011

mean girls all grown up

A long time ago, my sister gave me a card that said “God made us sisters, but we made us friends.” We quoted it often, always with a sappy smile and a tilt of the head. Among the things we share is a gleeful disdain for schmaltz.

But now when we quote it, there’s all this...sincerity lurking behind the irony. Cathy and I fought ruthlessly when we were kids. My My Little Ponies would get all Mean Girls on hers. I smacked her around (lightly!). She knew it wasn’t cool to tattle, so she’d wait until our mom was in the room and say to me, “I can’t believe you hit me that one time earlier today!”

Sometime during my senior year of high school, though, we started really liking each other. Christian Bale and Newsies played an important part in our bonding, but it continued when I went away to UCLA the next year. When I came home for the weekend, she and I would stay up late talking about our post-Christian crushes, hers on her co-bandleader, mine on my gay (male) R.A. Both were unrequited.

When our mom got sick, we agreed to shelter our parents from our own petty problems and unload them only on each other. I’d forgotten about this pact, but she just reminded me that it was during this era that I came out to her before coming out to our parents. We had an unspoken no-judgment policy—we could unload and unload; we could listen and then blatantly say, “Okay, now back to me.”

As the big sister, of course I was the one who broke that policy, at one point telling her that she didn’t visit our parents enough. But lately we’ve been doing a lot of “now back to me”—though usually we alternate tearful phone calls—with, I’m pleased to say, very little judgment. Just tonight I told her how much I need her, how grateful I am that I can fall apart in front of her so fully, even more than I can with AK, who lives with me and needs a certain amount of strength from me. Cathy said, “It’s nice to feel needed, since lately I’ve been feeling like I suck.”

It could be a greeting card: God made us sisters, but we made each other feel like we don’t totally suck.


Claire said...

My favorite bits: "there’s all this...sincerity lurking behind the irony" and “It’s nice to feel needed, since lately I’ve been feeling like I suck.”

Sigh. I never find myself reading about such bonds with mixed gender siblings. Course if I did, I'd probably just feel worse for not having it.

Brava to you both for your non-judgmental zone! If anything I've become more judgmental of my brother with age because, dude, he should fucking know better by now, y'know? For better or worse, I keep those sentiments to myself though.

Cheryl said...

I think sibling chemistry is pretty much the luck of the draw--some get along great as kids, then drift apart as adults; some are the opposite; some are always or never close. But friends can be great adopted siblings, just like siblings can be great adopted friends.

Una said...

I would totally buy that card! Great post, Cheryl.

Peter Varvel said...

I envy your continued closeness with Cathy. My sister and I used to be very close while growing up, she the only sister and me the only gay brother among the four siblings.
We are another example of "some get along great as kids, then drift apart as adults."

El Changuito said...

*heart melts*

I love this post; it made me smile. I commented before on how linked the two of you are and how amazing it is. I wish I had a non-judgmental-let-me-fall-apart-safely-mutual-non-suckiness-pact with one of my brothers.

(Totally jealous here.)

Cheryl said...

PV: Well, if it's possible to drift apart, it must be possible to drift back together too, right?

EC: Maybe you could set up some sort of reality show-type contest where they compete for the position, like when Paris Hilton launched a search for her new BFF.

El Changuito said...