You Make Me Look Short, Fat, and Pale: The Story of Opposite Sisters

Jill Kunishima

I recall the day perfectly. It was during one of those warm days of winter in southern California a year or so ago. Mom had driven my sister Krista and me to the mall, where she dropped us off in front of the entrance to Robinson's May. The day was sunny, and it made the fingerprints on the glass door visible. As I examined the door, I also took notice of our reflections- she in her Roxy halter top and nicely curled hair, and me in my Gap warm ups and a simple pony-tail.

Thanks Krista, you make me look short, fat, and pale.

A couple years have passed since then, and we remain extremely different. These days, most people can't even believe that Krista and I are related, let alone biological sisters. "Wow. You and your sister look nothing alike. She is so pretty!" is a commonly heard phrase when seeing the two of us together for the first time. She, at seventeen, is four years younger and four inches taller than me. Her hair is long and blonde and she wears makeup; I have shoulder length black hair and wear Carmex. She's the captain of the cheerleading squad; I play tennis and run. Her favorite movie is Legally Blond, mine is Silence of the Lambs. She cried when she got her ears pierced, I have six extra holes and a tattoo.

Our society has this strange assumption that sisters are similar. There's even a phrase we use, "they're just like sisters," that basically implies that they're alike. In actuality, it seems that most sisters are more different than alike, through the eyes of sisters, anyway.

Claudia and Kathy are another pair of sisters who have a lot of differences. Claudia, who's twenty-nine, is four years older than Kathy. She was a biology major at UC Santa Cruz; Kathy did not finish college. While growing up, Claudia was always regarded as the "smart" one, while Kathy was always regarded as the "pretty" one. Claudia has no intent of marrying soon, Kathy got married young, and has two daughters and a son. Overall, their relationship is fine, but Claudia does admit to wishing she was in her sister's shoes at times. "Sometimes it just seems like she has it all, and it comes easily, while I struggle with everything else," she says.

Nicki and Elanna are another pair of extremely different sisters. Nicki has always been one to take the traditional path. She went from high school to college, and will be marrying her first and only boyfriend after she graduates in May. Her sister, on the other hand, who is seven years older, just joined the Air Force, has had a slew of boy and girlfriends, and has no plans to settle down soon. Nicki recalls when she was in elementary school and her sister was in high school and they still had to share a room. "I'd get kicked out often when her boyfriends came over." Even in the car, they'd disagree. "I'd want to listen to ska, but she likes rap and hip hop. We'd never agree."

Overall, Claudia and Kathy, Nicki and Elanna, and Krista and I make for some odd pairings, but somehow it's okay. Perhaps the strength of sisters is their ability to compromise, and get past all the differences.

Nicki and Elanna find this to be true: "We can still have fun, even though we never really find common ground." Also, as the years pass, "the differences matter less and less," Claudia says. In the past few weeks, Claudia found herself in the hospital in need of surgery, and lots of assistance. She soon found that it was her baby sister who was there for her. "Here I was, in great pain and depressed, and it was my sister, nine months along in her pregnancy, who was there to help me wash up. It's not easy you know, to bend over and help someone bathe, when you've got such a load." Claudia also recalls a time when Kathy just randomly stated, "Wow. We're sisters." Claudia, who didn't find much meaning in the statement initially, understands something more now: "It's just that, aside from our parents, we're all we really have. And that's a precious bond."

Even sisters in the spotlight, Serena and Venus Williams recognize that, even while vying for the number one spot at Wimbledon, "we're always sisters, bottom line."

At one point, the stories, our looks, what we like and don't like, may have mattered. But time has changed things, and all is fine between Krista and myself. Our unending list of differences don't matter. In fact, we laugh about them. Of course, she probably laughs more than me.