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Mind the age gap

| Monday, March 23, 2015

Back when the Snapchat app allowed us to view the infamous “top three friends,” I’d scroll through other people’s lists periodically, confirming that I was indeed two of my roommates’ top snapmates. In doing this, I began to notice the same name popped up in quite a few top friends list. “Jessiebessy9” is not some girl in my dorm, I’ve never had a class with her, and actually, she doesn’t even go to Notre Dame. No, Jessiebessy9 is the username of my 10-year-old sister, who has taken it upon herself to befriend the 20- and 21-year-old college students she has met through her older siblings.

Jessie’s the caboose in our family of six kids, and I’m the oldest. We are both fortunate in that we dodged the dreaded middle child position; nevertheless, both our spots in this lineup come with pros and cons. I’ve always been a bit envious of girls with much older sibs (especially older sisters). Growing up, these were the girls who didn’t go through stages of raccoon eyeliner; they knew the names of PG-13 movies before even turning 12! As first-born, I bore the brunt of parental supervision. I wasn’t allowed to ride my bike to 7-Eleven for a slushie, while now, my younger sisters get to RipStik all the way to the city Panera. Through individual trial and error, I turned out okay, and I’m happy to have paved the way for the younger kids. I like to think that I am the reason they now know that at a certain point, themed lunch boxes aren’t “cool,” and you have to brown bag it.

Despite being born a decade apart, Jessica and I have developed a unique friendship. She’s been able to get a taste of college life, so much so that she’s now notorious for wandering the hallways of Breen-Phillips during her campus visits. It’s no rare sight to see Jess’ skinny legs dangling from a lofted dorm room bed as she laughs with friends of mine and Emily’s (our sister who is also a current resident of BP). I have been spoiled with a front-row seat as I watch her experience the best moments of youth. And, as a second-semester junior on the brink of entering the real world, I have found that having a sister this young is an unexpected benefit of being the oldest. I get a secondhand look into the life of an 11-year-old.

Jessie, Emily and I all share a room, which has served as a working template of boy-band history. The same wall that displayed a Tiger Beat poster of the Jonas Brothers now holds an image of One Direction. Despite the differences in age, our conversations never grow old. When we are all together, we exchange stories of fifth-grade play dates and college weekends before falling asleep. Jess vents about middle-school math, as we assure her college accounting isn’t a walk in the park, either. There is buzz of both The Bachelor and latest Disney Channel shows.

Through Jessica, I’ve been fortunate enough to get the inside scoop on the latest middle school lingo — most notably the word “pre-pre.” One morning, I caught a glimpse of Jessica’s iPod touch (yep, times have changed) and discovered she had 146 unread iMessages … all from one kid. After pointing this out to her, she scrolled through the series of “heys” and consecutive emoticon faces he had sent over the past week, even with her lack of response. Jess explained to me that this boy was her “pre-pre,” the definition fifth graders created to describe the person they like while acknowledging the fact that they’re a bit too young to date (think “pre-boyfriend,” but even another step away). She then proceeded to respond to these 146 texts with a single word: sorry. The boy responded nearly seconds after, disregarding the fact that she had ignored him for the past seven days, asking if she wanted to play Minecraft.

Jessica thinks maybe someday they’ll be “pre,” but doesn’t know for sure. Maybe it’s selfish of me, but I really hope it never gets to that point.

What’s the rush?

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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