Sister From the Same Mister
I was a complete asshole to my sister Allison when we were kids.
She’s four years younger, and after she was born I immediately resented her presence. I hated sharing the house with her, and my toys, and also our parents. She represented a disruption in the safe, secure routine that had come before. She represented disorder and chaos, and this could not be tolerated.
Allison, on the other hand, looked up to me. Maybe even idolized me. She considered my behaviour to be the norm, because I was the only other kid around on a daily basis. So she aspired to be like me, even though I was a bastard.
The head games started when she was three and I was seven.
“Where’s Mommy and Daddy?” she said to me.
“They’re dead and burning in Hell. And it’s all your fault.”
She believed me, of course, because why wouldn’t she?
Around that same time I started threatening to murder her on a regular basis. I don’t remember what I said exactly, except that it was probably vivid and believable.
“You won’t live to your fourth birthday” turned into “You won’t live to your fifth birthday” and then “sixth birthday” and on and on through the years.
Eventually Allison stopped believing the more mundane threats, so I had to get creative. Every time I discovered she had a phobia about something, I took advantage of it. For awhile she was scared of albino people, because she didn’t know what albinism was. She just saw this guy at the mall one day without any skin pigmentation, and foolishly told me before anyone else.
I have no recollection of what I said to her, but apparently it was horrifying.
She was also scared of burn survivors, probably for similar reasons.
Allison had a difficult childhood (yeah, no shit), but not exclusively because of the many things I did to her.
She was an angry, defiant child, and a lot of this was because she was my younger sister, but not for the reasons you might expect.
I was the older child, and so my parents assumed that I was what kids were supposed to be like. I was a quiet, complient rule-follower. I loved routines. I enjoyed being told what to do. I respected boundaries.
My parents didn’t know I had Asperger’s; they just automatically adjusted their parenting style to my behaviour, and so their parenting abilities and my personality developed in tandem.
Then Allison came along, and she is not even remotely autistic. But my parents assumed that she’d have the same needs as me, because they thought that I was what kids were supposed to be like.
So Allison’s childhood developed as a kind of bizarre, accidental psychology experiment: what happens when you try to parent a neurotypical child as if they have Asperger’s?
Surprise! It doesn’t work out well.
Apparently normal children often resent being told what to do. They rebel against boundaries, even though they require them and unknowingly crave them.
One day when Allison was about two or three, she had a tantrum.
It lasted ten years.
My parents had to learn how to parent all over again. It can’t be easy using two completely different sets of parenting techniques, often simultaneously, but they did what they had to do.
Both my sister and I believed that our parents loved the other child more. On the surface, this is a problem, but actually it’s a sign that our parents were doing things right. If we both agreed that our parents had a favourite child, then that would be an issue.
Eventually my parents grew exasperated by the constant conflict in our household, especially between me and Allison. I was twelve and she was eight. She still looked up to me, but had also started pushing back against my constant bullying. My feelings weren’t as nuanced. I still viewed her as an usurper, and wasn’t about to back down from my campaign of emotional terrorism.
We had reached a stand-off, so my parents enrolled us in family therapy.
Thank God I wasn’t diagnosed at the time, because the therapist worked for an institute which didn’t accept children on the autism spectrum (they do now, so I won’t name them).
Anyway, as you can probably guess from their bigoted attitude, the therapy sessions were fucking amateur hour. The therapist had no idea how to handle me, because she had no training with autism spectrum disorder.
My compliant nature was well behind me at this point, because I’d been in the system for too long. My parents and the school had been trying for two years to figure out what the hell was wrong with me, and every specialist I saw made me more jaded about the concepts of authority and psychological care.
I didn’t want to go to family therapy, so I refused to take any of the questions seriously. I made fun of the therapist, and told a lot of dark, sarcastic jokes.
“Oh yeah, I’m terrified of my parents,” I’d say. “They locked me in a dog cage and took a picture.”
“Is that true?” the therapist said.
“We took that picture as a joke!” my dad said.
Allison watched me sabotage the sessions, and took it all in. One evening, after I’d refused to answer something, the therapist turned to Allison and asked her the same question.
“Don’t answer her,” I said to Allison.
From that point on, Allison and I formed an alliance. She tried to match my disruptive behaviour, and pretty soon she was even worse than I was. I’d only been pissed off for two years, after all. She’d been pissed off her whole life.
Together we burned that joint to the ground.
Our parents were ecstastic, though they hid that from us. Their goal had been to resolve the conflict between Allison and I, and they’d succeeded. We were no longer enemies. Granted, now we both considered our parents to be the enemies, but that was still progress.
Since then, our alliance has grown and deepened. We have some in-jokes which I cannot print in public, though Allison claims to have a file full of the incredibly offensive things I’ve said to her on Facebook that she might use as blackmail material someday. This is a good idea, because she’s really fucking poor.
We no longer have an adversarial relationship with our parents, though we’re always telling each other shit that we don’t want them to know about.
About two years ago, Allison got her first tattoo the same week I got fired from my job.
That weekend, our mother drove us to a family gathering. She stopped at a gas station, which left Allison and I alone in the car for a few minutes.
“I have something to tell you, but you can’t tell the parents,” I said.
“It’s a secret?”
“No. I just haven’t figured out how to tell them.”
“Did you kill someone?”
“No! I got fired from my job.”
“I got a tattoo,” she said.
“No, you didn’t.”
She showed me. It was a small, empty circle on her shoulder.
“What the hell’s that supposed to be?” I said.
“I thought it looked cool,” she said. “But don’t tell mother. She’ll freak out.”
Our mother got in the car and we drove off in silence.
A few minutes passed by.
“I got fired,” I said.
“What?” my mom said.
“I got a tattoo,” said Allison.
“Wait, what?” my mom said.
That pretty much sums up my current relationship with Allison. It is understood that, regardless of the horrible things that have happened, and all the times I threaten to murder her cat or burn down her apartment- just for laughs, I swear- we are in each other’s corner.
About a year ago I asked Allison to write a blog entry for me about what it’s like to be the sibling of someone with Asperger’s. After writing one paragraph she stopped because she didn’t want to make me look bad.
Now I’ve beaten her to it, just like everything else in her goddamn life.