My older sister and I have had a mixed-up relationship for all of our lives. She’s encouraged me as much as she’s pushed me down and has treated my problems as insignificant.
When it came to school, she would praise me for getting 90s, sigh at my 80s, and would act hostile towards me at anything lower. My parents are kind of strict about grades, but they’re not as bad as she is. Everyone is low-key afraid of her because she lectures everybody on one thing or another on an almost-daily basis.
When I had broken up with my first girlfriend, I was kind of seeking out someone who I could tell about it. I had supported my sister’s secret relationship for years up until that point and even had her back when she would lie about where she went out late at night. I was telling her about my ex and coming out at the same time (I’m a female). She immediately asked me what gender I preferred (I blurted out girls because it was closest to what I felt at the time). She lost it and told me that no one would accept me in the house unless I married a man, and that liking girls was just a phase. I still feel hurt when I think about that conversation. A few times afterwards when I talked to my siblings about our future marriages, she would insist on knowing my type (of husband of course). I would brush her off, because I’d rather never get married than admit to her that I still liked girls more than I liked boys.
She is getting engaged (to the same boyfriend she used to be in that secret relationship with) in the summer of 2018 and married in the summer of 2019. I don’t explicitly hate her, and her future fiancée is actually very nice, but I can’t deal with the fact that she jaded me for life and expects me to be her maid of honor. I can handle being a regular bridesmaid, but the thought of having to give a speech about her or her relationship rubs me the wrong way. I’m not going to create drama, but if she talks smack about me one more time I think I’m going to crack.
Well, of course! I mean, you’re only working yourself into a state of rabid frothing angst over the possibility that you might eventually be asked to stand up at your sister’s wedding, the fact that 2019 is nearly two years away and she isn’t even engaged yet nonwithstanding. But who’s creating drama, here? Not you!
…Okay, that’s a lie. Because let’s be honest, Sparkler: even if we disregard the part where your worries about your sister’s wedding are wildly premature, you are absolutely creating drama! All by yourself! Every day! There’s a veritable tornado of it whirling around inside your own head, just because you can’t stop seething over your sister and all the ways she’s wronged you.
And that’s not to say that you don’t have a right to feel wronged. Obviously, you and Sis have a complicated relationship, and obviously, she’s said and done some truly insensitive things to you over the years. But you still get to decide how to respond when she acts like a jerk—and darling, right now, you are endowing her with an immense amount of influence over your life that she just doesn’t deserve. Your sister is nothing but a garden-variety jackass, and her overbearing, bossy, pompous behavior is nothing but overcompensation for her various insecurities. And that doesn’t mean it was right for her to dismiss your orientation as a phase (obviously, it was not!)—but the idea that you’re “jaded for life” because of it is patently ridiculous. She doesn’t have the power to do that! Her opinion of your sexual identity is just that: her stupid opinion. You don’t have to care about it. You don’t even have to think about it.
And on that note, your letter actually contains copious evidence that you shouldn’t take her attitude personally. I mean, you said it yourself: it’s not just you. She’s a condescending asshat to everyone! By all accounts, your sister is one of those people folks who only feels good about herself if she can feel superior to someone else. And that’s a drag—not just for you, but for everyone who comes into contact with her—but it is entirely her issue. There is no reason why you should be letting her live rent-free in your head like this—and surely all the energy you’ve been channeling into your grudge against her could be better expended elsewhere.
So before you devote a single minute more to feeling angsty over the role you’ll play in your sister’s hypothetical wedding, please take the time to adjust the role she plays in the way you think about yourself, your life, and your future. Stop giving her power that she shouldn’t have and doesn’t deserve. It may not be the easiest thing you’ve ever done, but you are fully capable of simply deciding that her opinion isn’t worthy of respect and therefore doesn’t matter to you.
Here’s the thing: once you’ve relegated Sis to the sidelines of your psyche where she belongs, you can decide for yourself how to handle it when she asks you to be her maid of honor. (That is, assuming there is a wedding, and that she does in fact ask.) And even then, you can decline—but you might also decide, thanks to your new perspective on all things sister-related, that declining would create unnecessary drama, and that you’re more than capable of standing up at your sister’s wedding without having an identity crisis about it. That’s the wonderful thing about being comfortable and confident with yourself: stuff like wearing a bridesmaids dress and giving a short, rote congratulatory speech doesn’t feel like a massive, painful compromise.
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