Being an Amazonian brunette sandwiched between prettier, blonder, more petite sisters sucks. More than one guy ditched me after meeting my sisters.
Take the Boy Next Door. I pined after him for the entirety of seventh grade. He finally asked me to the last dance before school ended. Then Older Sister, who lived with Dad (I lived with our Mom) came for the summer. The Boy Next Door told me we were done, because he was in love with Older Sister.
Older Sister did her best to comfort me, declaring, “I would never, ever, go out with that loser. He’s ugly and disgusting!”
I bawled, “That’s even worse! You’re scorning the love of my life!”
That scenario repeated itself for years. With no effort whatsoever — which stung worse than a determined boyfriend-stealing campaign probably would have — my sisters entranced the guys that were meant to be mine. (If only because I saw them first).
This dynamic lasted until our last years of high school. By then, guys were either less flighty or I was better at picking them. Or maybe it was because Older Sister finally had a serious boyfriend named Mikey. (He’d lasted more than two weeks!)
Enter the Youngest Sister. Youngest Sister, a product of Dad’s second marriage, was an adorable five-year-old. I came home from school one day and found Older Sister in the kitchen, morosely staring out the window.
“What happened? I thought you and Mikey were gonna be hanging out after school?”
“I thought so, too,” she answered, then nodded at the deck outside.
Youngest Sister emerged from her plastic gingerbread playhouse with a tea set. She offered tea to Mikey, warned him not to slurp, and introduced him to her dolls. Mikey was enthralled.
Older Sister tried to pry Mikey away repeatedly. Each time, Youngest Sister put on a sad, sad face. Mikey would shoo Older Sister back inside, whispering, “But I’ll hurt her feelings! Just five more minutes.”
Youngest Sister hijacked Mikey daily. Older Sister stopped bringing him home. Their relationship soon died.
I’m slow on the uptake. I brought home my favorite high school boyfriend, Kevin. While I got us snacks, Youngest Sister invited him out to see her playhouse.
When I told her playtime was over, Youngest Sister’s eyes brimmed with tears. Kevin gave me a horrified look and told her, “Don’t cry! Pour me another cup of tea!”
Kevin and I never did get any alone time at my house. Same as me and John. Or me and Sean. Or me and anyone. Youngest Sister – now officially known as Boyfriend-Stealing Baby Sister — was relentless. She conscripted boyfriends for dress up games, tea parties, and Chutes & Ladders. There was no way for me to extricate them without looking like an ogre, either. Boyfriend-Stealing Baby Sister could – and would — cry on command (a handy trick that would one day get her out of 3 speeding tickets).
In self-defense, her older sisters all went to college out of state.
Nearly two decades later, Boyfriend-Stealing Baby Sister had a special boyfriend of her own. They’d met at college back east, but he was from Los Angeles. He’d moved home for graduate school. Boyfriend-Stealing Baby Sister missed him terribly. So even though she ostensibly came to Los Angeles to visit her big sister, I knew Andy and I weren’t the real attraction. We invited The Boyfriend over for the day. Andy cooked a feast, I cleaned the house and our dogs, and we waited to meet The Boyfriend.
The Boyfriend was appreciative of our efforts. He clearly loved my sister. Sadly, he was allergic to cats, and we had two. We moved the food outside to the patio, where our dogs were waiting.
…only to be shouldered aside by our other rescue dog, Fey. Fey was normally very standoffish; she wasn’t above warning certain people away with growls. She was also very protective of our yard, once driving off would-be burglars. For a moment, I feared Fey mistook The Boyfriend for foe instead of friend.
Fey hurtled herself against The Boyfriend’s legs, yipping, whining, and moaning — with happiness. She even rolled on his feet, begging for tummy rubs. Andy and I stared, stupefied. Unlike Woofie, Fey hated showing belly. Teaching her to roll over had taken a year.
“That’s new,” I muttered.
Andy made outraged noises. “Wha…but…she…she likes him more than ME!”
“What a good girl! Oh, yes, such a good girl,” The Boyfriend cooed. Fey’s happy yipping crescendoed as she licked The Boyfriend’s face.
Woofie gave up trying to get in on the action. He went to my sister for petting instead. She obliged, asking, “Is Fey always like this?”
“Never,” we told her. As Fey soaked up The Boyfriend’s attention, Andy and I spent five minutes speculating that The Boyfriend reminded Fey of one of the dog rescuers who got her off the streets. Or maybe he just smelled fabulous, after catching up on In-n-Out burgers.
Whatever the reason, Fey’s adoration never ceased. She followed The Boyfriend wherever he walked. When he sat, she sat on his feet. When The Boyfriend tried to hug his girlfriend, Fey wedged herself between them.
I finally called Fey into the house, letting my sister and The Boyfriend canoodle on our backyard swing, dog-free.
Fey stared at the door with big, sad eyes.
Every time she heard The Boyfriend’s laugh – which was an infectious, high-pitched giggle – Fey’s ears perked. Her tail thumped. She looked at me expectantly. When I didn’t open the door, she laid her head on her paws with a sigh.
After an hour, she pawed at the door, whining. The Boyfriend called, “Aw, you can let her out!”
My sister said, “Oh, sweetie, I’m sure she’s fine.”
The Boyfriend said, “But she’s crying!”
I opened the door. Fey flew across the yard and jumped into the swing, squirming her seventy-pound self between the couple. The Boyfriend was all giggles and coos.
My sister, shoved to the edge of the swing, glared at me. I grinned and waved as I retreated inside.
Karma truly is a bitch.