Sisters are a hard thing to describe to those who don’t have one. Or several. Sisters are complicated, which I would know being the eldest of three. I also have three girl cousins and three aunties, so a female free family life is pretty unimaginable for me. However unlike Lale, Nur, Selma, Ece and Sonay I was not raised in a utilitarian household where everything that brought pleasure was forbidden. I was (and still am) lucky enough to live in a culture which does not promote parents perceiving their daughters as an opportunity for a “wife factory”, to quote Lale. However, their story drew parallels to mine in the way that only having a group of sisters can.
A girl gang linked by blood is a whirlwind that comes at you with force, and is extremely hard to stop once it gets going.
Beccy, Emmy and Issy - I’m not sure how my parents managed that, but yes, so we are named. We are all around two years apart in age, and all extremely different. People have always said to my Dad “Didn’t you want a boy?” or “Wow, three girls. You deserve a medal!” My dad is a proper Yorkshire bloke who likes football, golf, The Smiths and not an awful lot else. To say we always got along would be an enormous lie, on behalf of all three of us. He is also extremely grumpy and house proud - one of our biggest fears as kids was to spill something on the carpet or leave our rooms untidy on a Saturday. He didn’t understand us, and we didn’t understand him. However, we were rarely punished and lived pretty much rule free. We didn’t have a regime to rebel against like the sisters of Mustang. However we did grow up in rural Buckinghamshire with not an awful lot to do, so making up games became rather a speciality. We used to put on ‘plays’ or ‘shows’ with our cousins, colouring and cutting out paper tickets for the grown ups with strict start times which they had to be seated in the front room by. One that stands out particularly clearly was the production of ‘I Only Want To Be Punjabi' the Christmas after we had all seen Bend It Like Beckham. We thought it was an insanely imaginative alternative, as the lead girl in our story didn’t want to be a footballer, she wanted to become part of the Punjabi faith and reject her Western ways. How nobody snapped up this probably entirely un-PC script is still beyond me. We also liked to perform 'Stars In Our Eyes' in my parents garden. We had a rather convenient gap in the hedge where we would hide the outfit changes, and after telling whoever was playing Matthew what we were going to be on that sunny afternoon, we’d clamber in and reappear for our performance, which would be accompanied by a CD on the pink Woolworths bubble CD player. As soon as Gabby and Phoebe came to stay for a weekend, our gang was complete and we knew we could spend the whole period of time wherever we could imagine ourselves being.
This is not to say that having sisters, or siblings for that matter, is in any way smooth sailing. I absolutely despised my middle sister for most of our childhood. I was an emo and she was a chav, so we didn’t see eye to eye on an awful lot of things. She also had a foul temper and tendency to tell me on a regular basis that she’d like me to die. I was far too sensitive to deal with such comments, and grew to dislike her intensely. I remember printing off photos from her Bebo account (I had MySpace, obviously) of her smoking to show mum and dad to really get her in the shit - one of my lowest moments of neglecting my sisterly duties. Issy, the youngest, liked to steal my clothes and then lie about it - not ideal when you’ve saved up your pocket money to buy a skirt from Tammy to wear at the weekend. I begged and begged for a lock on my door, but to no avail. I have countless stories of horrendous behaviour, like the time my mum got called into school to answer questions about potential home abuse after I scratched Emmy’s face in a fight, or when I tried to take her for HPV vaccine in the summer holidays and she ended up breaking my finger. These kind of things would never happen with a friend; you can never be on that level of ridiculousness. You are also under no obligation to forgive a friend - I guess you aren’t with a sister either, but it definitely makes things a hell of a lot easier.
We support each other, have fun and create our own world which is rather hard to penetrate from the outside. In a room of nobody dancing, we were the only ones on the dancefloor.
We recently went to our only male cousin’s wedding in Bucharest, and although the five of us don’t see each other as much as we used to, things are still the same when we get together. We’re unfortunately older, and can’t attempt to charge people to watch us fuck about in costumes, but the ethos is still the same. We support each other, have fun and create our own world which is rather hard to penetrate from the outside. In a room of nobody dancing, we were the only ones on the dancefloor. My aunty got onstage with the performing band, picked up a tambourine and appointed herself a member. Gabby, my eldest cousin, spilt red wine down my dress and then preceded to whisk me up to our hotel room and scrub it clean with travel wash, whilst I drunkenly sunk into the bath wearing my bra and knickers. A girl gang linked by blood is a whirlwind that comes at you with force, and is extremely hard to stop once it gets going. I have never believed in any cliched phrase more than there is strength in numbers. Together we’ve managed to cover for one another, lend each other money without having to get parents involved, picked each other up in the middle of the night, cut each others hair...the list is endless. We do it because we have to, because we are family, and mainly because few others will put up with us.