My sister had invited me out for my 18th birthday. I was all dressed up and happily anticipating the evening. I went to my sister’s place and picked her up. Her boyfriend smiled, wished me a happy birthday and told us to have a good time. I was driving but didn’t know where we were going. “Let’s go to the East-West Room first,” my sister said.
“Just tell me how to get there,” I replied. I had heard of the place, but had never been there.
She gave me directions and then told me that she had a very special surprise for me, but wasn’t going to let me know what it was until later. I couldn’t imagine what it could be, but her excitement about it was contagious.
We arrived and went from the cold outdoors into the heated 2-level bar/restaurant that had music blasting and different colored lights that gave it the perfect atmosphere of enough light to see everything clearly, but not too much light to make you feel like you were on display. No one was dancing at the moment; it was too early and inhibitions were still intact. There weren’t too many people there, but enough to feel like it was a happening place. My sister wanted to get drinks – I just had a soda, and she ordered a drink. We watched the place for awhile and then went into the restroom. My sister looked into the mirror and made some kind of comment that I looked older than her. “No I don’t” I replied. I thought it was ridiculous. She was 5 years older than me. Her insecurities were coming out.
“Yes – you do look older – you’re not supposed to look older than me” she argued. I just shook my head in disbelief. At that moment, a woman walked in and my sister stopped her by standing right in front of her path.
“Which one of us is older, her or me?” she demanded.
The woman was taken aback. She was feeling pressured and somewhat attacked by this strange and forward young woman.
“Ummmmm, you?” she guessed, hoping it was the answer she was looking for.
My sister was not satisfied. “Yea, but by how much?” She still wouldn’t let the woman pass by her. I wanted to melt to the floor and ooze out the door. Her behavior was humiliating.
“I don’t know,” the woman said agitated by this point. “2 years?”
“FIVE!” she yelled at the poor innocent bystander. “I’m older by FIVE years!” and let her pass.
“See,” she said. “I told you so.”
“She said you looked older, so you’re wrong.”
“Yea, but only by 2 years. And she was guessing – she didn’t really know.”
My sister left the restroom in somewhat of a huff, and I laid back for a few moments wanting to get a little space between me and her. Once I came out, I walked the whole perimeter of the place and couldn’t find her. By now it was a little more crowded and the place was starting to fill up. I thought it would be better just stay in one spot – close to our original seats. I wanted to dance, but there still wasn’t anyone on the dance floor and I didn’t have anyone to dance with. I was starting to wonder if this was going to be a long night.
I found a seat and slowly sipped on another soda. I didn’t know what else to do. 15 or 20 minutes later, my sister showed up.
“Hey – there you are!” she said all smiles again. “I’ve been looking for you.”
“I’ve been here for about 15 minutes. I couldn’t find you either.”
“Well, I met these two guys – they’re hunks!”
I thought she was going to say we could go and dance with them.
“Yea…..” I waited for more information.
“They said they have a van and we could go out with them and do it!”
I looked at her with stone silence. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Surely, she didn’t mean it.
“C’mon…do you want to? C’mon, Julie, it will be fun!”
I was still unable to speak. What was she doing messing around with the idea of having sex with a stranger? And what about the perfect guy she had waiting at home? I had to pull myself together and buy myself some time. She was waiting for an answer and I didn’t want to give her a reason for a debate, or an argument protesting my morals. “Who are these guys?”
“I’ll show you. See over there in the corner of the dance floor, the two guys looking over here?”
“Them?!” I said. I didn’t have to fake my sense of shock. I thought I was going to see 2 good-looking guys. Instead, I saw a couple of guys that looked like they had played football in high school, but then stopped working out and put on some extra weight. My first impression from across the room was also that they couldn’t put more than 2 sentences together. “They’re not good-looking!”
I felt my sister hesitate, and then she looked at them again.
“They’re not? I don’t think they’re that bad.”
“You’ve got to be kidding. They look like a couple of losers.”
I could tell that this line of conversation was going to work for me. Had I argued the morals in her drunken state, she may have tried to go and do it anyway without me. But since I pointed out they weren’t worth the effort, she began to cave.
“You want to anyway?” she said a bit hesitantly.
“NO!” I commanded. My ‘no’ had a lot of power behind it. I couldn’t believe that she even suggested such a thing, and was appalled at the fact that she would even consider it. I know that she had been raped at knife point at one time – she never gave me the details, but she said it was so horrible she didn’t want to talk about it. The guy almost killed her. Had she been a bit more sober, I could have told her that this very situation could actually lead to the same kind of experience.
We left immediately after that and I was ready to go home. She said she wanted to take me somewhere else and reiterated that she still had a big surprise for me and was going to tell me at midnight. By now it was about 10:30. We went to a place called “The Attic”. This place had little ambiance, and the lights were pretty bright. I saw a poster that said, “Chippendales!” and hoped it was for another night. We found a table and ordered drinks. Once again, I had another soda, although I didn’t drink much of it. I was getting pretty tired of soda by now. It wasn’t long before a young man found my sister. He was a bit of a nerd, which surprised me. I always envisioned my sister with attractive men. However, he was bold and she was kind to him but completely uninterested. It's more like she just played with him for fun - for something to do. Somehow in their conversation, they discovered that he knew our younger brother. This gave him even more courage to pester my sister.
“Please dance with me. Please!”
“No, I don’t want to dance. But my sister does and it’s her birthday. Why don’t you dance with her?”
“I don’t want to dance with her, I want to dance with you.”
Once again, I was ready to crawl into a hole. Why I didn’t just insist that we leave is beyond my understanding at this point.
“If you really like me,” she said in her soft coy voice, “you would do anything for me, right?”
“Yes!” he said enthusiastically. (Even I saw what was coming – but he wasn’t that bright. Or he was just drunk. Or both.)
“Okay, so you would be doing me a great favor and show me that you really like me if you danced with my sister.”
“I don’t want to dance with him,” I said to her quietly. “Please don’t do this!” Now I was beginning to get angry.
I could tell that she thought it would be a great way to get him off her back. I could see it in her eyes when she looked at me.
“Ok,” he said begrudgingly. “C’mon, let’s go dance,” he said in a very resigned voice.
“I don’t want to,” I said sticking to my seat. My sister kept pushing me – physically and verbally. “You don’t want hurt his feelings Julie. C’mon – just dance with him once. You’ve been wanting to dance all night. Just go do it.”
She was right - I wanted to dance all night. I finally succumbed. But I should have listened to my instincts. It all turned out like a ‘bad middle school kind of book’. He didn’t just go out to the dance floor. He took me up on the stage in front of everyone and danced like a fool. I was up there for about 30 seconds, and then got back off the stage and went back to my seat. He didn’t even notice that I left. My sister was dying laughing. She thought it was hilarious. He wasn’t even really dancing. He was just kind of bopping his body around. I wanted to crawl into a hole and disappear.
But wait, there’s more. After the song ended, an emcee came out and announced the Chippendale boys were there! These guys were going to be strip dancing right in front of us. “Oh my god, was this the surprise?” I thought to myself. I was blushing just thinking about it and was already squirming at the thought of grown men taking their clothes off in front of me while acting like it was a sexy thing. “Can we go?” I asked my sister.
“No! I still haven’t told you my surprise. It’s 15 minutes until midnight. I want to tell you what it is at midnight.”
I made the excuse of going to the bathroom. The music started and the guys came out. I saw the very end of it. It was a brief display of ridiculousness and fortunately my sister didn’t yell out that it was my birthday. She also didn’t get involved with any of them, which kind of surprised me. All I could think of was ‘these poor guys have to do this for a living. They must be desperate to humiliate themselves in that way.’ This is the way I felt when I was 18.
Now my sister was counting down, looking at her watch. She was so excited about her surprise – the build up had been terrific. I knew it had to better than all the other ‘surprises’ of the night.
“It’s midnight! Are you ready?!”
“Yes! What is it?”
I was shocked. I couldn’t move or speak.
She continued, “No one else knows but my boyfriend, of course. We’re going to get married soon. But don’t tell anyone! You’re my sister – I wanted to share this secret with you. I haven’t told anybody else. He said it was ok if I told you. Isn’t that great?! I’m so happy I have a sister I can share this with. Don’t tell anyone though!”
She made it sound like it was supposed to be some great honor for me to be filled in on this information. THIS was the surprise? Definitely a BIG surprise. Happy for her? Ummmmm, let’s just say I was completely at a loss for what to say. After several hours of drinking, flirting and considering having sex with a couple overweight ex-jocks in a van, I was more than appalled that she was pregnant. The choices she made in this one night out were bad enough, but being pregnant at the same time was inexcusable. She was so full of herself, she didn’t even notice that I didn’t speak a word. She said we could leave now that she got to share her surprise. Walking to the door in a daze, I watched her moving ahead of me, as two guys came in, stared at her and loudly stated, “Oh no, it looks like the party is leaving!” She gave them a big smile, swung her hips wider, and said, “That’s right!” They continued to stare and almost bumped into me. I was definitely ready to go home.
My heart hurt over that night for many years. She brought it up a couple of times – how she had shared that special secret with me. I never told a soul and I never told her how I felt about it. And until now, I never shared this story with anyone except my husband. I never told her how ashamed I was of her. How appalled I was about her choices. It didn’t feel like it would change her or make any difference in her behavior. For some reason, it felt like she would know one day. Somehow I felt like it wasn’t mine to tell. It was unlikely she would see this experience from my viewpoint. I knew some day, when she crossed over, she would know exactly what it was like for me. And that would be enough.
However, looking back on all of this, I realize that I didn’t have a voice to speak up for myself or what I thought. Maybe things would have been different if I had. Or maybe she would have just gotten angry with me and wouldn’t want to be my sister anymore. My desire for acceptance from my family ran deep. I loved them. And I really wanted them to love me.