Sister Sister

8 Feb

Hard to decide who's cooler, right?

It would be inaccurate to say that my sister and I didn’t get along growing up, as it would be equally inaccurate to say that we did. I always hear my friends talk about their childhood relationships with their siblings—usually on either end of a spectrum that runs from “best of friends” to “consciously poked my eye out with scissors, twice”—and reflect back on my own somewhat tepid sisterly bond.

Now, I should note that these days—at the ripe old ages of 26 and 22, respectively—Jessie and I are tight. A four-year gap that seemed monumental when we were younger is now virtually nonexistent, except that she has a higher alcohol tolerance and probably knows about cooler music. But when we were kids, it wasn’t so much that we fought, or that we were the best of friends; we honestly just didn’t interact much. Today, over multiple beers and a Thanksgiving dinner, Jessie will claim that I thought I was too cool for her, and I will respond that she clearly thought she was too cool for me. Either way though, it took us far too long to realize that neither of us is particularly cool, and therefore we should definitely spend more time together.

I take this trip down memory lane because this week I finished The Sibling Effect, a book my mom got both my sister and I for Christmas (separate copies by the way; I’m sure the assumption that we wouldn’t share reflects somehow on our character.) The book, by author Jeffrey Kluger (who has three brothers) is an exploration of the relationships between siblings, including factors like birth order, gender, parents’ marital status, age differences, etc. It’s a reader-friendly hybrid, part roundup of scientific studies, and part compendium of sibling-related anecdotes.

It would have been hard for me not to at least partially enjoy The Sibling Effect, simply because it was fun to stack up against my own life. Neurotic studious older sibling versus creative free-thinking younger sibling? Check. Older and younger siblings having different approaches to dealing with their parents’ divorce? Check. Younger sibling first to die off in impending natural disaster or famine-like situation? God I hope so. (Kidding!)

But even my personal relationship to the content of The Sibling Effect couldn’t quite undo the fact that….it isn’t the most riveting thing I’ve ever read. Kluger has some interesting factoids, and a few good anecdotes, but the overall effect of the book’s somewhat hodgepodge mixing of stats and stories is  a de facto implication that this is still a relatively new field of study, one where it’s incredibly difficult to quantify results and pretty much impossible to account for all the possible extenuating circumstances. For example, where in the grand scheme of sisterly love does my lifelong resentment of my sister’s lack of glasses, braces, or extra 40 pounds come into play? Because I for reals hate a bitch for that. (Kidding again!)

Seriously though, this was a decently interesting book that could have used a bit more punch in the writing style and a little bit of editing of the duh factor (divorce makes kids sad, older kids are better, twins are weird, etc.) But at the end of the day, I’m glad my sister and I read it. Because now she knows that I will probably die richer, smarter, fatter and my parents’ favorite. Suck on that, free spirit. Suck. On. That.

TITLE: The Sibling Effect
AUTHOR: Jeffrey Kluger
PAGES: 299 (in hardcover)
ALSO WROTE: Apollo 13, Splendid Solution
SORTA LIKE:  The Firstborn Advantage,
FIRST LINE:  “At the time, it seemed like a good idea to put my baby brother Bruce in the fuse box.”

One Response to “Sister Sister”

  1. Your sister February 10, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    You push me too far and I’ll make a point to marry and have kids first! Theeeen who will be the favorite, hmmmm?

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