Those who've seen usI remember hearing this song on the radio as a very young girl, and again in junior high, sung in a school talent show by two cheerleaders who were best friends, as close as sisters. These lyrics, excerpted from a song originally written by Irving Berlin, have been adapted and recorded by a long line of singers, and they express the ideal of sisterhood: women bonded by birth, presenting a united front against all odds — yet sometimes turning against each other.
know that not a thing could come between us.
Many men have tried to split us up, but no one can.
Lord help the mister who comes between me and my sister,
and Lord help the sister who comes between me and my man.
Memoirs about the mother-daughter relationship would fill several shelves, but none that I’m aware of focus on the sisterly one. My thoughts have ranged in that direction the last few days, and I’m surprised that this niche seems to have been overlooked.
Thinking back through stories told by friends through the years about their sisters, I recall countless accounts of love and support, but I also recall tales of sisters left in the cold, sisters who sat in the shadow of a dominant sibling, women who bear a variety of emotional scars inflicted on purpose or otherwise by their sisters. This is the dark side of sisterhood.
The concept of sisterhood ranges beyond biological bounds. Convents have been full of “sisters” since the early years of Christianity. Sorority members are considered to be sisters. Especially in the 1960s and 70s, as the feminist movement gained momentum, sisterhood was a rallying theme. Sisterhood Is Powerful, the “bible” of the movement, was carried at all times by enlightened coeds on many campuses across the USA. Here again, stories of love and light predominate, but dark ones are not unknown as power is wielded for various forms of control. In addition to its inner dynamics, this sort of sisterhood uses circles of inclusion to exclude others, creating elaborate forms of tension and intrigue.
Lastly I thought of another form of sisterhood — soul sisters, best friends who may be closer than those born into the same family. These are the friends who are always there for us, who listen to our hopes and dreams as well as our fears and pains, with the tenderest of encouragement and care. They are balm for our souls. These friends are the richest sort of blessing one could hope for.
Sisterhood is powerful in so many ways, and a juicy topic for life writers of all sorts. Whatever the nature of your relationships with sisters of various sorts, they are sure to generate plenty of tales and insights, and writing your truth about some of the darker elements may bring unexpected closure and healing.
Write now: a story full of tension about the darker side of sisterhood as you have experienced it, a time when you were excluded, jeered at, bullied, betrayed, or otherwise tormented by a birth sister or members of a collective sisterhood. Follow this with a tribute to a beloved sister, whether bonded by birth or acquired later in life. Include details of what happened and how you felt. You may choose to share your tribute story with the person you write about. Make your own decision about sharing the darker one. Men, you can write about brothers, or anyone could expand this to siblings and friends in general