Written by Susan Hanks

Voices

The sisterhood

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s much-anticipated (at least by us) comedy Sisters is released today. Lord help the mister who comes between Susan Hanks and her biggie.

HanksSis

Susan and big sis Lisa share a tender sibling moment.

As the untidier sibling, it’s a cruel irony that Lisa inhabited our mother’s womb first. I hate sitting in other people’s mess. However, she was born to be a big sister, a trait recognised with such confidence by our parents that they allowed her to name me. No surprise to them that she chose to call me Susan, as that was her choice for all toys, dolls and inanimate objects, regardless of gender. I really nearly could have been a boy named Sue.

I’m somewhat careless and fancy-free in my approach to life. I blindly bumble through and know that there are a handful of humans that will steer me back on track before disaster hits. Perhaps this fits perfectly into the role of the younger child, while the elder displays a more diligent and steadfast side and paves the path ahead. I’ll always follow and trust her implicitly, even though I know that her actual grasp of directions and route finding is as crap as mine.

The six-year age gap was tricky to bridge when we were growing up. Lisa imagined that I would be a ready-to-go playmate and was more than a little disappointed with my excessive sleeping, eating and bodily functions. I’ve always been the same. Thankfully our Nan bought her a new bike and that kept her busy for the several years that followed while I learned to walk, talk and manipulate Mum more successfully than she could.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in Sisters. Photo: Universal Films.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in Sisters. Photo: Universal Films.

Aged 11 and 17, life went full circle and it was the passing of Nan that was the beginning of us becoming best friends. Unable to process no longer being able to spend every weekend with the lady that played post offices with me for hours and watched all of my arena tours (set in her council-flat living room), the void that our Nan left for me was filled when my big sister swept in and took me ‘up town’ on Saturdays.

She spent her wages from her part-time job on baked spuds which we ate on the church yard bench, a McDonald’s milkshake, Smash Hits and our bus fare home (we walked if I’d been greedy). She’d still spend her last penny on me now, except the dairy-based drink would be replaced with a grape-based one. It could still comfortably be consumed on a park bench though, I reckon.

“When I was 16 she took me on holiday to Greece and let me sample as many cocktails as my paper-round would afford and taught me the valuable lesson of clearing up your own vomit because no one else wants to; not even a big sister.”

We moved to a new area when I was 12, which was terrible timing as Lisa proved that she was the brains in the family, turned 18 and went off to university. In the space of one summer I’d moved away from my friends and my best friend had moved away from me. I did the only thing that could be done in 1992 and became addicted to Sonic the Hedgehog and letter-writing. Lisa rarely wrote back but she did call from her student digs. We talked and hurled insults at each other in homage to our favourite comedy The Mary Whitehouse Experience and I did my Alison Moyet impression for all her new pals until her pennies ran out.

When I was 15, Mum allowed me to visit her and put me on the National Express where I was met at the other end and whisked away immediately to the pub. I was then subject to a ‘makeover’, which helped me pass as 18, and taken clubbing. Sorry Mum. It was all her fault.

HanksSis2When I was 16 she took me on holiday to Greece and let me sample as many cocktails as my paper-round would afford and taught me the valuable lesson of clearing up your own vomit because no one else wants to; not even a big sister. I applied the same rule on the evening of her wedding day, knowing full well that the pistachio satin frock she’d allocated was ruined. Shame.

Yes, we’ve had our humdingers over the years and we don’t always agree with each other but we will always be a united front and a force to be reckoned with. Lisa once described me as ‘fiercely loyal’, which paints me as a bit of a Rottweiler. If we were in fact, dogs, then she would be a lolloping Labrador with limited spatial awareness, happiest when eating and outdoors and the most faithful friend you could wish for. With dreadful wind.

There are some phrases, glances, glares and moments that are impenetrable by others. There are times when we can call our parents on speakerphone, and swap voices without their knowing. There’s an ugly side of life that pushes you to a point that is so low that only she can listen as I rant and rave in my pyjamas with unwashed hair and black eyes and then she’ll still convince me that there is beauty ahead.

My sister is proper ace. Whatever you do, don’t tell her though. I’d fail in my role as tormentor, lose my cool and she’ll sit on me. Actually.

@susan_hanks

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Written by Susan Hanks

Presenter on Moorlands Radio 103.7FM Drive Time, weekdays 4-7pm. Join Susan in 'shaking what ya mamma gave ya' for the daily Derriere Dance. Rhythm/leotard not essential.