As you can imagine from the perspective of a middle-child boy in between two sisters, I have a lot of issues. Growing up was difficult with two girls constantly ganging up on me and forcing me to play the board games “Mall Madness” and “Pretty Pretty Princess” while all I wanted to do was go in my backyard and try to get bugs to fight in a jar. Like most siblings, we soon became very competitive with each other and constantly fought over life-altering issues, such as who would suffer the unfortunate experience of sitting in the middle seat of the car or get the privilege of eating the last pack of Dunkaroos. Going to the same high school as my sisters just made things more complicated. It was the little things that really annoyed me, like how my younger sister, Kirsten, loved to borrow my car at inconvenient times to drive it into Boston, snow banks, and other parked cars. One of my extracurricular activities in high school was devoted entirely to keeping other guys away from Kirsten, a hobby that she did not seem too thrilled about. I soon discovered that I spent too time scaring off “undesirables” and should instead have kept my eye on people like my best friend.
Even now, I have to deal with sharing the same school with my sisters. As many Harvard siblings can attest, it is not an easy thing to do. My older sister, Kelsey, is now an alumna, and her time here has affected my current experience in a number of ways. For one thing, I live in the same house she did, and even have the same Harvard mailing address. As a result I keep getting junk mail that is addressed to her, and I think my friends are starting to get creeped out when I keep pulling Ann Taylor and Victoria’s Secret catalogues out of my mailbox.
As for my parents, since I’m the second child they’ve put through Harvard, they already know way too much about the college and what to expect. The problem with this? You got it. I can’t lie to them. For example: “Mom, Dad, I got a bad grade in this class but only because it’s like, the hardest course at Harvard.” “That’s a little hard for us to buy, son. In fact, your older sister took that same class when she was a freshman. She ended up getting an A- even though she had missed much of the semester while recovering from knee surgery, and had to take the final exam with an acute case of laryngitis that prevented her from be able to even read the questions, forcing her to guess what they were and make up her own answers.” They also didn’t believe my story that “Junior Parents Weekend” is merely a rumor and should not be acted upon.
I was able to enjoy one year at Harvard with no siblings here. I have to admit that part of me panicked when I found out that Kirsten decided to join me at college. I was convinced that she would get better grades than me, be more successful athletically, steal my friends, and that my parents would love her more as a result. Of course, all of this came true. My parents have enjoyed watching Kirsten score goals for the nationally ranked women’s ice hockey team. I’m not so sure how exciting it was for them to watch me stretch during warm-ups before football games. Her GPA trumps mine, and I have a really difficult time trying to explain to people that Harvard’s infamous grade inflation applies to her, but not to me. Kirsten is also involved some impressive student organizations and other extracurricular activities on campus. Sure, I write a column for the Crimson. But while all of the other Crimson columnists are writing about important issues that have a profound impact on Harvard and even the world at large, I use my column to try and make my generally awkward life sound cool to girls and to brag about how sweet I am at video games.
It’s easy to be allies with Kirsten at home. Ever since my parents have banned me from using the oven, I have no choice but to rely on her if I want something to eat other than Dunkaroos. As I enter the second half of my junior year, I’m starting to realize that having her around school isn’t so bad either. College is an exciting time in our lives where we learn about ourselves and start figuring out our identities. I think most students who also have siblings at Harvard will agree with me when I say that it means a lot to be able to share this experience with someone who is so important to our past, present, and future lives. Siblings are people you can always count on. I can always count on my sisters to piss me off. But I also can rely on them to help me out on difficult questions like, “What was the name of that board game we used to play as kids where I would end up wearing a tiara on my head?”
Eric A. Kester ’08 is an anthropology concentrator in Winthrop House. His column appears on alternate Fridays.