Authors: Jen Lancaster
Other Titles by
New York Times
Bestselling Author Jen Lancaster
Bitter Is the New Black
Bright Lights, Big Ass
Such a Pretty Fat
Pretty in Plaid
My Fair Lazy
If You Were Here
Here I Go Again
The Tao of Martha
New American Library
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Copyright © Jen Lancaster, 2014
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REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA:
Lancaster, Jen, 1967–
Twisted sisters/Jen Lancaster.
1. Sisters—Fiction. 2. Families—Fiction. 3. Success—Fiction. I. Title.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the
product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance
to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is
For JSS and JPK, my sisters by choice
I don’t believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them
siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition
people have to work at.
Big sisters are the crabgrass in the lawn of life.
—Charles M. Schulz
Me and my sisters all have such different body types.
“Do I know you?”
The well-appointed woman peers at me over her Whole Foods shopping cart, brimming
with free-range chicken, organic fruit, and glass-bottled Kombucha.
I’m not surprised she’s finally asking. She
like someone who’d recognize me, clad in the unofficial Lincoln Park Trader’s Wife
uniform of perfectly buttery-blond ponytail, high-speed sneakers, Lululemon, and more
ice than you’d find in your garden-variety cocktail. I noticed her watching me while
I debated between frisée and spring-mix greens and then later when I perused wild-caught
salmon. (Naturally, I buy only seafood approved by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood
Watch Program. And who wouldn’t? Sustainability
She continues, “I’m so sorry—this is weird, right? But I feel like I know you somehow.”
She taps a couple of expertly manicured fingers on her artificially enhanced lips
as she tries to piece together our connection.
I smile beatifically, as this sort of thing happens to me
all the time
; it’s one of the complications of being a local celebrity. I find that people have
a lot more fun when they finally determine who I am on their own, so I opt not to
offer any clues.
“Did you graduate from Maine South High School?”
Public school? Oh, honey. No. But bless your heart for marrying up.
I shake my head. “I attended Taylor Park Academy.” I don’t mention that this is Chicago’s
most infamous Ivy League feeder school, as anyone who cares is already familiar with
their commitment to academics.
She furrows her brow and searches my face. “Hmm . . . did you go to Northern?”
Again, a great big
here. I attended the University of Chicago for undergrad and master’s, even though
I was accepted to Yale and Stanford, too. Clearly, Taylor Park Academy is no joke.
Had Obama not been elected for a second term, this is where his kids would matriculate.
However, I’m a public figure, so I’m loath to make this potential fan feel bad about
her subpar education.
“No, I’m afraid not.”
It’s irrelevant to mention that my older sister, Mary Magdalene, attended Northern.
Of course, she was there for only a year before she dropped out to marry her high
Presently, Mary Mac—that’s what we call her for short—has churned out more kids than
I can count. It’s like she’s a hoarder, only for children. In terms of personal achievement,
she’s pretty much the patron saint of minivans and stretch marks. What is that meme
I’ve seen about the prolific
19 Kids and Counting
mother? Ah, yes, “It’s a vagina, not a clown car.” Add one persecution complex, stir,
and, boom! Meet my older sister.
Among numerous others, Mary Mac and her contractor husband, Mickey, have a couple
of identical ginger daughters named Kacey Irelyn and Kiley. I can’t tell them apart
for the life of me, so I generally just refer to both of them as Kiley Irelyn. Perhaps
if the little ingrates sent thank-you notes when I gave them birthday presents, I’d
be better able to determine who’s who. But apparently American Girl dolls grow on
trees in that house, so my efforts are thus unrecognized.
I still have to pick up pasture-raised eggs and a probiotic supplement, then bring
everything home to refrigerate before my call time, so I need to move this along.
I volunteer, “Perhaps we met at Pepperdine?”
Before I can even mention their doctorate program, I see a flash of recognition in
her face and I steel myself for the inevitable, ready to tell her, no, I did
Battle of the Network Stars
. Because that joke wasn’t already old the second my younger sister, Geri, first uttered
it a decade ago.
Let me ask you: how is it a negative that my college campus, situated on a Malibu
bluff overlooking the Pacific, was so bucolic that ABC simply had to film their campy
television battles there in the seventies and eighties? I chose Pepperdine
because Scott Baio ever pitched a javelin there, but because they have one of the
top psychology programs in the country.
I mean, there I was, paying for my PsyD with grants and loans I’d garnered on my own,
on my way to becoming Dr. Reagan Bishop, and did anyone in my family give me the credit
I deserved? No! Instead, they all brayed like jackasses, congratulating bratty teenaged
Geri on her hilarious quips.
Battle of the Network Stars!
Hey, Reagan, will you take Greg Evigan’s classes on potato-sack races or will it
be obstacle courses with William Shatner?
I’m a licensed psychologist; Geri’s a licensed
I deal with what’s inside the human head; she concentrates on what’s on top of it.
Plus, Geri was barely three years old when the iconic TV battles ended back in 1988.
In theory, she’s not capable of discerning a Charlene Tilton from a Tina Yothers.
I suspect long-suffering Mary Mac fed her that line. Mary Mac and Geri are a decade
apart and haven’t a thing in common, save for a love of pop culture, a lack of ambition . . .
and a grudge against me.
I’ve counseled my fair share of families in which the siblings’ alliances are constantly
realigning. Most often, this is due to the perception of the parents’ having picked
a favorite, regardless of how inadvertent the choice may be. The other siblings get
caught up in the injustice of not being in the spotlight. As the spotlight shifts,
so do alliances.
Of course, this has never been the case with the Bishop girls. Those two have been
Team NotReagan since day one. From choosing what TV show to watch to deciding what
color to paint our bedroom, Geri and Mary Mac have always cast their votes together,
neatly eclipsing any opinion I might have had. Of course, I’d get them back come birthday
time, requesting mile-high peanut butter pie for my dessert because of Geri’s nut
allergy. Ha! No pie for you!
(Side note? It’s my professional opinion that Geri’s been faking her supposed nut
sensitivity ever since there were fixings enough for only one ham sandwich for our
packed school lunches.)
Anyway, since my family never seems to appreciate what I’ve accomplished, please allow
me to blow my own horn for a minute. (I try to practice self-validation whenever possible
because it’s an important ingredient in cultivating positive self-esteem.) Not only
did I skip a grade in elementary school, graduate from Taylor Park, and garner two
degrees at U of C in four and a half years, but I also received my PsyD with highest
honors. While my classmates were still muddling through their clinical training, I
was already in private practice, being named one of Chicago’s Top Doctors by
magazine. And that’s how Wendy Winsberg found me.
Wendy Winsberg, grande dame of daytime talk television for almost three decades and,
, the number one entry on their 100 Most Powerful Women list. When she finally burned
out on hosting a daily show herself, she formed the WeWIN cable network with a plethora
of what she calls “fempowering” television for women.
The crown jewel in her lineup is the breakout show
I Need a Push
, in which participants learn to become their best selves by overcoming obstacles
and changing behaviors. They also receive sassy haircuts and wardrobe makeovers, but
that’s really not my department.
As for my role?
To quote Tina Fey, I’m a pusher, meaning I’m the one who manifests the push.
Two and a half years ago, I put my practice on hold and became one of the show’s lead
psychologists. Although I miss taking private patients, I excel equally at working
in depth with the participants. In my old practice, I spent an hour a week with my
clients. That’s barely enough time to scratch the surface on someone’s latent daddy
issues, let alone his or her present-day problems with work, finances, relationships,
I Need a Push
, I have the luxury of almost unlimited time. In some cases, I’m able to spend up
to two months administering daily one-on-one cognitive therapy, so by the time pushees
have their tips frosted (or whatever it is
’s hairdressers do), they’re returning to their lives able to face challenges with
a new and improved set of behaviors.
I’d like to see you fix someone’s life armed with nothing but a flatiron,
I glance down at my watch as an indication that we need to wrap this whole how-do-I-know-you
business soon. Things to do, groceries to shelve, lives to touch, et cetera.
The shopper gives a self-conscious laugh. “I’m keeping you—I apologize. But this’ll
drive me crazy until I figure out our connection, and then in the middle of the night,
I’ll wake my husband up by shouting,
or something. Wait, are you in my spin class?”
I shrug. “I’m more of a runner than a spinner.” Time at last year’s Chicago Marathon?
Four hours, twenty-nine minutes. Personal best, thank you very much. Working to get
my pace down to less than ten minutes per mile, though. (I
in me; I can do it!)
Of course, Geri’s decided she’s an athlete now, too, having just walked a 5K. Not
. Took her over an hour and required the whole damn family waiting for her at the
finish line holding banners and balloons. From the way everyone was celebrating, I
thought they were going to carry her off on their shoulders Cleopatra-style, chanting,
Hail the conquering hero!
Yes, Geri, hurrah for the bare minimum!
Yet when I crossed the finish line at my first
after having run 26.2 miles? My family members were all whooping it up in the beer
tent and they missed
. Where were my banners? What of my balloons? Who was carrying me off on their shoulders?
(Trust me? I’m a lot lighter.) There I was, wrapped up in the Mylar blanket, all alone
searching for my missing cheering section. Typical. Later, Geri admitted, “We didn’t
figure you’d be done so soon. Hell, it takes me that long to drive 26.2 miles!” I
scowl, remembering the incident.
The shopper becomes apologetic. “You know what? I’m being a pest. I guess I’ll just
wake my husband when I figure it out. Thanks for indulging me.” She gives me an awkward
little bow and begins to circle her cart over to the cheese counter.
Okay, game’s over. Feeling magnanimous (largely because I am magnanimous), I draw
a breath to tell her that, yes,
the one she saw in all the magazines, and in the
, and on WeWIN. I’ve lectured at colleges across the country and I’ve been on morning
shows, on all the cable news networks, and one week last fall, I cohosted with Dr.
Drew. And once in a while, the paparazzi publish a shot of me with my überfamous mentor,
But before I can share the highlights of my CV, she spins back around and snaps her
fingers, face wreathed in a smile. “Oh, my God!”
I know what’s coming next and I can’t help but swell with pride. Indeed, I’ve accomplished
so much already in my career and my life.
“You’re Geri’s sister!”
Of course I’m the hairdresser’s sister.
Of course I am.