My sister and I bicker all the time—apparently this is a good thingby Hephzibah Anderson / September 17, 2018 / Leave a comment
There is nothing that my sister and I cannot wrangle over. The best way to slice a mango, the speediest route from here to there, which of us was responsible for sending a pet guinea pig sailing across the garden pond on a sledge 30 years ago: left to us, it all becomes as polarising as Brexit.
Not that we ever argue. No, we squabble, apparently. Personally, I prefer the term bicker but then, as my only sibling would waste no time in pointing out, that’s because I’m incapable of agreeing with anything she says.
Our arguments—sorry, squabbles—stem from our differences and are fuelled by our similarities. Birth order has provided us with some recurring themes: she thinks I’m bossy, I think she’s babied. As a three-year-old, I dealt with the shock of her arrival in my small but perfectly formed world by making her mine.
Then she discovered autonomy—though not before I’d played hairdressers with her and snipped off every one of her ringlets, arranging them in a tidy circle round her on the living room floor. Was I trying to rob her of some of her cherubic power? Or perhaps I was trying to make her more like straight-haired me.
That impulse certainly didn’t last long—throughout our childhood, we practised an extreme de-identification, extending from the minor to the major: green versus blue, strings versus woodwind, art school versus university.
This sometimes had unintentionally collaborative outcomes. I wouldn’t touch egg whites, my sister refused yolks, so it was no problem if there turned out to be only one egg left at breakfast time—until one of us decided it should be boiled, whereupon the other demanded it fried.
That siblings don’t always see eye-to-eye is a well-documented fact of life. Think of Oasis’s implosion, the fallout chez Miliband from the 2010 Labour leadership election, or the interminable schisms that keep the Kardashians trending. Cain and Abel, Romulus and Remus, King Richard and King John: history isn’t short on examples of how, when it comes to strife, nobody quite sticks it to you like a sibling.
There are plenty of sibs who appear to personify harmonious accord, but then they aren’t always quite what they seem. The Brontës? Don’t forget the damage Charlotte…