“Oh my god, we’re sushi sisters!” came the cry from across the bar.

I’d just been introduced to a girl by a mutual friend and confusingly, we
were in an actual sushi bar at the time. I say confusingly because what
she was referring to had nothing to do with Japanese food. In case
you’re not familiar with the term, ‘sushi sister’ is a colloquial
expression used (by some) to describe the relationship between two
women who have slept with the same man.

I’m not entirely sure of the origins of this term and feel strongly
that it’s best not to dwell on it for even a moment. Let’s keep moving.
As the sashimi passed by, I learned that my new friend had recently
broken up with a guy I’d dated a lifetime ago. This was slightly
awkward because she was in that bitter phase where she wanted to bitch
at length about the guy’s failings. In contrast, I was in the phase
where I was happy to pretend I’d never even known him, let alone in the
biblical sense. Also, I had nothing else in common with this girl and
we were in a damn restaurant in front of strangers.

But it did get me thinking about the idea of sushi sisters. The next
day I fired up the email for a multi-way conversation with a few
girlfriends, the subject being: “who are your sushi sisters?” We
quickly decided the two most interesting types of sushi sisters were
(a) famous (b) women you didn’t like.
One friend had Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts among her sushi sisters.
Another’s included “every second woman in a 50km radius of Darlinghurst
and the fashion industry” thanks to one regrettable fling with a
notorious male model. Yet another had three sworn enemies on her list.
Several of us were sushi sisters with each other. And we all had sushi
sisters among our work colleagues.

None of us found any of this particularly irksome or awkward. “It’s a curious kind of bond really,” noted one friend. “a little something that lurks in the background of your relationship with the other woman, not necessarily in a bad way”.

The one exception? The Ambush Sushi Sister – someone who uses the fact she’s slept with your current partner to deliberately make you feel uncomfortable. I saw this in action one time when I was shopping with a girlfriend. She’d recently married a great guy who had something of a past. This was not news to her and she wasn’t phased by it. Until the Ambush. “The stupid sales assistant made it quite clear she’d slept with my husband and congratulated me on ‘catching him’ in such a snide way. As if he was a fish and I’d been dangling bait.” Definitely unsisterly. Perhaps the purpose of the Ambush is to mark territory, dog-style. Like saying “I’ve been there. He’s seen me naked too.”

But what’s the male equivalent of a sushi sister? What do you call two men who’ve slept with the same woman? “Salami brothers” suggests my friend Sam, who theorises that geography is often a factor.

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“It’s like the bull sticking with the cows in his meadow and not the meadow across the road,” he elaborates. “My inner-city friends are particularly vulnerable to this. Maybe they just can’t be bothered paying for public transport out of the area and would prefer to stay at home and get on the grog and wake up wearing each others track suit pants. A couple of years ago I sat down with my mate Tom and a piece of paper to draw a tree diagram of how all his friends were connected through drunken shags.  I must admit I was a branch somewhere half way up his tree which ended up growing right off the page.”

But Salami Brothers who know each other are apparently rarer than sushi sisters who dwell in the same orbit. Apparently, this is due to some unspoken male code: a bloke should not sleep with his mate’s ex. And if he does, keep it quiet.

“Occasionally there is a catastrophic breakdown in this rule,” admits one guy who knows. “In my early 20’s I slept with a girl who’d broken up with my mate about four months earlier. I did get the feeling that she was trying to create a wedge out of spite but she was incredibly hot and I thought I could spin-doctor any fallout. The end result? He knew about it, I knew that he knew….and we both knew never to speak of it again. Post Script – I can’t even remember the sex and it’s been ten years since I’ve had any kind of contact with my friend.”

May I suggest my local sushi bar? You’re bound to bump into him there.

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