When I was 10, I resolved all my problems by drawing up a contract. It all started when my grandma told me that she’d once tried escargot.
“You mean, you ate a snail?” I asked her, overwrought. This seemed desperately unfair to me. Imagine that French chef from “The Little Mermaid” with that unnecessarily large butcher knife, chasing a snail around his kitchen instead of the deft crab Sebastian. No snail would have a fighting chance! Also, eating snails was gross.
I must have been looking at her with the very face of agony, because within seconds she promised that she had never eaten, and would never eat, escargot again.
“Really?” I asked her, unwilling to let the subject drop.
“Do you want me to sign a contract?” she said.
My contract-writing chops would solve many problems in my preadolescent future, but not as many as I had hoped. Unfortunately, not many people were willing to sign my legally binding documents. No one, that is, except my little sister.
Discovering this was like discovering 20 dollars in my dryer filter. Really, really great.
I recalled every argument we’d ever had with a sense of awe. They played in my head like a film — “Sabrina and Miranda: A History of Conflict.” But it didn’t have to be this way. With a bit of ink and a piece of paper, we could solve everything.
Like most younger siblings, Miranda had the infuriating habit of wanting everything that was mine. And like most older siblings, I was fantastically bitter about it. Contracts are the perfect solution to this conundrum, should you be pretentious enough to write them at the age of 10.
Poor Miranda. She signed contracts promising to let me hand out Christmas presents, a coveted job in our household, for three years in a row, and not to read my favorite book because it was “my thing.” She even signed a contract that stated the following, “Miranda will be less annoying, and Sabrina will try to tolerate her.” I signed my name on both my line and the witness line, because had anyone else been present, they surely would’ve suggested that Miranda hire a lawyer to defend her rights.
But as we grew older, Miranda eventually realized that signing my contracts was not in her favor, and we went back to resolving conflicts the regular, old way: mild physical violence — I once lightly punched her forearm — extremely passive aggressive remarks — “Someone ate my cereal” — and your classic silent treatment. Later, I would tuck the contracts into a box labeled “Childhood Things” and imagine myself stumbling across them as a middle-aged woman with children of my own, because even though I had fond memories of coercing my dewy-eyed little sister into signing her life over to me, I realized that, being teenagers now, we were old enough to share.
Hah, just kidding.
Both old enough to drive and close enough in size to fit in each other’s clothes, the list of things I shared with Miranda was only growing. We learned to compromise, but it was just that: compromise. Neither of us truly got what we wanted. But we love each other and all that stuff siblings don’t talk about, so we figured it out.
Years passed. She started to style her hair like mine, but I made her stop. I lost her cardigan, but I never replaced it. She read my favorite book, but it was OK because it wasn’t my favorite book anymore. I went to Berkeley, and she hugged me goodbye.
And suddenly, everything was mine.
Miranda would, both literally and figuratively, never walk another mile in my shoes. But as I walked down Telegraph Avenue and onto campus on my first day of class, I realized that I wanted her to. Figuratively, that is. I loved having my shoes back.
That first semester, I’d text, Skype and call Miranda consistently. I’d even invite her to visit. Proximity had blinded me to the fact that even though I hated sharing things with my sister, I loved sharing experiences with her. And it felt strange to be having the experience of my life — the college experience — without her there.
So when Miranda was accepted to UC Berkeley two years later, I think I might have been happier than she was. Before she could even finish reading aloud her acceptance letter, I’d plotted out when we’d have lunch, what we’d visit in San Francisco and which cafes I’d take her to.
Much to my delight, she seemed to embrace my plans. A part of me was worried that she, struck with the justice of a karmic role-reversal, would whip out the ol’ pen and ink and demand that I be less annoying, and sign here, please. But she didn’t. So it seems that, at least for now, we have finally found something to share.
“Off the Beat” columns are guest columns written by Daily Cal staff until the fall semester’s regular opinion writers are selected.