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Book Explores Bonds of Sisterhood - 2004-04-16

From Romulus and Remus, who founded ancient Rome, to Orville and Wilbur Wright, to the Jackson Five and the BeeGees, brothers have provided support and encouragement for each other. The bond between sisters is just as strong, just not as well documented. It is an important area in women's lives and experts say it's never too late to rediscover what might be an invisible or neglected sisterhood.

Eight-year-old Chloe's little sister, Phoebe, is three. "My sister sometimes gets a little bit pain in the neck, but sometimes she can really be very nice and sweet when we act kind to her," she said. "I love the way she always acts so cute when she says 'Chloe, I love you.' What annoys me the most is when she hits me."

When girls get a little bit older, they usually stop hitting each other, but as 19-year-old Pamela says, her younger sister, Laura, can still be a huge source of annoyance. "When she does stupid things, when she doesn't take responsibility for her actions and doesn't seem to care about other people and what they need," she said.

With Pamela moving out of the house for college, 17-year old Laura says they don't disagree or fight as often and if we put the fights aside, Laura feels it's a blessing to have an older sister. "She's nice and she's very supportive," she said. "She's just there for me. She knows a lot of stuff that I don't. I just can learn from her. She doesn't always know that she's teaching me, but I learn from her."

Bernie, who is ten years older than Melissa, believes that sisters can always learn from each other. "Melissa is so much better with money than I am," she added. "She's much more organized than I am, so she brings that element to my life."

As the years passed, the two sisters have become each other's best friend.

BERNIE: "When we get together we do act like kids, we go to amusement parks, carnivals. We like to go shopping. We like to do silly things together We like to laugh and have a good time."
MELISSA: "She has given me great strength specially since our both parents passed away in the last five years, our relationship strengthened by the sister bond."

Like Melissa, Bernie, Laura, Pamela and Chloe, writer Debra Ginsberg appreciates having a sister. "I think sisters have a very deep connection," she said. "I don't want to say that's deeper than other family relationship, but I do think it's different. I think sisters have, maybe, another layer to their relationship by the virtual fact that sisters not only share all that family history, but also share the experience of being women or becoming women. I think that adds a layer of, maybe, mystery and I think that's what makes it a more stronger bond."

In her book, About My Sisters, author Ginsberg talks about her experience as a role model for her three younger sisters. "I think you fall into that role, the older sister, the one who is supposed to set the example for the younger ones," she said. "I'm the only one, out of the four of us, who has a child. So therefore, it's up to me to set an example for them about motherhood since none of them has children yet."

The four Ginsberg girls live near each other, and usually get together on weekends and talk to each other on almost a daily basis. Debra Ginsberg feels that disagreements are part of their relationship. "But the thing is in the end, you're bonded and your sisters are always your sisters," she added. "So we give each other the license to be each other's harshest critics because our sisters, we know at the bottom of everything, want what's the best for us and love us dearly."

Ms. Ginsberg believes that bond is strengthened by parents who cherish family values. "Not just my mother, my father, both of them were really strong proponents of family," she said. What was very consistent through out our childhood was the fact that they stressed the importance of the family and sticking together. Even if you have problems with your siblings, you have to work it out because these are your people who are with you for life."

The author says it's never too late to 'work it out' and she encourages sisters to celebrate their bond, discover it or revisit it. "I think a lot of disagreements that turn into long-time sort of fears or argument are based on little things, perhaps a different interpretation of events when you were younger, perhaps based on rivalry for parent's attention going way back," she adds. "As you get older, these things are less important and what's more important is dealing with what's going on now. I think it's not too late."

In spite of the arguments, disagreements and, sometimes, harsh criticism, Laura has a final thought for her sister Pamela, "Just I love you, you're cool."

As Debra Ginsberg, author of About My Sisters, puts it, sisters illuminate each other and whatever light they possess individually is made that much brighter. She calls it the brilliance and power of sisters.