I recently wondered — as I typed the word “sisterhood” for the seven hundredth time in the space of a week — if all this talk about sisters and sisterhood is weird for Dawn, my older sister. My sister sister. My she-changed-my-diapers and we-took-the-same-family-vacations sister.
Dawn isn’t the overly sensitive type. She doesn’t look for excuses to be insulted, and she has a pretty thick skin. So it didn’t occur to me that her feelings were hurt or anything, but I did start to wonder if it’s odd for her, after thirty-two years of putting up with my ins and outs, for me to start using the term sister so inclusively. You know, “I put Band-Aids on her scraped knees and taught her how to hook a bra, and now she goes around thinking of anyone female as a sister?”
And then it occurred to me that my love of Sisterhood — the capital S, inclusive kind of Sisterhood — isn’t something that developed as a separate entity from traditional we-shared-a-room-growing-up sisterhood. The two are inextricably linked for me, and they probably go back to Dawn, my earliest female relationship aside from my mother.
I always felt unconditionally loved by Dawn (and the rest of my immediate family, but I’ll write a different post about how ridiculously lucky I am in that regard). Which isn’t to say that she’s ever put up with any of my bull shit. When I acted out as a kid, she and my brother Charlie would unflinchingly say, “Lindsay, I love you, but I don’t like you very much right now.” It broke my heart, but they never said it if it wasn’t deserved, and it probably saved me from being a spoiled brat. But no matter how annoying my actions were, every admonishment was prefaced with “Lindsay, I love you.” And, almost just as importantly, every “I don’t like you very much” included the qualifier “right now.” I always knew that I could shape up and be in her good graces again easily enough.
I always knew that Dawn had my back. When I was in sixth grade, a seventh-grade boy pulled a dirty sock out of the lost-and-found and shoved it in my mouth. (Gross! Right!?) When I got out to the car and screamed the story to my mom and sister, Dawn jumped out of the car, ran into the school while pulling the sock off of her foot, and chased the kid out of school, threatening to cram her sock in his mouth the entire way. It was awesome. I never, ever doubted that she had my best interests at heart. Even when we disagreed about things, I always knew that she was acting out of love.
We don’t see each other as competition. This was probably easier due to our nine-year age gap, but I’ve never felt like Dawn is threatened by my accomplishments or vice versa. She genuinely celebrates my victories, and when things don’t go as planned, she offers compassion. (She does, however, love to embarrass me, so if I literally fall on my face, she’s probably going to bring it up for the rest of my life.)
Dawn has never deliberately hurt me. This summer at our parents’ cabin she did push me off the dock, which scraped and bruised my entire leg, but she felt so horrible about it afterwards that I actually felt sorry for her. It occurred to me at the time that in thirty-two years of being sisters, it was the first time she ever hurt me, and it was completely unintentional. Not a lot of siblings can say that.
Dawn always accepts me. I love doula work, which isn’t her cup of tea, but she knows that I feel fulfilled by it, and that’s been enough reason for her to support it. I’m definitely the family hippie dippie, but my crunchy ways are never criticized. (I’m actually not that extreme when it comes to crunchy lifestyle stuff, but I’m definitely the crunchiest person in my immediate family.) I breastfed my kids, which she did not, but she’s never batted an eye when I nursed my babies in front of her.
Ultimately, when I reflect on my relationship with Dawn, I think of unconditional love, protection, support, and acceptance. And I’m not the only one who thinks of these things when I think of Dawn. A lot of people do. She’s easy to talk to, she’s funny, and she doesn’t have a malicious bone in her body. Ultimately, she’s not just a sister to me; she’s a Sister to a lot of women because she’s just that awesome. I’ve been so blessed to be the one who has her as a sister in every sense of the word.
I want all the amazing women in my life — and I feel humbled by how many there are — to know that when I think of you as a Sister, it’s because I see amazing qualities in you. I see you as women who uplift and support the other women around you. I see you as women who are confident, wise, and loving. I see you as women who I can trust because I know you would never knock another woman down to feel better about yourself.
And I want Dawn to know that when I think of all the amazing women in my life as Sisters, she’s the one who has made the word Sister the highest compliment I can give.