Dear Amy: My sister lives across the country. She has been married for 33 years. They’ve raised two daughters who are now adults, but she’s been living the most boring life ever!
I don’t know how she could be happy doing nothing but cooking and cleaning for all these years. And then she has the nerve to criticize me for not having enough time in my day, when she has no clue what it’s like to work full time.
Well, OK, she did work full time once — years ago before her daughters were born. She also had a little job when her kids were in school, but it wasn’t a “real job,” just a little part-time lunch-lady position.
I can’t understand why she doesn’t want to work more and help her poor husband with their finances. Then they could travel and see the world! They hardly ever go anywhere. I want so much more for her!
She has never had to live through things like illness, job loss or divorce, as I have. She has been supportive sometimes, but not all the time. I guess I’m a bit jealous because she has so much free time.
I’ve asked her to write me a list of what she does all day. I’ve sent her lists of what I manage to accomplish in the three hours I have in my home, but she has declined to provide her list.
It’s so sad that she has never had any aspirations!
It makes me so sad to feel like she’s wasted her life; she’s only in her 50s! I told her all this in an e-mail, but now she’s mad at me for just being honest. She expects an apology, but I’m hurt now, too. How do we get past this? Do you have any advice on getting her to see my view? — Frustrated Sister in PA
Amy rightfully smacks her down.
The ressentiment here is hidden worse than a toddler’s lies. This women is alone, hurting, and busy-working herself to death, and you can tell she hates it, however much she protests otherwise. She has so little going on in her life, she spends the”three hours I have in my home” on hectoring her contented sister who lives on the other side of the country. She’s looking for validation for her misery, but her sister refuses to provide it by buying into her lies, so instead she tries to destroy her sister’s life because she wants “so much more for her!”
She has refused to tend her own garden, she has leaned in, and now she seethes with resentment towards her sister who is “wasting her life” on creating a loving family. Instead of a family, she chose divorce and a job, and you can feel the pain and betrayal she experienced with her job loss. You can also feel it from her mention of illness; I do not think many people were there to care for her.
Notice how in her miserable ressentiment, she frames her choices as compared to her sisters. “Aspirations!” “So much more!” “Boring”
Having a quiet, happy family life is not an aspiration, but working for a job which would abandon you any time the profit margins were right is? Working your ass off, so you only have 3 hours of free time a day, so that you can go on a vacation once a year is more? Having a contented home life is less? Having a happy family is boring, but working in a cubicle for 13 hours a day is not?
What kind of mutilated soul thinks that way?
This women is in her 50’s, or thereabouts. Retirement looms in a decade. What will her life be when she doesn’t even have her job to distract her from her loneliness? How much of this rage towards her sister is because she knows that horror awaits her soon and she needs to justify the dear she feels to herself?
Dear young lady who may read this, reread that letter and decide carefully which of these sisters you want to be.