Younger Sister Marries Before Older Sister8:00 AM
"Don't freak out, but I'm getting married."
I definitely freaked out in the 6 stages mentioned above. "I don't know why I'm crying," I blubbered to my roommate. "I'm happy for her."
"It's okay," said the roommate who never ever cries. "When my sister got engaged, I cried too."
"She won't be here anymore," I sobbed to my boyfriend. (She'll live a few blocks away.) "She was always there for me. She's my best friend."
After the depths of despair, I got into the habit of subtly working this triumphant information into just about every conversation: "Yeah, you know, my sister's getting married."
"That's awesome!" most conversations go. "Wait, you have an older sister?"
"No. She's my younger sister."
"Oh. Wait. How old is she?"
"She just turned eighteen. I'll be going to her graduation in a couple weeks."
How do you feel about that? I can see that question flicker across people's faces as the conversation shifts to another topic. A couple friends-in-the-know emailed or called me to ask how I took the news. "You're still loved!" they assured me. "We still care about your relationship!"
I'm surprised to say that I handled the news quite well. The idea of a younger sister marrying before me and two other older siblings shocked me, to be honest. I like order. I like systems -- not an authoritative hierarchy but a mutual, established understanding of how relationships relate. For some reason, it's allowable for me to marry before my older brother, but a younger sister marrying before me -- and only after a year of dating compared to my two long years of dating -- that threw me.
I have this theory that because women are relational, they sometimes ignore their real emotions and instead project "normal women's feelings" as their own. Deep down, I knew that sisters getting married in any order made no difference in the world. Still, I initially felt a teensy weensy weird about it. Not jealous. Just a little topsy turvy. Like a big sister should when her little sister gets married before her.
When I was younger and eighteen seemed like the epitome of adulthood, I wanted to be married at age eighteen. I was in the throes of stay-at-home daughterhood and thus entertained no higher educational plans, so marriage seemed the obvious next step. No waiting, no wondering. Life all planned out according to me.
A little sister marrying before a big sister reminds the big sister that relationships do not proceed according to a schedule. Happy marriages do not come to every person when she reaches a certain age, marrying off the siblings in order of birth. Love takes its time. It's not the next step for everyone. This means I've got to be confident in who I am and the path I'm traveling, instead of relying on a fantasy timeline.
It also scared me to let go of my "big sister role," my sisterly superiority, my imagined self as the guru of everything a younger sister needed to know about life. It hurt my pride to think of myself ever needing to ask a younger sister for advice about sex, relationships, and, basically, what it was like to be married. Hello, people. I skimmed the online articles. I wrote the blog posts. I read both the regular and the singles edition of The Five Love Languages. I clearly earned the right to man the sister hotline.
All my books read and thoughts written about marriage mean almost nothing next to the real experience of being married. I had an Aquinas moment: "All of my work is as straw compared to reality." You know, I needed that moment. I need that boot off the high horse. What did it matter if I no longer appeared like the fountain of wisdom? In this instance, I had to love instead of lead. Topsy turvy. The second brother chosen over the eldest. First shall be last. All good things for me to remember.
Was it hard for me to see my younger sister's one-year dating relationship culminate in an engagement and an August wedding, just as they planned? Yes, a little, especially as I overcame the shock of my sister getting married.
It helped to remember that my boyfriend and I are not ready to marry by our own choice and admission, but it hurt because, well, I like everything to go my way. My ideal relationship timeline looks a lot more like theirs and a lot less than mine! Seen in the light of their swoon-worthy love story and seamless relationship progression, my own relationship timeline worried me: Wait, am I doing something wrong if I'm not even engaged after two years of dating? Did we miss a turn somewhere?
My pride and selfishness issues never went as far as jealousy or resentment. Since when did my sister getting married have anything to do with me being a single college girl? That realization in the first initial 24-hour shock helped me separate my sister's upcoming marriage from my own life.
And once I got over myself, by golly, I Googled the heck out of wedding dress options.
P.P.S. NEVER post a selfie of yourself with your sister's invite to be her bridesmaid. At least, not with the caption, "I said yes!" Not unless you want the embarrassment of people you barely know dutifully liking the photo because they misinterpreted the context. . . .
Do you have an engaged or married sister? Tell me your stories!
Note: Hey, friends! Just as an FYI, I won't be publishing disparaging comments about my sister's decision to marry young. If you have questions, please email me privately. Thanks!