Sometimes the most important relationships in your life aren’t your own
One of our favourite family movies is White Christmas. Every year since we were little, my sister and I would attempt to emulate the singing sister duo from the film (sadly without their spectacular outfits) by belting out their song, “Sisters”: “[L]ord help the Mister who comes between me and my sister and Lord help the sister who comes between me and my man!”.
With me being three and her five at the time, the notion of a “man” coming between us seemed completely absurd; our sisterhood was ironclad and eternal.
Fast forward 14 years and the “mister” had arrived in the ominous shape of my sister’s first boyfriend. I met him for the first time when he and my sister came to pick me up — a power imbalance I found deeply frustrating (after all, how could I put him in his place when he was my ride home?).
Completely unprepared for what felt like the most important interview of my life, I interrogated him for a full half-hour. Needless to say, when the car ride was over, I didn’t know what to think of him.
But I knew one thing for sure: this boy had come to take my sister away from me. She could only love one of us best and he was vying for the top spot. This was a state-of-emergency, DEFCON-1 level crisis. I began wartime preparations.
People who say big brothers are protective have clearly never met a little sister. Over the following months, I turned into an amateur private investigator (more Clouseau than Sherlock, I must admit).
Every time we met, I would theatrically narrow my eyes and badger him with questions, certain that I would finally uncover a fact to prove his complete and irrefutable unsuitability for my sister. I was deeply unsuccessful, to put it mildly.
To my horror, I found out that he was actually kind of funny. Well, that wasn’t going to work for me — I was the funny one in our sisterhood. If she was busy laughing at his jokes, she wouldn’t have any time for mine.
He also turned out to be rather hard working and was really nice to her. But aside from stealing her clothes and periodically destroying all her makeup (trivial concerns, really), so was I!
However, the more I talked to him, the more I realized that I just couldn’t reconcile the picture I had of him in my head as a rude, good-for-nothing interloper who would do nothing but cause my sister pain with the reality that he was actually a nice, upstanding guy. In matters of the heart, though, reason counts for very little.
Failing to discover incriminating information, I turned to less sophisticated methods to scare him off: I became really, really mean.
I would call him nicknames to our family friends, I made rude faces whenever he was brought up in conversation and I even made a (losing) bet with my parents about how long he was going to last (the shameful reminder of which lives on in my Google Calendar forever).
I snidely informed my sister one day, “I can’t understand what you see in him”.
“That’s because you’re immature,” she replied.
I had become so cruel, angry and resentful that I barely recognized myself. Understandably, my sister became upset over why I was treating her boyfriend so badly; what had he ever done to me? My mom told her I was just jealous.
The truth is that she was right. But I wasn’t jealous of her, I was jealous of him.
Growing up, my sister was my idol. She was the prettiest, smartest and most confident person I knew and in my mind, I held her atop a pedestal.
Her attention and affection were necessary for my personal validation and I worried that he would take that from me. Was I really so replaceable to her?
One day I walked into my sister’s room and I saw dozens of pictures of her and her boyfriend on the wall. She was beaming in every one of them. In that moment I realized my incredible selfishness.
I thought he was the one damaging our sisterhood, but in reality, I was the one who had inflicted the harm by denying her the right to affection beyond my own. It was a tight fit, but there could be room for three peas in this pod after all.
In case you thought this was a Hallmark movie ending, I’ll tell you that I haven’t fully gotten over my sisterly identity crisis quite yet. Just the other day I had a rather traumatizing “dream” (it was definitely a nightmare) that they got married — clearly, I still need some time before I can consider taking our relationship to the next level.
My sister and her boyfriend are still going strong and seeing them now makes me thankful that my meanspirited meddling didn’t ruin a good thing.
Even more importantly, I learned that sometimes the most difficult, life-changing relationships you will experience aren’t even your own. The “mister” wasn’t the villain in our sister-saga. I was — and we all know the bad guy never wins.