From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul on Love & Friendship

The Sisters I Never Had

When I was in junior-high school, the singer Sinead O’Connor released an album called “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got.” If that’s true, she’s the only person who doesn’t. Everyone longs for what they lack. The overweight imagine how perfect their lives would be if they could just lose whatever number of pounds. The bone-thin fantasize about how they would look if they could only grow breasts. The short want to be tall. The tall want to shrink out of sight. The single want a mate. The attached want independence. And, of course, all only children want a sibling.

Except me.

The only child of two wonderfully supportive, happily married parents, I drank in the attention. I got all the hugs and all the kisses. At holidays and birthdays, every dime went to my presents. When I needed my father’s help with math, I didn’t have to wait in line behind a crew of other perplexed kids.

I was first. I was only. And, being a fairly bright girl, I knew a good thing when I saw it. Why would I want some other kid to screw it up?

All my girlfriends with sisters were always complaining about some misdeed their sib had done—ignoring them, tagging along too much, borrowing clothes without asking, etc., etc.

Who needs it? I thought. I never want to have a sister.

Or so I thought. Ever the spoiled only child, I went to a private high school, an all-girls school. I know it makes a lot of people cringe, but to me, it was paradise. I had been an outcast in junior high, but here I found several girls to whom I related in ways I never thought possible. They didn’t roll their eyes when I said something stupid. They forgave me when I lost my temper. They didn’t think I was a loser because I liked school too much. They were more than friends. They were family. I truly felt they were the sisters I never had. And the school encouraged this view.

Every freshman was matched with a senior who would be her “big sister.” Your big sister’s friends, if they liked you, called themselves your “surrogate” big sister. Their little sisters then became your sisters by connection. Before I knew it, I went from being an only child to the member of a huge family, adopting sisters left and right.

Around that time, my friend Marjke (my friend since age five, and still my best), with whom I had been feuding for a few years, became my buddy again. She has a sister and two brothers and, as will happen, wasn’t really thrilled with them all the time. She would tell me all her problems with school, her family and anything else that was bothering her. Then she would turn to me and say, “You’re like the big sister I never had.” Every time she said it, I was flattered. I loved the idea of being so close to someone that they considered you family. I still love it. Marjke is still like my sister. And her sister, Gretchen, also is like my sister. And my friends from high school that I keep in touch with are like my sisters.

After all those years of childhood denying I wanted siblings, I went out and selected my own. And no, I don’t always get along with them. We fight. We lose touch from time to time. We disappoint each other.

But always, at some core level, we share a connection with each other. We know how to make each other laugh, how to comfort each other in times of sadness. We know how to be there for each other. That is, after all, what sisterhood is all about.

Amanda Cuda

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