The youngest of the family—now the mother of two daughters and author of The Pretty One—opens up about a few old sibling secrets.
1. When you won that college scholarship for exceptional high school students from the Golden Nugget Casino—and the whole family got invited to Atlantic City to watch you collect your award, stay overnight in the hotel and meet with casino magnate Steve Wynn under a giant chandelier—I thought you were a total rock star. I couldn't believe that, at the age of 17, you'd already achieved international fame. At least, that was how it seemed to your 14-year-old sister, who wasn't particularly interested in school and who spent her free time roller-skating and making obstacle courses in the backyard. I know you were a little embarrassed. But to me, you'd singlehandedly transported our family, with our beat-up station wagons and discount clothes, to a whole new realm of glamour and possibility.
2. That time I tried to borrow Pardon Me, You're Stepping on My Eyeball! (Or was it Harriet the Spy?) and you made me check it out of your personal "library," complete with hand-stamped return date, I admit I thought you were totally uptight. But then, I used to be the type who didn't return things, who was always late for everything, who was always making excuses. Eventually, I began to realize what you'd somehow always known and were possibly trying to teach me that day—that leading a responsible life also makes for a happy life. And that drama is less exciting than it is stressful.
3. I know you think I'm unnaturally obsessed with skincare. However, a microscopic dollop of moisturizer on your index finger, applied to your face, is not enough! At our age, you need to slather it on—nightly. And while I know your "to-do" list is long, there's simply no reason for you to be walking around with chaffed cheeks on your very pretty face.
Next: What I wish you'd do when I'm upset...
4. Sometimes, when I'm upset and call to complain, I just wish you'd let me be miserable and tell me that you're sorry and that it sucks—and that I'm right to be outraged at having had 75 dollars deducted from the security on our Florida vacation rental on account of a broken manatee ornament that I swear I didn't break—instead of saying, "It's just 75 bucks. In the bigger picture, it's meaningless. Forget about it." I know your instinct is to help me and to fix things, but most of the time, I'm not looking for advice or to be calmed down or rationalized with. I just want you to utter a few tsking noises that make me feel like you understand my pain, however ludicrous the source.
5. I still feel bad about the embarrassing toast I gave at your wedding. I didn't mean to suggest that the groom liked to wear disco jackets made of satin. (I just needed something to rhyme with the word "Manhattan.") And I was just trying—maybe too hard—to be funny. I realize now that it wasn't the time or place, especially with your academic advisor sitting in the front row.
6. By being such a high achiever, you inspired me to try harder. By allowing me to lean on and look up to you, you taught me how to be independent and stand up for myself. And by making fun of me at every opportunity, you taught me to laugh at myself. Which is all to say: even as I've purposefully carved out a different life than the one you have—namely, one that requires me to leave the house as infrequently as possible, while you circumnavigate the globe, attend conferences and give talks—you remain my role model and guide in all matters to do with life, love and, most importantly, friendship.