Sisters get all the glory. They’re in-built BFFs and take turns being bridesmaids. They borrow each other’s clothes and the older sister always teachers the younger one about periods and sex. Apparently.
I don’t have a sister. Instead, I have a lot of brothers. I always liked that about myself, as if I had anything to do with it.
I didn’t understand sisters; didn’t understand the way they could be screaming at each other over a pair of jeans one second, cuddling on the sofa the next. I would watch my friends fight with their sisters, hatred streaming out of their mouth, their faces red and vicious, completely unembarrassed by my presence. I would watch them storm out and slam the door, only to reappear ten minutes later and ask if they could borrow a phone charger, like nothing had ever happened.
People with sisters know how to fight. They know how to speak their mind. To let their emotions fly out of their mouth, rather than swallowing them whole.
Instead, I had three older brothers. Mostly, we conformed to stereotypes: they played lots of sports and I wore pink and complained when I was made to watch aforementioned sports. We never fought. Well, we did. But our fighting involved them tickling me until I cried or holding me, fully clothed over the pool while I screamed bloody murder. I wasn’t a defenseless kid, I would bite down until my entire dental records were ingrained on their skin, or pinch them until they let go of me. Our fighting was physical and fast and playful and almost always ended with our mother telling us to be nice to each other.
I liked our way of fighting. Actually, I still like our way of fighting, but it got harder as we got older and it became unacceptable for adults to throw each other in the pool or bite each other’s forearms.
These days, when we fight, our tactic is avoidance. We screen each other’s phone calls or let texts go unanswered until we’ve forgotten what we were cross about in the first place. We stew, wait for it to pass, put it aside. My family don’t work ‘through’ things, we work around them. I am always semi in awe of the people who are able to express their feelings. Those who deal with conflict head-on rather than running around the back and checking to see if the coast is clear before reemerging.
To be honest, my brothers and I rarely fight anymore. Mostly, they feel like my team mates. People who look like me and sound like me and remember the time our dad got airlifted out of the Australian desert because he had a headache that he was convinced was a tumour (it wasn’t).
We aren’t close in the way sisters often are, we don’t talk about relationships and we are perfectly content to let our mum collect and pass on our news, like some sort of loving, all-purpose media outlet.
But we are close in a different way. They call every so often just to make sure I’m doing ok. They are protective whenever I introduce them to a boyfriend. They randomly send me texts littered with emojis that I take to mean, ‘Hey, I’m thinking of you.’ They let me go halves on a birthday present for my dad if I can’t think of anything good to buy him. Having three older brothers feels a bit like having three bodyguards who each call you by a different childhood nickname.
Maybe, if I had had a sister, I would have been better at speaking my mind. I would have learnt how to deliver that verbal blow that sisters seem so adept at doing.
Instead, I had brothers. So I know exactly the spot on someone’s arm to pinch that will cause a bruise the next day and I know that there are a million ways to say ‘I love you’ without ever using the words. And who knows, maybe that’s just as useful.