MadMomma had a post some time ago on the ideal number of children to have (or rather that there is no ideal number). During that discussion, someone brought up that it’s better not to have two girls because sister tends to get compared. Say what? But apparently this was a sentiment shared by quite a few people – majority of them did not have sisters – that sisters would not be able to get along because they would get compared.

I’m not sure what that even means. I suppose it means to each other because they are the same gender?

Now first. I have a sister. Were we “compared”? Yes. My sister was constantly told how dark she was and my mother was even asked how it was possible that she had produced one dark-skinned kid and one fair. In our presence. Yeah, people are classy like that. This did not make sister angry at me. It did give her something of a complex but dark children in India always have that.

To make matters worse, there is a tendency on my dad’s side of the family to favour the younger child and to blame the older child for everything. My mum was very firmly against this but I happened to be my father’s favourite. Although my mum tried to make up by siding with my sister and it helped that my dad was actually not around for nine months of the year, my father’s favouratism did affect her (though my dad denies there was any). Did this make my sister hate me? No. She remained as protective of me as ever.

My sister was Miss Perfect in school. Unfortunately, she was blessed with a sibling who was scatty, forgetful and rebellious. She covered for me as much as possible – and I mean literally! She would actually cover my school books, iron my uniform, and run home if I forgot my PT shorts. The former was because she couldn’t bear to be associated with a messy person, the latter was because she genuinely did not want me to get in trouble. Despite her best efforts, did people compare us? Yes. Did I get a lot of “you are her sister? Oh!”? Yes. Did it make me resent my sister? No. It did make me roll my eyes when teachers called me her name instead of mine, but that was because I cherished their embarrassment when I glared at them. I’m evil like that.

Did I get a lot of hand-me-downs by virtue of being the younger sister? Yes. Did I care? No. I was happy to wear my sister’s clothes. When I stopped liking her fashion choices, I stopped wearing her clothes. My mum got it. That was when I was 16 though. And I still raided her closet a lot. Did she mind? No. She raided my mum’s closet, and sometimes my dad’s (checked shirts were all the rage in college).

Did we fight? Yes. On several occasions, we drew a line down our room and screamed if the other person put a toe over it. But we also converted our room into a lab/toy hospital/teaching centre and spent entire summers closeted inside with a Do Not Disturb sign on the door. We knew each other’s secrets. We covered for each other. We would be up late into the night chatting. I knew all the intrigues of her friend’s circle (and they knew I knew) and all her friends. She knew all mine. We would even follow each other into the toilet while the other was pooing (gross I know! But there were urgent matters – boys – to be discussed) so we could keep talking.

Did I get to do stuff earlier than my sister ever did? Yes. I went on my first out-of-town trip to Goa with my sister’s friends when I was 15. My mum was a chaperone but it was 20 boys and girls aged 17. I went to socials and dance parties when I was 15 with my sister and her friends. I waxed my legs earlier. Did my sister complain? Yes. But she also fought for me to have these privileges – be it leg waxing or shorter skirts – although she halfheartedly grumbled about it sometimes when convenient to her.

When we were younger, we used to tease each other saying “I wish you were a brother”. The main reason we wanted a brother was that we would have been introduced to more boys. Also, we had this fantasy of the protective older brother. Now that I think about it, though, I got all the advantages of an older brother with my sister. She had a tonne of platonic boy friends, the most coveted ones from the boys school. They hung around our house all the time because my mum was cool. My sister was even into soccer so I can discuss football like a guy. She did engineering so she is into gadgetty stuff too and can repair things, and she is bloody strong. And I had the advantages of a sister – someone you can discuss even your vaginal problems with. This is something you really appreciate when you’re pregnant by the way.

I don’t know if brothers and sisters can have the same closeness as sisters. Because girls discuss everything, we communicate in a way boys don’t. And because there is so much shared experience. So in retrospect, I’m very happy my sister was not a brother.

Now the flip side of the comparison debate. V has two older sisters. Was he compared to them? All the time. Sil1 was Miss Perfect, like my sister, headgirl, top of the class (my sister wasn’t, I trumped her there), and all that. Sil2 was also Miss Perfect though she tended to be late for assembly and then hide out in empty classrooms. V was Mr. Fuckup, always late, always on the dishonour roll, failing every subject. His sisters famously disowned him once when he was spotted in the canteen eating in an, erm, messy way. Did this affect them in any way? Yes. The Sils were embarrassed. Did it affect him? No. He continued to be a ruffian. Thankfully for them, his grades got so bad he had to change schools. (This by the way is the man who is very spiffy – or used to be till three years ago – and earning pots of money in the corporate world now).

In short, I think this comparison logic is nonsense. There may be reasons siblings don’t get along but being compared happens whether they are the same gender or not. And it affects the relationship only based on other things.

Sil2 has a different take on whether having a brother or a sister is better. She says she is closer to V than Sil1 because Sil1 was very bossy. There was only a two year gap between Sil1 and her, and a two year gap between V and her. But I don’t see V and her sharing the kind of confidences that I share with my sister. In fact, she probably shares more confidences with me than with V because V, being a typical male, just does not take the conversation so far. Like when Sil2 adopted her baby, V said, “Oh that’s awesome news!” (all heartfelt, of course) and then quickly ran out of things to say while I then went on to have a full 45 minute chat with her sharing all the intimate details like how she felt when she first held the baby etc. I’m sure she has more proper chats with Sil1 than V but she still says she’s closer to V. Hmm.

Anyway, which would you rather have – a brother or a sister? Do you think siblings of the same gender have more potential to bond?

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