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Older sis­ters.

Did you ever hear the one about the boy’s big sis­ter / His best friend come along, he tried to kiss her

—The Wallflow­ers

Yeah, yeah, we heard it. But it made no sense. Why the hell would he want to kiss her? Our big sis­ter? Her? She was to­tally ob­nox­ious. She’d whis­per things in our ear, like “You’re be­ing an ass­hole.” She was noth­ing like our friend’s big sis­ter—our friend’s sis­ter was cool. ¶ An­noy­ing as they were, our older sis­ters weren’t even in the back forty of the mine-filled bat­tle­field we lived in grow­ing up: There were bul­lies and cliques and the first four chap­ters of The Catcher in the Rye to read by to­mor­row and sex and chang­ing for gym, and if we were go­ing to make it out alive, we were go­ing to need some help. Re­con, if ac­tion movies taught us any­thing. We needed a scout. ¶ Whom could we turn to? Par­ents were ei­ther traitors or col­lab­o­ra­tors, usu­ally both. Younger sib­lings were look­ing to us for guid­ance. Maybe an older brother? Head-punch­ing, fart-gen­er­at­ing, self-en­ti­tled big brother? No, that wouldn’t work. There was only one per­son we could turn to. We knew who it was, even though it killed us: that girl who whis­pered shit in our ear but whom our friends liked. ¶ Then a cu­ri­ous thing hap­pened. As we ma­tured, so did she. And when we were ready to step up out of the trenches, there she was, up ahead. She didn’t want us tag­ging along, but still we fol­lowed. She brought us with her to hang with that stoner, the one our par­ents warned us about, who played the gui­tar. Maybe she even taught us chords her­self. We fol­lowed her to the garage when she went look­ing for a base­ball bat af­ter we told her we got jumped. We called her to pick us up when the party got ugly and our friends wouldn’t leave. We played the mix CD she made, the one with our new fa­vorite bands. She never called us out when we pre­tended we’d dis­cov­ered them our­selves. We fol­lowed her to that bar, the one our friends weren’t so sure about, that opened our eyes. We be­lieved her when she told us, af­ter meet­ing our date, to just be our­selves. ¶ Maybe she wasn’t so bad af­ter all. So if you haven’t lately, give your big sis­ter a call. Buy her a beer. If she at­tempts to apol­o­gize for all the truly hor­ri­ble things she might have said or done, tell her it’s all right. Be­cause you’ve come to know that an older sis­ter is a gift.

Tell her—and she’ll love this—that the fam­ily mem­ber Ger­many’s in­fa­mous dic­ta­tor was clos­est to through­out his life was his older sis­ter. Her name was An­gela. (An­gela Hitler!) Tell her that some­times older sis­ters are right when they call their broth­ers ass­holes.

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