Sister, by Madeline Baker

My junior prom was pretty run of the mill: I wore an atrocious dress and put on way more makeup than necessary for any 17-year-old girl. Twelve hours before that night I didn’t even have a dress, and in my mind it might as well have been the apocalypse. My sister, Julia, home from college, drove me to the mall at 10am the morning of prom and helped me pick out the only dress I could find given I had to be ready in 6 hours. I hated that dress. It was salmon pink with a one-shoulder strap and white beads that looked like it could be worn by a beauty pageant participant. Once I had finished my makeup and gotten my hair done, I slipped on the dress and started to cry. Julia looked at me and, without a shred of sympathy in her expression, told me to wipe my tears because my date would be picking me up at any minute. I told her that I didn’t feel pretty at all and that this wasn’t how I pictured my first prom. Julia raised her eyebrows and said, “Junior prom might be the most insignificant part of high school, and there is absolutely no reason to be crying over a dance. Besides, it’s not the dress, it’s the person in the dress.”

Although these words were perhaps cliché, it was exactly what I needed to hear in the moment. My sister wasn’t going to feign understanding or sadness for my situation; I was being a brat and needed to hear it. That’s how Julia has always been: honest and never willing to take my shit. Julia has been my sister for all my life, but we joke that we have only been friends for about 5 years. We rarely got along when we were growing up, and we couldn’t go more that 2 hours before finding ourselves in a screaming match about whose clothes were whose, or what board game we were going to spend the afternoon playing. It wasn’t until she had left for college when I was a sophomore in high school that we really started to become close. The distance between us made me realize how I had taken for granted having an older sister who was way smarter than I could ever be.  She was there for me throughout high school, always listening when I had to rant about our mother, my friends, or boys. I listened to her as well, and I found her to be the only person whose opinion I really valued and took to heart. I had friends in high school, but they weren’t crazy about listening to what I had to say, and that was ok because at the end of the day I would just vent to Julia about it.

For spring break, my sister and I took a trip to Asheville, North Carolina. Neither of us is crazy about hiking, but we decided to do something out of our comfort zone and maybe find a new hobby while we were at it. Our trip to Asheville wasn’t the vacation I was expecting. We did a lot of shopping and ate an unhealthy amount of chocolate, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something under the surface. And then it hit me: my sister and I are not the women were 5 years ago. I’m not in high school, complaining about prom, and she’s not in college talking about her biochem exam. We worry about new things, like finding a job and beginning a life of our own, separate from that of our immediate family. We cry not because our dress isn’t perfect, but because one of our friend’s has genuinely hurt us, or someone has left us broken-hearted. Our concerns seem to have more substance, and that is an overwhelming realization. We are getting older and we aren’t growing up together anymore. After coming to this conclusion, I was distressed. I didn’t want to get older, I didn’t want this to mean growing apart from my sister and learning to deal with my own issues as an adult.

It’s difficult to admit, but growing up and becoming the responsible, emotionally stable, and organized women that most people expect my sister and me to be is really scary. The transition from adolescence to adulthood is incredibly exciting and absolutely terrifying at the same time. I’m past my teenage years and officially in my 20s, I’m beginning to see past college and into the real world. My sister, despite being two years older, is essentially at the same point in her life. I love sharing these experiences with her, but I worry that adulthood will put a strain on this relationship I have come to value so much.

Julia and I continue to text every day. I’ll call her if I have had a really bad day, and she’ll call me when she has a story about someone from work who said something totally absurd. I love that we still consider each other our best friend, and I know that despite our getting older, there isn’t much that can keep us from growing apart. At the risk of sounding super cheesy and like the end of an episode of Full House, I’ll just say it: guys and friends have come and gone throughout our lives, but our relationship is two decades strong. That’s longer than a Hollywood marriage. There really isn’t anything that can come between us, and getting older can only make us closer.


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