While I’ve been on hiatus from writing, I’ve been keeping a few notes here and there on topics that may be interesting to write about. So this morning when I realized that I actually had the time and inclination to do a bit of writing I pulled up some of those ideas and this one was right at the top: Differences between me and my sister — she doesn’t want to shop at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.

This little nugget emerged from a discussion over Christmas Eve dinner at my mom’s house. We were talking about food and the subject of lactose intolerance came up. I noted that for years I thought I had it, then my doc tested me for food sensitivities and it turned out my problem  was with cow milk (and all things cow dairy). I can drink goat milk without any problems and can eat all the cheese I want as long as it’s made from goat or sheep milk. (And as long as I don’t mind packing on the pounds from eating all the cheese I want since cheese is so delicious, yet fatty! Nom, nom, nom!)

When my stepbrother asked me where I got goat milk, I said at certain ethnic markets, as well as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. This is where my sister jumped in to comment. “I refuse to shop at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. I can get the same stuff they sell for a lot less at the fruit market near my house. People that shop there are more into their image and I don’t want to be like them.” That may not be an *exact* quote but it is pretty darn close.

When later recounting this to my boyfriend he had a similar reaction to mine: how could she possibly criticize people based on their desire for “image?” Here are a few things to know about my sister.

  • She buys and reads Cosmopolitan and Self magazine. (She’s in her mid-40s by the way; I can’t understand how someone in her age group can relate to anything in Cosmo magazine.)
  • She drives a bright red Volvo convertible.
  • She regularly refreshes her wardrobe with new clothes.
  • For work she most often wears hose, skirts, dresses, and suits, despite the business casual dress code.
  • Outside of work she wears what I call “MILF fashion.” Lots of low cut tops, short shorts, tight pants, and “cute shoes.”
  • Make up and cosmetics are very important to her and she wears them every day.

Looking at her life from my perspective, she is very image conscious and places a high importance on image cultivation. In many ways I am a total opposite of her. I don’t wear make up, I rarely purchase clothes, I don’t “dress up,” and I would never buy a gas-guzzling, sporty convertible. We are like a study in contrasts in so many ways.

How did we get to be this way? We were raised in the same household by the same parents and are just under two years apart in age. Our family life while growing up was lower-middle class. We lived in a small house in an uncool suburb, wore KMart clothes, and ate a lot of ground beef dishes.

Looked at another way we are very similar, though. We both value hard work and a DIY approach to life. We do our own gardening and yard care. We clean our own houses. (And perhaps it’s worth reminding that when I was briefly living with my sister during my divorce she charged me rent.)

We learned how to shop for groceries by being dragged along with mom on her weekly shopping trips. We watched her scan sales flyers, clip coupons, and create complex shopping lists that included stops at several grocery stores. (Which all were located conveniently at one intersection. There were three grocery stores on three corners, so stopping at so many stores didn’t involve a lot of driving, either.)

Breaking it down, my sister’s main objectives to shopping at grocers like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are cost and image. Image is definitely subjective, and cost…well, cost is also a reflection of values.

In that Christmas Eve conversation, I noted that the closest grocer to me is Whole Foods and that I valued saving gas and time by going to the closer grocer. (This was questioned, but not challenged. I looked up the distance between my house and the closest grocers later that night and found that, technically, a local grocer called Jewel is a bit closer to my house since it is 1.2 miles away and Whole Foods is 1.4 miles away.) I like to ride my bike to the grocer during the warmer months, and I like to buy a lot of organic food products, so the closeness of Whole Foods means that I go there quite a bit.

One sister likes to save money on food by driving to Costco and purchasing big slabs of farm-raised Atlantic salmon; the other sister pays a higher cost for wild caught salmon, but saves money by not making a car payment every month. Which one is right? Neither. It’s just not productive to argue values.

But I think the fact that we can have a discussion that involves discussing the cost of items is important. Whether “cost” means the pay out at the cash register or a more complex accounting that includes fuel, time, and other less tangible things.

For those with siblings, how do you compare with each other? Are you very alike or very different? Do you talk about values, including money?

5 thoughts on “Siblings

  1. Wow can I relate. Although my sister and I are quite alike, “hippy-dippy” as my bf likes to call me (affectionately of course). We both like Whole Food and Trader Joes.

    My brothers on the other hand are polor opposites. They are far right wing conservatives. We can not be in a room for 5 mins. before he will say something stupid I disagree with. Generally I keep my mouth shut but I wonder how we grew up in the same house also.


  2. My sister and I both miss TJ’s tremendously and we both shop at Whole Foods (she shops frequently because there’s one in her neighborhood, I have to drive into the city). Other than that you sound like me and your sister sounds like my sister, only hers is a Mini-cooper, not a Volvo. In many ways we’re similar (math, money, work ethic etc.) and in many ways she differentiated herself to be different (athletic, fashionable etc.)


  3. Pingback: Rolling in the Link love « Grumpy rumblings of the untenured

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