I’ve always known my sister was an exceptionally wise person.
Actually, perhaps not always. It probably began the day that she convinced our younger brother that it would be a good idea, in fact that it was of the utmost necessity, that he plait his hair in pigtails, paint his nails neon-bright and work out some complex choreography to the Spice Girls with us. He, the blonde cherub, made a prettier child than either of his sisters, and today has the most refined musical pallet of any of us. Touché, little brother. You took those traumatic formative experiences and made them your own. But I digress.
Returning to my guru sister, then. Two years my senior, tall and graceful with the kind of eyes that belong in a classic Disney cartoon, it was inevitable that much, if not most of my childhood would be spent frantically scrabbling to emulate her big-girl make up, her superior wardrobe, even – and especially – her spiky teenage handwriting. Classic little sister hero-worship. Similar, in fact, to the same kind of awe reserved for those superhuman beings who not only manage to do the thing they do exceptionally well, but do it looking absurdly perfect and speaking some good sense at the same time. Hugh Jackman and Jessica Ennis, here’s looking at you, kid.
There is, however, a problem with heroes. Over time, we become immune to their infallibility. Beyoncé drops an immaculate secret album? A shock at the time, sure, but just a few months later and it feels like the natural progression on her way to beatification. Extraordinary as people like Queen Bey are, we treat them with the complacency of sun-struck Brits abroad, just waiting for their pale hides to be singed to a crisp. These heroes are inspirational, sure: they win medals, break records, make us laugh, cry, convince us that we, too, could pull off a lemon yellow body-con dress. But we expect it of them. What siblings and sisters do, though, is much more impressive. It may seem unlikely that inspiration would come from the same person whose tragic teenage outfits you’ve had exclusive access to (and often stolen). Bizarrely enough, it does; and when it does, it’s usually even more useful because it’s so unexpected.
For myself, this happened on an extraordinarily ordinary day whilst walking with dinosaurs – or, less excitingly, dinosaur statues – in a very foggy Crystal Palace Park. In bewildered retreat from the madness of freshers year, I had gone to visit my sister. We leisurely meandered through the day, mockingly passing judgement on nearby runners and talking about everything and nothing – mostly life and work and dreams and plans and boys. Out of that long, rambling, disjointed conversation, my sister accidentally stumbled upon what has stuck with me as the absolute truth of life, the universe and everything (spoiler alert): ‘it’s all about finding someone who complements your crazy.’
Think about it – it really does just make pure, perfect sense. Someone who complements, rather than compliments your crazy.
Someone who compliments your crazy will pretend you look great when you’ve rolled out of an alcohol induced temporary coma, with holey socks and toilet brush hair and eyes stuck together with last night’s contact lenses. They’re lying, by the way. Out of politeness, in order to protect themselves from your crazy. This someone can range from a casual acquaintance to a sympathetic shoulder for a few stray tears, but that’s as far as it goes.
Whereas that someone – or, if you’re lucky, some people – who complements your crazy will, on that hung-over morning, be found curled up on your bed in the foetal position around your ancient teddy. Someone who complements your crazy doesn’t just understand you and all your bizarre or gross habits, but is also the parts you can’t quite be for yourself. Basically, when you feel shit, this person is like the human version of a particularly vigorous juice cleanse or hot yoga in a tropical climate in a thermal jumper. Their effect is undeniable; they just make you feel better.
And, most importantly, it’s all about finding someone. This someone is, admittedly, elusive. Their ghost haunts the echoingly judgemental depths of every post-break up Ben&Jerry’s ice cream carton; they are behind every pointed Taylor Swift lyric, and the loveable hero of every Richard Curtis film ever made. But once you’ve found this someone, be they lover, sister or friend, human or canine or feline, it’s amazing how everything begins to make sense.