Dear Dr. Wallace:

My older sister by two years always introduces me everywhere we go as her “little sister.” She does this at school, at the mall, at church and even around adults. It drives me crazy to hear this over and over!

And now, I must confess that the older I get, the more this bothers me. I feel like she’s trying to make herself seem superior, wiser or more important than me in front of strangers. Can you think of any reason she would persist in doing this to me?

— Seething sister, via email

Dear Seething Sister: Well, first of all, I feel bad for you that you’re seething. That’s not a good frame of mind to be in for even a short duration, but it must be quite taxing to be in that state of mind for a prolonged period, as you’ve indicated in your letter.

You are, in fact, the younger sister. At least she is not referring to you as her “baby sister.” This might be construed as intentional or as a put-down, for example. But in your case, you might be overreacting a touch. The answer could be as simple as just having a conversation with your “big sister,” or “older sister,” and tell her gently, but sincerely, that you’d prefer to be introduced as simply “my sister” when in the presence of someone new.

Explain to your sister that you’re now older and this is how you’d prefer to be introduced. Smile and give her a hug as you do this! Tell her it would make you very happy if she’d do this for you.

And right after you cover that issue, ask her sincerely how she’d like to be introduced when you are the one doing the introductions. Ask her if she’d prefer “big sister,” “older sister” or simply “sister.”

Write to Dr. Wallace at rwallace@galesburg.net.

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