One holiday night in college, a girl friend of mine entered my dorm room piss drunk, covered in chocolate syrup and very emotional. I went to an arts school, and this girl was a dancer, for a fat straight guy, a beautiful girl covered in food? I mean, I hit the jackpot. She told me she needed help being cleaned off and started undressing. I immediately heard my sister’s voice “Look away pervert” and I bowed my head. Freaking out, she asked me if I would sit next to her as she bathed herself. There I was sitting next to this beautiful girl soaking wet, saying “clean me. Help. I’m so sticky” and all I could think of was “what would I want a man to do if this was my sister in this situation.”
After her bath, I kept my head down, wrapped her in a towel, and carried her to my bed because she was unable to walk. She tried to kiss me. “No. I can’t”, I told her. She tried again. I put her head down, covered her in a blanket, and sat there until she fell asleep.
Sitting there in my room I thought of what else could have occurred that night. I looked up to the heavens and said “God. I hope that was a test and I hope I passed.” Because the truth is, my friend was not that different than the 14 year old girl in Maryville, Missouri who was too drunk to fight sexual abuse, or the thousands of other women raped after drinking too much and was I really, at 19 different than all those other college guys taking advantage of drunk women? Years later, I still think back on that night and I’m so happy I made the right decision, and I think about why I made the correct and moral decision that so many other men don’t. I believe on that night, I made the right decision because I have a sister.
Illustration by Jacob Vollum
Having a big sister taught me how to treat a woman, because if I didn’t treat her right, she’d smack me over the head. If I didn’t respect my mom or grandmother, she’d smack me over the head. If I said something really gross about a girl, she’d smack me over the head, and if I had trouble with a woman, she’d tell me exactly what I did wrong or right…and then smack me over the head. In return, I saw my sister date men. Good men, bad men, make good choices, bad choices and all-in-between and i learned the type of man I wanted to be to a woman.
Growing up with a sister three years older than you changes a lot of the family dynamic. You gotta wear underwear all the time, and even worse, she pees all the time, any family road trip we’re constantly stopping so she can pee, and sharing a bathroom with an older sister means glops of hair in the drain and tampons everywhere. I couldn’t open a drawer in my bathroom without tampons falling out. Why do they even sell the Junior-sized tampons if nobody seems to ever use them? There were “bathroom rules” my older brother and I had to follow: don’t pee on the seat, put the seat down, replace the toilet paper, and if I didn’t, I’d get a smack on the back of the head. It required patience, sitting there with my older brother and dad as she finished drying her fucking hair. IT’S DRY ENOUGH! Or respecting her hot older friends even if they were really super hot and swimming in our pool. Or knowing your outfit looks like crap just with a flick of her finger. These may seem like small things, but they were moments in my life that taught me how to be patient and respectful toward other people who are different than I am.
I’ve learned a lot of lessons from having an older sister, like if you do screw up, sometimes making brownies does fix the problem, or when it’s that time of the month, just give her a hug, but don’t talk during it, she doesn’t want to hear you talk, but the most important thing I learned is how wonderful all people have the capacity to be, how even though you can be a different sex, have a different religious outlook, career, and life goals like my sister and I do, you can still treat those people with respect and love. I don’t know how to prevent people from raping others, or taking advantage of the vulnerable, I’m not the Huffington Post or Slate.com who seem to “have the answers”, but I know in my case, it certainly helped having an older sister smacking me on the back of the head for all those years.