Esquire (USA)



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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