It was just my sister, my boyfriend and me at the tapas bar. Over Spanish food and mojitos, we were laughing and drinking. Like any night I can liberate her from small, crying children, I considered it a success. Then my boyfriend rose to head to the restroom and my sister lurched her head across the table. “I’ll make this quick,” she said her voice lowered. “I have to tell you something.” She then divulged a suburban marital drama and asked me for advice. My poor boyfriend was exiled to the bar for privacy and then deposited at home by himself. The sisters had things to discuss.
I’ve long considered my older sisters to be my closest confidantes. Heck, the three of them practically raised me. When your family is as screwed-up as mine, that’s what happens. But that night at the tapas bar was the first time I didn’t just feel like the little sister, but the friend too.I was born when my sisters were ages 11, 15 and 18. They changed my diapers, put me to sleep and played countless games of Candyland with me. In home movies that my parents filmed during the late ’80s, I’m a chubby-cheeked toddler while they’re fully-formed teenagers going to prom and young adults going off to college.
With an age disparity like that, my sisters saw themselves as an extra set of mothers, or maybe mother-friends — and it seems that’s not an easy role to shake. They were more upset about my bad news high school boyfriend than my own mother. And forget about talking about sex with the mother-friends. They still look uncomfortable when I even hint at having a sex life. I can still remember the awkward silence on the other end of the phone when I told my sis about this guy who’d done an amazing job fingering me. Many times in my life, I’ve huffed, “Will you stop worrying about me? I’m not 14 anymore! I’m 20-whatever. I have a job and I live in New York City, for God’s sake.”
When my sister confided in me about her life, talking to me like a friend like I’ve always talked to her, it truly surprised me. I don’t know what brought it on. One of my sisters told me that since I’ve been dating my boyfriend, I’ve grown more mature. Could that be it, or could it be that once I had a partner, I didn’t need to need to show them my vulnerabilities so much anymore? I hope she always sees not just the toddler she used to play Candyland with but the adult she has helped me become. Knowing she felt safe enough to be friends with me meant more to me than anything.
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