Monday, June 23, 2008

Torture by Brother, One Sister's Perspective

Kandee, the girls, and I drove three hours tonight to Ventura, California. The ride was filled with not-stop chatter. Friendships, family life, parenting, childhood, family loyalty, etc. were among the topics tossed about. Here's one story that I'll never forget:

As a younger sister of four brothers, I experienced a lot of testosterone-induced treatment at the hand of my brothers. You need to know our birth order and approximate ages during this particular story:

Geri, 22
Mary, 20
Jim, 18
Tom, 16
Tim, 14
Dennis, 12
Me, 10
Judy, 7
Michelle, baby

One frequent ritual involved my teenage brother, Tim, who was all about professional wrestling. As soon as my parents walked out the door, Tim would sing out (at the top of his lungs), "ALL! STAR! WRESTLING!" (And if you ever saw this show when you were a kid, you know the tone of this declaration; full of drama and enthusiasm.) This battle cry was a cue to Dennis, Judy, and myself that we were soon to be "contestants" in a completely unfair wrestling match. (Reminds you of my Kyle's video, doesn't it?) We would all reluctantly report to the living room, where Tim delighted in putting us through hell our paces as victims opponents in his bid for wrestling King of the World (or whatever he called it).

Now, of course, Tim would not have enthusiastically orchestrated this torture if he hadn't been certain he could take us. And take us, he did. One by one, we would step forward and get sucked into the vortex that was Tim's physical dominance in the form of head-locks, body slams, and shoulder-pinning. One by one, we would tag-team Tim in futile bids to save our dignities.

Now, on most days, we knew it was easier to just succumb to the "ALL! STAR! WRESTLING!" call, but on one particular night, Judy and I just decided that we weren't going to play. We refused. Feeling empowered, we declared that we weren't going to cooperate.

I don't remember most of the details, but I do remember that we soon found ourselves in the basement; tied to floor joists with our hands behind our backs, in the dark. (So much for "Girl Power.")

I don't know who did the tying, but I think that Dennis was forced to do Tim's bidding; coming downstairs every so often to ask if we were ready to comply. We were not. Each time, Dennis would go back upstairs to report, flipping the light off as he left. Who knows how many days we were down there (just kidding; it was probably only 15 minutes), but it was too long. I remember trying desperately (and angrily) to get my hands untied, but I just could not do it. Judy was no more successful. Finally, we caved.

I remember vividly that it took Dennis a long time to come back after we told him we had given in; so long, that by the time he returned, I did have myself untied. It was no use; we were still forced into the "arena," and I don't remember rebelling again after that.

This was just one chink in the armor that was my sense of power as a young girl. Obviously, I recovered, eventually; just as sisters across the globe have done for generations. I'm betting most sisters and brothers have similar tales of torture. What's yours? I'd love to hear it--Feel free to post your story put the link in your comment.

Disclaimer: The recollections in this post are my own, from my perspective. My siblings may remember this story differently. (With any luck, they'll share :)


  1. I knew you had sisters, but I don't think I realized how many brothers you had.

    My older brother(2.5 years older than me) had serious anger problems. He was always taking them out on me and my younger brother.

    It's a part of my childhood that I try not to think about, that we all pretend was just normal brother-sister fighting and don't talk about.

    Sorry to get all serious and start writing a book here in your comments. You struck a nerve.

  2. Poor little sister!

    I am an only child but I do have stories from times with my cousin - who was like my brother. You reminded me of one of them. I think I will write about it today.

    Thanks for the giggle.

    Happy day to the 4444s!


  3. It was ME who did the torturing as my brother was younger. When he would start crying and calling for my mom, I would then tickle him so she would think everything was fine b/c he was laughing. Ooo, I was so mean back then!

  4. You're causing major flashbacks for me funny girl. My Sistah and I have matching fingernail scratching scars to mark our youth.

  5. I ma an only child. a family dynamic like that? Having EIGHT brothers and sisters? I just cannot fathom. I heard tales from friends, however of fraternal torture. What I cannot understand is how parents could not figure out that leaving older siblings in charge of younger ones could lead to injustice and sometimes (much, much) worse. Glad you survived it and can laugh about it now, but it sounds like it was awful at the time.

  6. My brother, with help from his best friend Tim, hogtied me and left me in my basement bedroom. I guess my parents eventually heard me hollering and came to my rescue but they stood in the doorway laughing their heads off before they untied me! I was hopping mad and demanded severe discipline for those wayward boys! My dad said it was too funny to punish ... but he did tell them not to do it again!

  7. This made me sad that I left you girls all alone to defend yourselves. ( you were 8 when i moved out.)It was simply heart breaking for me to read....not at all funny. But then, I remember physically attacking our brothers sometimes when i was in charge, so maybe they learned it from me!! It is amazing to me that you broke the cycle of abuse and forged such trusting and loving relationships with your kids. You are an awesome parent and sister. Love, Mary

  8. Well I can attest to the fact that selective memory does in fact exist. I remember this although I forgot why I was always afraid of the basement! I initially felt sad when I read your post. I then found myself seeing the beauty where it is now. Mary is so right. You are an amazing person, parent,teach and sister. In addition I figure that it may be a blessing that I haven't had a basement the past 11 years while living down south? I just don't think that I could run out of a one that fast anymore!! :o)


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