My sister and I go together like strawberries and cheese. Sausage and custard. Peanut butter and ketchup. (Aka we don’t actually go together at all.)
In my parents’ bedroom, there is a photograph on the windowsill. The photo is of a six year old me and a three year old Olivia, my little sister. We’re standing on a rather wet and windy beach in Ireland, decked out in fetching lime green outfits. Our arms are tightly round each other, and we are grinning so wide that I can practically feel my cheeks aching.
That afternoon on the beach is probably the last time we ever looked like sisters. Then, you could sort of see a resemblance, but now? Absolutely not. I look like my dad in a wig; dark hair, dark eyes and tall. Liv is blonde and petite.
We’re now both in our twenties and not only do we look nothing alike, we have totally different lives. I am a writer, and Liv is a beauty therapist. I love spicy food, and Liv loves sushi. Liv is a gym bunny and does Pilates, whereas I have to quite literally force myself to exercise. (Can you actually be allergic to exercise?) I am obsessed with cooking shows and Liv loves Made in Chelsea and Keeping Up with the Kardashians. We never go on holidays together anymore because I love city breaks and Liv would much rather spend two weeks relaxing on a scorching beach somewhere tropical.
This is the thing, though. We are so different that even I can barely believe we’re sisters sometimes. Friends often say to me that they can’t believe we’re related and instead of being even slightly offended or shocked, I usually nod furiously in agreement going, “I KNOW, RIGHT?!”
I think our parents are bemused that they have such different daughters. I’m much more like my dad, and Liv is more like my mum. Mum is soft and gentle and kind and Liv is definitely all of those things. My dad is the same, but just a little bit bonkers, too. Eccentric, you might say. He is the funniest person I know. He can often be found rolling on the floor with our four dogs. (I take after him there.)
We do clash, because of course when you don’t have the same sorts of interests it’s natural to bump heads. I think Liv thinks I’m too serious and opinionated; which is probably true. That’s the thing; she’ll tell me if she thinks I’m being pushy or aggressive in my opinions, and I’m really grateful for that. She’s my sister, so she can get away with telling me things about myself that I might not necessarily like; even though they’re probably (definitely) true.
She’s amazing at what she does for a living, and I am in awe of her for that. There is absolutely no way I could do it. I’m all fingers and thumbs and have no patience. At eighteen, I was looking at universities and trying to decide which part of the country to spend the next few years. At eighteen, Liv was already working full-time and doing something that she loved and was passionate about. It took a lot of guts and courage for her to do what nobody else we knew was doing; finishing college early and not going to university. People can be a little thoughtless and stereotypical when they talk about the beauty industry. Liv is a beauty therapist, but that doesn’t mean that she is vain or shallow. She’s far from it. All it means is that she helps people make the very best of themselves. She makes people feel good and happy and confident. She’s fascinated by what she does, and cares about each and every one of her clients. (It’s also great if you have a sister who works in beauty: free makeovers and treatments at home are a huge plus.)
Whilst we are totally different, we’re still close and there are flickers of similarity in us. We both live at home, and we find there’s nothing better than snuggling up with our dogs and watching movies together. Although we have different tastes, we both love our food. Our mum’s roast dinners or spaghetti bolognese are our absolute favourite things to eat.
When we were younger, I think we both probably wished we were more similar. We’re only three years apart, so growing up would been easier if we’d gone through the same experiences and seen things in the same way. But now I think we both celebrate our differences.
There is a great joy in loving someone who is totally and utterly different to you. It teaches you to be more open and accepting in other views, interests and worlds. My sister is gorgeous, funny, bright and like a ray of sunshine. I have never seen her properly miserable and though she’s had difficult times (like all of us) she faces everything with optimism and a smile. She constantly lifts me up and truly makes me a better version of myself.
I think American writer Toni Morrison says it best: “A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves – a special kind of double.”
Thank you to my incredible little sister Olivia, my own special kind of double. I’d be lost without you.
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