​Beyoncé, Solange and the Insane Complexity of Sisters and Marriage

Illustration for article titled ​Beyoncé, Solange and the Insane Complexity of Sisters and Marriage

Rampant speculation aside, when I think about what went down in that elevator with Beyoncé and Solange and Jay-Z, I cannot help but be reminded that anytime there is a fight between your sister and your man, it is also — inextricably — about you. Because that's what it's like.


Of course, none of us can really know what the deal is in that video. But I think many of us are struck by what it seems like — I am struck by the way it seems like Beyoncé isn't exactly diving in maniacally to stop it. It makes it seem like she thinks her sister's angry lunging is justified. Which makes it seem like what Solange is doing is defending Beyoncé, or defending herself. Maybe both.


In a way, there's little difference. Because when you have a sister, it's sometimes hard to know where that line is. As someone who has three sisters, whose mother has only sisters, whose grandmother had only sisters, I have seen the myriad ways relationships between women and their sisters can play out, and the continual, evolving blurred lines of boundaries. Not just in terms of the varying levels of harmony versus acrimony that can occur between them, but also because of everything that can come up when a dude is added to the mix.

Yes, sisters can be competitive and fiercely protective of one another, often simultaneously, but it's even more complicated than that. When a sister marries, that union can be a reflection of everything you too might choose or attract in a mate. Or not. After all, what is a sister but a terrifyingly close example of your own genetic code scrambled up just slightly different, for better or for worse, for envy or for pity, forever and ever?

And what is her man but an example of the sort of person drawn to that genetic code? I don't mean to say that any boyfriend/husband of your sister could easily be your boyfriend/husband — sisters certainly can have wildly different tastes (or scarily similar). Just that a man bonded to your sister is a man bonded to you, with the noteworthy asterisk that he is in relatively good standing until he isn't. He can fall out of favor by offending you (which offends you and your sister) or offending your sister (which offends you and your sister).

Of course, we mustn't make sweeping generalizations about sisters. In my experience, it's complicated:

Sometimes all you want is for your sister to find a good man.

Sometimes, when she does, you're jealous.

Sometimes you think you're the one who deserves a man that good.

Sometimes you think he's great but you don't think he's great enough.

Sometimes, when he's a shit, you want to punch him in the balls yourself.

Sometimes, you think your sister got what she had coming to her if she won't punch him in the balls herself.


Sometimes you feel like shit when you think that.

Sometimes you want all the things your sister got for yourself.

Sometimes you want your sister to have one of the good things you got, just once, just a little.


Together, my sisters and I have had so many boyfriends with various approval ratings. Most of them were benignly mediocre, but I have hated — hated — some of the boyfriends/husbands of my sisters. Not because they were necessarily bad guys, though sometimes they were legit terrible, but because they were bad for them. Not good enough. Not nice enough. Not smart enough. Not caring enough. Maybe they signified my sister settling, maybe they signified the same kinds of boyfriends I'd had and didn't want to be reminded of. Maybe they signified all of our weirdnesses and insecurities in one dude who couldn't appreciate the beauty in any of us.

Currently I am the only married sister of my sisters. My husband gets along well with all my sisters — he happens to get along well with everyone — but in the past, I've been talked to by my sisters about various less-than-ideal boyfriends I've had. We've often freely commented on the quality of the dudes brought 'round. Currently I'd say my sisters have paired up well, or at least, in ways that make them happy, and right now, that is enough to make me happy for them. But that is always subject to change.


But even when your sister throws all in with someone decent and wonderful to share life's ups and downs and all-arounds with, he is never immune from saying, doing, or being wrong enough to warrant your protective impulses kicking in, no matter how much you do or don't respect your sister's choices and life and boundaries. Because that's what it's like.

When men enter the picture of such a sisterhood, they can be mystified by the complexity of that. How can you be so annoyed by someone you talk to every day? So protective and defensive about someone whose choices you just scrutinized? *Shrug.* Because that's what it's like.


In other words, there are easily a handful of my sisters' boyfriend's that I'd like to lunge angrily at in an elevator, and I suppose the current ones are never exactly immune. That wouldn't make any sense to them, but it would make sense to us. Because that's what it's like.

Photo via Getty.