I was never really a child. By the age of 20 months I already had a younger brother, and by the time I was twelve years old, I had eight younger brothers and sisters.
So I grew up always knowing more than almost everybody else. I learned how to do things first and then taught them. I was given responsibilities for looking after them, and my authority was almost equal to that of my parents. As a result, I grew up with a sense of confidence and independence that is so deeply-rooted that it almost feels genetic. But it isn’t genetic. It’s learned from having thousands of right answers, from years of being in charge, from knowing better or at least thinking that I knew better for the first two decades of my life.
As my younger sibs became adults, they began to tease me about always knowing best and gave me the honorary title of Lucy.
I hope I have modified my tendency toward telling everybody else what to do all the time. But I am still an older sister. I don’t expect to be given advice I don’t ask for and don’t take kindly to its being given. I do ask for people’s opinions, but I don’t expect them to make decisions for me.
I’ve recognized these things about myself for many years. But I have only just realized that all the women with whom I have been friends for any enduring length of time are themselves also oldest sisters. I can’t believe this pattern is a complete coincidence. I sense in other oldest sisters the same self-rootedness I learned growing up. I find it liberating and supportive at the same time. This independence in others frees me of a kind of responsibility for them that, unasked, I often spontaneously assume in relation to others.