I met my first sister in the staff break room at my elementary school. She asked if I wanted an Oreo, I said yes. We had a sleepover arranged about fifteen minutes later.

When you grow up an only child, one of the things you obviously miss out on is a sibling relationship. I’d wanted multiple siblings – it wasn’t until I learned about how babies are *actually* made (thanks, Titanic) that I realized asking my parents for an older brother was pointless. But I still could have a little sister, right? I’d ask a time or two a year, but my parents would both get this disappointed look on their faces, and eventually I gave up. I found out years later that when I was 3, my dad had a vasectomy without telling my mom. Their plan was four kids and two Rottweilers, and instead they had an Alaskan malamute and one daughter – and my mom didn’t even get a say. So I grew up hoarding sisters – girls and women who understood me, who didn’t make me feel weird about being myself, who didn’t feel the need to fill silence with empty chatter.

Camilla was my first sister. We were attached at the hip. She was the first person I called when I was told my parents were getting a divorce, the first person I had long conversations with that delved into more “what if’s” than imaginable. We kept toothbrushes at each other’s houses and our families still know each other on a first-name basis. We were in each other’s weddings. I had to move 7 hours away from her right before eighth grade, and it broke both our hearts. I don’t talk to her nearly as much as I should, but she’ll always me in my heart as a sister, and she set the standard for all my other sisters – the thousands of them. Yes, thousands.

The rest of my sisters are a group – a big one. I never ever thought I’d join a sorority, because seriously? I was a punk-loving nerd, since when is that sorority material? But I went through rush my freshman year, and at final rounds I kept a piece of advice stuck in my head: “It’s your first day in the house after pledging, and they just got brand new white carpet. It’s plush, it’s soft, and it’s flawless – and you spill a gallon of red kool-aid ALL OVER IT. Where do you know you’d have girls immediately helping you clean up and try to help you laugh it off?” I went with the same three letters my mom had years before – ККГ, or Kappa Kappa Gamma. The girls I’d met there were relaxed – yeah, they took rush seriously, but they took you as a person more seriously. I felt like they wanted to actually know *me*, not just whatever boxes I could check. It was an eclectic group of girls – I hadn’t been able to pick one specific “Kappa girl,” and that made me feel like I had a shot. I took it, pledged, was initiated, and with that instantly gained *thousands* of sisters. I’d go to the sorority house to study, after breakups, when I needed someone to talk to, when I needed to get out of my head and feel productive, when I needed advice (or just a quiet space to think). It didn’t matter how well I did or didn’t know any particular sister, but I knew I could count on her if things went south. I knew there’d be a sister who’d listen when I needed to vent, a sister who would grab lunch with me, a sister who would study with me, a sister who would encourage me after some boy was an asshole. Seven years out of college and I still have sisters I talk to regularly, sisters who come to me with skincare questions, sisters who keep up with my family and kid.

It also meant meeting a lot of sisters outside of campus. I’ve been on vacation and seen random Kappa gear – boom, instant bond. I’ve met Kappas from national Kappa meetings who helped me plan my wedding and nursery. I’ve met celebrities and given our sorority’s handshake, just to get a smile and a wink back. Somehow, Camilla ended up being my one sister who WASN’T a Kappa, but her Tri Delt sisters are wonderful, beautiful women who mean loads in my life. My mom? Also my sister – and yes, we make a lot of jokes about it. And here’s where it gets weirder.

My mom’s sorority big sister, Gina, was a talked about name when I was growing up. Bounced when she walked, talked a million miles a minute, constantly on the go, dressed like she came out of a Ralph Lauren catalogue, and lover of rock music. I met her, finally, in January of 2014. My mom’s big sister – also my sister. We went together to initiate Gina’s daughter, Evans – who then ALSO became my sister. That weekend, Gina kept saying “Charlotte, you’ve GOT to meet my son. Y’all would get along great.” April 1st, Gina’s mother died – so of course my mom went to the funeral to be moral support. Back she comes – “Charlotte, you’ve GOT to meet Gina’s son, you two would have a ball together.” So after two weeks of hearing “Seriously, you’d have the best time together,” I got fed up and messaged him. Almost six years later, he and I are married and planning our toddler’s second birthday party. So my mom, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law are all my sisters. Because why not, right?

So even though I was born an only child, my sisterhood – Kappas and Camilla both – helped shape how my life would turn out. No, I wasn’t born with them, but choosing them has somehow made it that much better. A group of strong girls and women of all ages who encourage me, sympathize with me, laugh with me, and love me – and I do the same for them.

So yes, I do have a sister. I have thousands. And I love them all.

Charlotte Smith is an esthetician licensed in Tennessee and Georgia. She’s married to a lumberjack version of Deadpool, is obsessed with huskies, is straight up in quarter-life crisis mode, and loves pretty much anything that could be considered creepy.

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