Sister Roommates: Fifteen Years Later


Living with my sister as an 8-year-old came with certain expectations. I was responsible for smuggling a late-night snack from the kitchen, cleaning the room, and turning off my light when Emily was trying to sleep. Emily’s main responsibility was making sure I completed those things, and for some reason to me – that arrangement seemed entirely correct.

Fifteen years later, Emily and I are roommates once again and not much has changed. We still have late-night snacks, though they’ve upgraded from crushed smuggled cheetohs to pints of Ben and Jerrys or midnight slices of pizza. I still am responsible for cleaning my room (because we no longer share rooms and Emily, for some reason, doesn’t want to pay me back for all those years she tricked me into cleaning up for her). And while we no longer share a bedroom so I don’t have to turn off my light when she says, I do sometimes have to decide when it’s time, after our 5th episode of Gilmore Girls, to turn off the tv and call it a night.

Even after all those years of growing, somehow Emily and I still fit. This sometimes surprises people – when I mention that I live with my sister they’ll give me half-smiles and ask, “How’s THAT going?” And I tell them – in earnest honesty – it’s great.

Being an adult roommate to my sister allows me to think about my life in context. With college friends or casual roommates you think about yourself in that time – how you are as a young adult making decisions, formulating five-year plans, and celebrating the milestones of young adulthood. With a sister roommate though, I am constantly appreciative of where I am because I’m reminded of where I’ve been from the one whose been there with me through it all – my sister.

She knows that sometimes when I say I’m tired I really just mean I need to go read by myself because I used to do the same thing when I was bookish and in the third grade. She knows it’s a big deal that I’ve been dating someone for three years because she was there for my three-week relationships in middle school. She knows my fear when confronted with steamed broccoli and, though she’ll roll her eyes at my anxiety, she’ll cheer me when I stomach it anyway.

More than just knowing each other’s past, though, I’m thankful we have time in each other’s present, as real-deal grown ups doing real-deal things (and, okay fine, still sometimes watching The Parent Trap on the couch).

We lived apart for six years, and in those six years Emily went from being my intimidating teenage sister to a hyper-accomplished, funny, butt-kicking adult who teaches me daily how to be a good human. She’ll scold me for walking home late at night, ply me with snacks when I’m scared, and give me firm pep-talks when I’m feeling pitiful and scared.

As sister-roommate children I copied her taste in music (Spice Girls) and clothing (backwards hats), but as sister-roommates adult, I try my best to copy the way she faces adult life – with kindness, bravery, and confidence.


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