The Truth Shall Set You Free
I'm a younger sister. In fact, since there are only two of us, I am the youngest sister. Anyone with siblings will tell you there are advantages and disadvantages to being the oldest or youngest. As the youngest, I always felt like I was the lowest ranking family member--I was the one listed last on the Christmas cards, I was the youngest household member if you didn't count the pets. I was the one who had been around for the shortest amount of time. This usually means you don't make any of the rules and you're at the mercy of everyone else. This can also mean that your older sibling is the boss of you. This is a story of how I figured out how to turn that around.
We were visiting my mother's cousin in Italy. I was 9 years old and I had to pee. As luck would have it, so did my sister. We both took a trip to the bathroom. My sister pulled rank and took the toilet. My consolation prize was the bidet, which she kindly filled with water. I wasn't too keen on new things and no one really explained that it was sort of like a sink for other body parts. It was just so foreign, and I wanted nothing to do with it at all. I thought I could hold on until my sister was done, but I couldn't. Looking back, I should have just gone there, pulled the drain, rinsed the thing and been done. I don't know why I didn't. Who can explain the workings of a nine year old brain? Anyway, I peed myself.
As it was happening, I could still remember the look of "Oh, shit, she really did have to go!" on my sister's face. I know she had to have felt guilty. She very wisely wet the rest of my shorts and helped me clean up so it wouldn't be obvious to the adults what happened. I remembered going outside and resting on a chaise in the sun so my shorts could dry quickly. We were in the clear. You'd think we could then put the entire episode behind us when no one caught on, right?
Wrong. This is where things got a little twisted. Every moment after this incident, when she asked me to do something for her, and I refused, I was reminded of it and then threatened with "I'll tell!" This meant she had a servant for weeks and weeks. I was old enough to fear the mortification of my parents learning that I peed my pants at nine years old. At that age there's really no excuse. I didn't think it through far enough to realize they might actually understand if they got the whole story or that pants peeing wasn't really punishable. I just wanted to spare myself from the embarrassment.
This went on for months. "I'll tell, I'll tell" loomed over my head anytime I stepped out of line. It was awful. If only I could have that kind of problem now. I didn't know how easy I had it, but back then it seemed like a colossal dilemma. Serve the older sibling or face certain shame. It was a miserable time.
I can't tell you how long it went on, but at one point I decided to call her bluff. It wasn't because I didn't think she would tell them, it was because I got tired of the burden I carried. I got tired of the threats. "I'll tell!" I heard and I responded with, "Okay. Tell them." And you know what? That was it. There was no more bartering, no more currency to the story because it just didn't matter to me anymore. It was better for my parents to know then to have to drag this secret around in fear. And in the end, she never told.