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It’s All Relative – Sister Rivalry and Revelry Over the Years

It’s All Relative – Sister Rivalry and Revelry Over the Years
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By Jill Matlow

Growing up as a twin certainly had its’ challenges, especially given the fact that I wasn’t a twin! Judging by the photo of our matching outfits, you might have thought so, though. My mother used to love to dress my sister and me alike in the 1960s. Did yours? We would have been perfect subjects for Diane Arbus.

My older (by only 15 months) sister Jody is seated next to me. (She loves it when I point out that she’s the older one). I also have a younger brother (Lou) but fortunately my mother never dressed us in matching outfits. As a result, he and I have always maintained a great relationship with one another (although he may beg to differ!).


Sandwiched between my older sister and younger brother, I felt as though I had all the telltale characteristics of the proverbial middle child.  While my older sister Jody was less than 2 years older than I, following in her footsteps was always difficult. I was the Jan to her Marcia. She got straight A’s in school, and was always put in charge by my parents.  As a middle child, I learned how to be the mediator between my two siblings but always took a back seat to my older sister. She was the boss and bossy.

We shared a bedroom together and given our early bedtimes growing up, we were very creative when it came to how we would amuse ourselves when the lights went out. We played campfire by putting flashlights under our pink blankets and watching the lights shine through. On other nights, we would string two Dixie cups between our beds and play ‘phone’. The reception was fantastic, as her bed was only a few feet away from mine.

I played with dolls much longer than I care to admit and have memories of my sister playing ‘school’ with me and the dolls (she of course was the teacher). The dolls would receive better grades than I did!

As we got older, like many other siblings close in age, we didn’t see eye-to-eye which is a nice way of saying that we fought a lot. When we were teenagers, my sister actually drew an imaginary line down the middle of our bedroom because she was super neat and my clothes, Teen and Tiger Beat magazines and albums were always scattered all over the pink shag carpet. I have since become very neat in my ‘old age’.

I couldn’t wait for the day when she finally left for college. She drove off in her AMC Pacer (which I later inherited) to Penn State. And then it hit me. I realized how much I missed her.

Growing up with an older sister certainly had it’s downsides and often times made me appreciate being alone. And yet, it was during that time of separation, that our relationship took a turn for the better.

She and I are so distinct in our personalities, but we definitely share the same values and sense of humor. She is much more serious than I am, and certainly more focused. She opted for the more traditional life after college –  marriage, children, a home in the suburbs, while I chose the single life living in big cities. Our lives could not have taken more divergent paths.

But, as I got older and certain friends came and went, I realized that there was only one person who shared everything with me – from my childhood memories of major family events – to so many firsts we experienced together. It was my sister.

I find that she’s the first person I call with either good or bad news – no one knows or understands me better than she does.  I couldn’t wait to be the first one in her hospital room when all three of my nephews were born.  It is through my relationships with my nephews Danny, Jeff and Zach that our “sister bond” has grown even stronger.

While I ‘marvel’ at what a great mother she is, I know she takes great pride in knowing that my role as the ‘fun, cool aunt’ means a lot to her kids. I diapered them and now they are all grown up and always make time to see me when they’re visiting NYC.

We really have come full circle.

Over the years, I’ve met people who have severed ties with their sisters or haven’t spoken to them in years after a major falling out. I could not imagine that lack of contact with mine. I remember there were times back in the day, when the silent treatment would be our modus operandi  after major disagreements. Fortunately, those moments are all in the past.

Growing older has really made me appreciate the cliche “blood is thicker than water” as I know my sister will always have my back, no matter what. And I will have hers.

Do you have a sister and if so, do you have any funny, fond memories growing up with her? Were you dressed in matching outfits too? Did your birth order affect your relationship with one another? We’d love to hear your stories, and don’t forget to include the rivalries and of course, the revelries too. Photos optional.



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Jill Matlow
Jill Matlow spent much of her career working in many different facets of the healthcare industry writing marketing proposals, creative briefs and tactical plans. She is thrilled to now be writing articles geared to baby boomers who are nostalgic about their past but still hopeful about their futures. While music is her first passion, writing comes in a close second.