Sister act: the sister. Best friend? Bitter rival?

Celebrity sisters

P ippa was allowed to be Kate Middleton’s bridesmaid when she married Prince William, heir to the British throne – an honor that is only bestowed on best friends and sisters, even at civil weddings. And often the sister is just that: the best friend. Still, no one knows how much it really bothered Kate that, for many observers, Pippa was the real eye-catcher. Because the sister is just also always competitor and standard.

Sociolinguist Deborah Tannen has now written a book about this unique relationship between women and women. "You’ve always been mommy’s favorite!" it says (appears 26.09.2011 by Mosaik-Verlag), and it should help to understand one’s own sister better.

In it, she addresses the full range of problems that can arise between sisters: the spoiled little sister (chapter five: "I’m the princess, you’re the frog"), the competition between girls almost the same age, the condescending big sister, and the alliances that can form within a family with sister children. For this, Tannen analyzed conversations between sisters, which "like mothers, can be among our best as well as our most problematic". By the way, Tannen dedicated the book to two people: Naomi and Mimi, her big sisters.

On this page, six editors tell what they think is so special about being a sister.

Polka dancing, cheek to cheek

The middle of the pack. We’re three sisters, two brothers to boot, but this is all about women, after all. One is younger, one is older. We are from the generation "Apply", that was the only thing that really annoyed me in the past, apart from the usual sibling common units.

The big one got new clothes, we inherited them, only for celebrations we were all fitted out with a new model from the seamstress, identical, which was also not easy for the big one when the little sister is eight years younger. The tall one went to boarding school for a while, to compensate she got cool clothes, while I still had to go to school in the leather knee breeches. I nherited then, we were beginning to be the same size.

Our father died very early, we siblings closed the circle around our mother. There was no room for bitch alarm.

Once, almost 30 years ago, we tried to get into a disco in Los Angeles, we older ones were already married and had children, we didn’t have IDs with us, the bouncer only believed our little sister that she was of age. We laugh about it until today.

The tall one lives in Canada, she moved there with a man I thought was my boyfriend. I could never be mad at her for that. He did not become her happiness, that made me sad.

Between the frames of my memories is a pretty crazy, typically American. With a flowered border and a chain of small cubes that form the word "Sisters. Tucked inside is a photo of the two of us older, looking refreshed and completely hammy, dancing cheek-to-cheek polka toward the shutter release. When everything is too much, I look at it and I am good again. Right next to it is a picture of us three sisters, taken on a glorious summer evening on the island of Sylt. We were invited and each wore a different shade of pastel. Very harmonious. Purely by chance. We are very different. But we are sisters. Everything else is not so important. Inga Griese

Big sisters in a double pack

Jule has a potato nose", said my big sister when I was a baby. "Don’t say that, it’ll stick," says my mother. When I was three years old, at the behest of my big sisters, I had to stand in front of the curtain every time my parents came into the nursery for a while. One of my sisters had cut a hole in the curtain: the bridal veil for a doll. When I was four years old, and only through nasty squealing could I even get them to let me play along, I was usually allowed to play the deceased in my other big sister’s adventures.

The dead captain, for example, whose job it was to roll around in imaginary waves far away from the action. When I was five, both sisters locked me in the bathroom whenever I screamed, and turned on the trigger there. It was so loud that my parents did not hear my roar. As long as I can remember, I always had to sit in the middle of the car – or rather, after I had grown too big to find room in the foot area.

When I was twelve, my two older sisters shamelessly threw themselves at two waiters on vacation, making a mockery of our family in the Sicilian hotel. If not the whole beach. You must have heard of the story. Having big sisters should actually violate human rights conventions.

On the other hand, who else would stick by you for the rest of your life, even if the little terror sister once threw the new baby doll out of the window during the car ride?? (Bille, she really just wanted to get some fresh air, it was an accident). Who else knows exactly what you mean without having to say much. Who else could ever be more a piece of you than her: sisters. Judith Luig

A living remote control

In the seventies, when the remote control was still something exotic, there was a living substitute: me. "Louder", "quieter" or "switch", that’s how my sister controlled me when we were allowed to watch the children’s program on Saturday afternoons. Of course, she can’t remember that today. "But I’m sure that’s true," she says. Honestly, I would have done anything for my three-and-a-half year older sister, who was truly the greatest for me.

And who was stingy with noticeable affection, especially in public. When her friends came to visit, I wasn’t allowed in the room. "You’re a pain," they said. And so I sat next door like an unhappy lover. But I also made it very difficult for my sister to return the love. She especially remembers that I destroyed her favorite things. Like this fabulous cardboard computer. She had carefully made it out of the handicraft sheets that came with the Mickey Mouse booklet.

You could throw a marble in, turn a few levers and then the marble would come out again. At least until I had the thing in my fingers. Later, when we were almost grown up, I was supposed to have washed her favorite white blouse together with black clothes. I have long forgotten that, it was more than 20 years ago. When she talks about it today, she still sounds pissed off for a moment. The advantages of having a sister – in my experience – can only be really appreciated when both are grown up. I’m looking forward to the next time she comes by. Gladly watching television. Brenda Strohmaier

No, we are not twins!

My sister and I are separated by 18 months. Actually, this is the perfect distance. At school there was always exactly one grade between us. After the summer vacations, I always passed on all the exercise books, including the homework I had done. Very practical. At least for my little sister. And almost always the two of us followed the same route.

First we went to ballet school together, then to field hockey training, to confirmation classes with Father Mohr, and later to the same boarding school. But to be honest, we were always happy when we were not grouped together, but each was allowed to be by herself. Each with her friends. Because too often we were treated like peers, sometimes even mistaken for twins. Or even worse: confused with each other.

If you ask us, we (of course) don’t look alike at all. But in just these moments of confusion, perhaps we both felt that our uniqueness was being taken away from us. Or did competitive thinking play a role? Or are our natures more similar than we would like to admit?? Maybe. Length-wise, however, she outgrew me years ago, so I always look like the "little one" next to her. But she generously left me the role of the big, sensible sister.

By the way, we are most similar to each other especially when something unfair happens to one of us in everyday life: when one of us has the parking space snatched away from under our noses, there is stress at university or trouble with the property manager. Then I call her or vice versa and each one gets excited for the other via cell phone. Allies for life, that’s what! And that in every situation. Caroline Borger

One who laughs at my jokes

When I was about six years old, my sister, who was three years older, hit me over the head with a Barbie. I processed this painful collision a few days later in a school essay that came back into my hands a few years ago. Then I had this episode only in a blurry memory. My parents had completely forgotten about it, my sister darkly remembers a big, bad fight.

Anyway: "The Barbie incident" did not strain our relationship any further. The fact that many years later, when she was 16 and I was 13, she accused me of fascist behavior in an argument, hurt me much more than the Barbie punch. And her calendar entry on my birthday "Start of large-scale industrial scratching brush production" was not really nice either. Otherwise, our sisters’ lives were quite harmonious, even according to our parents. No more violence. On the contrary. Together we spent hours building huge mobile houses out of Lego – with sluice doors (against wild animals) and attached excavator shovels (somehow you have to make your way through the jungle).

Much later, there was a phase when I just found my sister exhausting: When, at 16, 17, she rebelled, moved for women, peace and otherwise, and all parental attention was focused on the rebellious teenager. That I would profit from the eternal quarrels in the years to come, that she would also clear the way for me, was not clear to me at the time.

From her au-pair stay in France she sent me 20 marks as a nest egg for a cab, so that I wouldn’t hitchhike or be chauffeured home to the village at night by drunken novice drivers.

I can always count on my sister. Also on the fact that she is an appreciative audience: she laughs at my jokes. Not out of niceness, but because she really finds me insanely funny. Annemarie Ballschmiter

The princess, the strict, the clown

I cleaned up my music. I’ve found tapes that have survived about ten moves. Countries and cities. Damp cellar. I found my Charlatans cassette. As soon as I saw the light blue stickers, I knew it was her. I still remembered the exact order of the songs. Tape recorder wanted. Joy. But then: screaming boys from the American East Coast. All overdubbed, with New Kids on the Block. Moves, countries, basements, all for nothing, that must have happened a very long time ago. It’s bad what little sisters can do. On the other hand, maybe I would never have known the Charlatans if my other sister hadn’t turned me on to them.

We are three. And with three you don’t have a chance, especially not as a person concerned. It could be due to these games, which you come up with pretty quickly as a bored toddler. Father, mother, child. King, queen, king’s child. Ernie, Bert, Cookie Monster, John, Paul, Ringo, whatever. With three sisters, there is a role for each of them, and of course you can’t choose them. In chronological order they are approximately these: 1. The princess. 2. The strict 3. The clown.

That’s the way it is with my two sisters and me, that’s the way it is with my mother and her two sisters, that’s the way it was with my grandmother and her two sisters, that’s the way it is with all the three-sister families I know (and, by the way, it doesn’t easily translate to three-brother constellations). It can possibly be explained by the one-time passing on of the usual sibling characteristics, as they like to be described in journals of entertainment psychology: Responsibility slips from the first to the second, and three at once fight for attention. And: With three, one can always be eliminated, which makes every game more attractive.

But who has time to look for explanations? Sufferers are usually busy enough going through all the variations of the game. Not only vocal in need and ready to create dramas out of banalities. One should not make the mistake of interfering with this. As fiercely as quarreling is also loved here. In the end, our roles together make us quite a whole. You don’t stand a chance against the three of us.

Oh, and one more thing: Dear sister, it was not so bad that I had to accompany you to the NKOTB concert, although it would have meant my social end if someone had seen me there. But at least I met my best friend there. She has brought her sister. Jennifer Wilton

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