For there is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands
Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market and Other Poems
I’ve never been much of a joiner. My current lifestyle – which includes paid-up membership of a book club, a writers’ club and a photography club – would seem to contradict that fact, but historically it’s been true.
For that reason, I find the idea of sororities something of a nightmare. To be honest I don’t know that much about college sororities other than what I’ve seen on American TV – thankfully no such system exists in Australia (at least to my knowledge) – but the thought of initiation, membership and exclusivity makes me feel at best claustrophobic and at worst a little nauseous.
This is partly because of the separation between men and women that fraternities and sororities imply and reinforce. I’m generally uncomfortable in big groups anyway, but when I see big crowds of just men or just women out together, it always strikes me as a little odd.
But when the idea of sorority is pared back to its Latin origins I feel altogether different. The Latin stem of sorority is soror, which simply means sister. And sisters are something that I simply cannot imagine my life without.
It’s a terrifying 22 years since I last lived in the same country as my four sisters (and, of course, my beautiful big brother). But still many of my happiest memories revolve around them. Often it’s the small things that make me laugh when I’m talking with them, but those small things make me laugh until the tears stream down my cheeks, in a way that I don’t laugh with any other person on the planet.
I never know where or when I’m going to see my sisters next but I am never in any doubt that when I do see them it will be spectacular. We’ve grown up together and are growing older together, in spite of the distance between us. It’s my sisters that I’m planning to wear purple hats with when I’m old, as we laugh through the lines on our familiar old faces and wipe away the tears of mirth as we look back on the hilarious magnificence of life.
As well as the honour of having four sisters by birth, I also have the joy of honorary sisters – women who have been in my life for shorter or longer periods, who’ve become embedded in my heart and my brain and who are inextricably linked with who I am. You know who you are and you know I adore you, and I thank you for giving me so many amazing times and magnificent memories.
There are also the women with whom I share extraordinary and unexpected experiences, all of whom contribute to the wonder and humour and vitality of life. They are all part of the wider sorority and I’m privileged to know them.
Among those women are the cast of The Vagina Monologues, Geneva.
Girls, you are gorgeous.