Woster: Showing sibling love, state by state

Sibling relationships are, oh, complicated might be a good word. You grow up together, no matter how you might try to separate from the rest of the family.


If you asked me how I feel about my two brothers and two sisters, I’d tell you without hesitation that I love them.

Interestingly enough, that would place me among about 50 percent of the people in South Dakota who would use that word to describe their relationship with their siblings. That’s according to a report I received the other day from some data outfit that studies such things. As sometimes happens in an internet world, I got the report without asking. Well, sure I did. Who’d think to ask if anyone had studied how siblings describe their relationships with brothers or sisters?

Massachusetts, a state where 75 percent of people say they love their siblings, topped the list. Kentucky was a distant second at 64 percent. Pennsylvania, home of the City of Brotherly Love, ranked 31st at 42 percent. Pennsylvania’s relatively low rating may just mean results got skewed when researchers asked too many Philadelphia Eagles fans. They don’t love anybody, from the looks of things on the television cameras at football games.

Oregon trailed all the other states, which rather surprised me. Just 21 percent of Oregonians would describe their sibling relationships with the word love. Gosh, and it seems such a laid-back state. On the other hand, when I think of the vampires and werewolves from those “Twilight" series, I think of Oregon forests. I know the main town is Forks, Washington, but I also read that most of the movies were filmed in Oregon, somewhere around Portland. And as any fan of the “Twilight’’ books or movies knows, Team Edward and Team Jacob really, really dislike each other.

South Dakota and North Dakota tied at 50 percent, which make sense, since the two states are twins, sharing the same birthday. If you read much about the two Dakotas over the years, I think you’ll come to the conclusion I have — the states may be twins, but they sure aren’t identical.


Sibling relationships are, oh, complicated might be a good word. You grow up together, no matter how you might try to separate from the rest of the family. You share the same mom and dad, which sometimes (sometimes?) means you compete for their affection and attention. You run the risk of thinking your parents have a favorite among their children, and you’re always pretty sure it isn’t you.

A really famous line from the 1960s was “Mom always liked you best,’’ spoken with indignation and hurt and punctuated with a big, bold exclamation point. I’m sure that line or some variation of it was uttered long ago. I’ve never read this in the Bible, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Cain used those words about Abel while Adam and Eve tried to soothe hurt feelings in the garden.

A lot of people first heard the line on a Smothers Brothers’ album or on their late 1960s television show, “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.’’ One of the comedy duo’s albums was titled “Mom Always Liked You Best,’’ in fact. I doubt the albums were as popular as the television show, and the television show was relatively short-lived. The brothers were a little too controversial for mainstream network TV.

If you haven’t heard the bit, the brothers get into arguments and when Tommy seemed to be losing, he would say loudly, “Mom always like you best.’’ Brother Dickie, always more refined and relaxed, usually responded, “Lower your voice.’’ And, in a rim-shot sort of moment, Tommy replied in a deep growl, “Mom always liked you best.’’ Maybe you had to have been there, but it really was a funny bit.

Tom and Dick Smothers were, indeed siblings. That’s unlike the easy-listening singing group, The Brothers Four, who were related not. The thing about music groups is their name doesn’t always tell you their family ties. The Doobie Brothers weren’t related, but the Bellamy Brothers were. I did a quick online search but found no evidence that the Bellamy boys ever argued over which of them was their mother’s favorite.

I suppose each of my siblings thinks he or she knows which of us was our mom’s favorite. We manage to love each other, anyway.

Related Topics: TERRY WOSTER
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