Posted inEditor's Pick

On Female Friendship and the Sisters We Choose for Ourselves

Chloe Caldwell | Coffee House Press | October 12, 2016 | 4,768 words

Essayist Chloe Caldwell on the “sisters” we choose for ourselves, and her close relationship with her surrogate younger sister, Cheryl Strayed’s daughter Bobbi.

Posted inBooks, Featured, Nonfiction, Story

On Female Friendship and the Sisters We Choose for Ourselves

Essayist Chloe Caldwell on the “sisters” we choose for ourselves, and her close relationship with her surrogate younger sister, Cheryl Strayed’s daughter Bobbi.
(Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Archives)

Chloe Caldwell | I’ll Tell You In PersonCoffee House Press | October 2016 | 19 minutes (4,768 words)

“Do you get in bed and cuddle with Chloe in the mornings?” It was an early evening in spring, and Bobbi and I were in the kitchen, standing across from each other at the counter. We’d just finished eating pizza and salad with ranch on the back porch. Bobbi’s mom, Cheryl, was on speakerphone, calling from her hotel to check in on us.

“She doesn’t!” I said, making eye contact with Bobbi, who looked at me skeptically in a way only an eight-year-old can.

“Yeah but that’s ’cause . . . well, do you sleep naked?” Bobbi asked, lowering her deafening voice for once like she was asking me in total confidence.

I burst out laughing.

“No!” I said.

I’ve had countless sleepovers with Bobbi in the past three years, and I never don’t pretend she’s my little sister, even though, at twenty-eight, I’m too old to be her sister. I feel too young and immature to be her mother. At twenty-eight, I’m more like an aunt or a cousin. I could easily be engaged or pregnant or have children of my own. But that is not my life. Instead, I babysit, still waiting for my real life to begin. In limbo. A friend sent me a birthday card that read, Happy Saturn Return, good luck with that, seriously.

“You could be in India having sex next year,” Cheryl told me once when I was down on myself about being such a loose end in the domestic department.

“Whereas I probably won’t!” she said.

When Cheryl called that night, Bobbi and I had been in the middle of an improvised séance, though I was unsure what dead person we were trying to contact. We held hands around an orange candle and chanted gibberish. It reminded me of the opening scene in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.

In a mock new-age voice, Bobbi said, “o.k. now breeeeeeeaaathe in the baaaaaad energyyyyyy.”

“No way! Not doing that,” I said.

“Yeah but then you breathe it out.”

“Yeah but why do I have to breathe it in at all?”

“Just trust me and do it.”

“K.”

“Now look up at the sky and repeat after me: Iloveyoumommy-Iloveyoumommy.”

“IloveyoumommyIloveyoumommy.”

The phone rang. We screamed. 

Continue reading “On Female Friendship and the Sisters We Choose for Ourselves”