Who’s The Fairest Of Them All?

Sisterly Competition

Bridget and I were lying in bed reading last night when she activated a sleeper cell to commit jihad against me. “Mommy, who’s prettier?  Me or Clare?” she asked casually. Clare is, of course, her older sister who callously exists.

Careful. Careful! You answer this wrong, Shannon, and you might as well be Shakespeare’s anti-heroine, Tamor who unwittingly ate a meat pie made of her children’s flesh.

Let me backtrack a moment.

When my own sister and I were 7 and 8 some stranger-lady came up to us in a store unsolicited and announced that I was prettier than my sister. That settled it. I was the prettiest. I had no problem with that. That lady wasn’t being a mean, destructive bitch-wagon, she was just being informative.

Well, imagine my consternation when my sister’s unfortunate Dorothy Hamill haircut grew out and my silken golden locks hit puberty, turning into dishwater blond pubic hair on my head.

Imagine my chagrin when my sister’s breasts came in her freshman year while my sophomore boobs looked like two mosquito bites surrounded by teenage chest acne.

My sister in 1980
Me in 1980

12th grade boys wanted to date my sister! Wuz up wid dat? 

The final blow came when my best friend since third grade turned to me while we watched my sister perform a cheerleading routine to Oingo Boingo’s I Like Little Girls with the entire boy’s varsity football team panting behind her, and said to me, “You know, I used to think you were prettier than Gina, but I don’t know anymore.”

“I am prettier!” I wanted to scream. “Some fat lady wearing bifocals in the camp store at Lake Cachuma told me I was in 1973!”

Over the years I’ve based my self-worth on whether I was pretty or not at any given time (hence the title of this blog). And I don’t think it’s a stretch to say a lot of women do. But…

My Daughters Can’t Do That!

They should stay neither too fat nor too thin, too tall nor too short, blemish free and straight-of-tooth, hair attractively coiffed, body tastefully clothed.

AND they should do all of that without really caring about it. It should be accidental, not pre-meditated.

Instead they should be geniuses who work at MIT coming up with technologies for restoring the evaporating ozone layer, then volunteer summers at Women For Women International on the ground in some African country that preferably isn’t in a civil war.  

They should meet rugged war correspondents like Sebastian Junger who will want to marry them for their derring do, not the ephemeral quality of their beauty.

My sister and her three girls. All rare beauties.

I don’t want either of them to care who is prettier. I want them to be the exact same amount of pretty.

I don’t ever want some moronic stranger coming up to them and announcing “I see who got the looks in the family.” What the hell is wrong with people anyway?

So how do you answer, “Mom, who’s prettier? Me or Clare?”

I am one of the lucky ones, because I honestly believe in my response, “You each have your own rare beauty, honey.”
I’d love to know how you handle the who’s prettier, smarter, more athletic etc etc questions?

13 thoughts on “Who’s The Fairest Of Them All?”

  1. I grew up with a sister who had blond hair, blue eyes and a little button nose. I had glasses, klutziness, and tangled brown hair in my favor. Plus she was little and mischievous, and cute, and I was tall and supposed to be the responsible one. So I know where you are coming from! But I also know that things turned around after a number of years — not that the initial damage (and jealousy!) of those early formative years can be undone. I should be grateful that I am avoiding carrying this trauma to a new generation by having just one boy and one girl. Your nieces — how do they manage?!?!

  2. Shannon Bradley-Colleary

    I think the good news about my nieces is that none of them are warty and buck-toothed. And the really good news is that after 40 we kind of know what works on us and what doesn't. And we're just grateful to have sisters.

  3. sweetkyrajane

    My sons want to know who I love more. I tell them I love them differently, but equally. Not sure that's the same thing.

  4. Is that really a picture of your sister? Boy she's so pretty. Why doesn't she write the blog?

    But for real, the situation you are writing about is so fraught with hidden explosive mines. And the older kids get, the more vital information they get about themselves and consider valid comes from outside the home. It's a wonder anyone survives.

  5. Shannon Bradley-Colleary

    My dearest Hal — she already had the attention of all the cute boys in high school, she can't have the blog! And you're right, it is a miracle any of us scratch out of the teens and 20s with half a brain.

  6. My eldest daughter has several times said while me, her sister, and my husband are in the room – I know you're the smarter one, Samantha! So there's no being a good mom and not making sure I don't just buy into that, but I also don't want to be putting Samantha down as I jump in!! Grrr. Luckily, it's very true that they're each smart in different ways. Samantha aces the state exams, but Natalie's writing is really exceptional (okay, Samantha beats us all at math, but I think we can deal with that.) 🙂

  7. Shannon Bradley-Colleary

    HI Catherine — they do try to trap us into admitting something, don't they? Sneaky little minxes.

  8. When my sister and I were very young, she was a girly girl and I was a tomboy. Family and friends would look at her long lashes, cherubic face, and cascade of dark waves and say, "She's soooo beautiful." Then they'd look at me with my short haircut and overalls and say, "So . . . still getting good grades?"

  9. Oh don’t get me started as I have an identical twin, so talk about comparisons. I actually feel sorry for my sister as I got all the looks, brains, love, personality, charm, and humility. It’s true. My parents said so. Really

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