“Do you feel any older?” my dad said as he was giving me my annual birthday speech. I was turning sixteen, and I got the same speech every year, except this year he had added, “You still aren’t allowed to date, And if I find out you do, there will be consequences.” Now this was surprising to me, because although I knew I wasn’t allowed to date, I knew I was getting older and it just didn’t really make sense because my brother was only a year older and had already been dating for years.
Although it may seem a bit much and sound completely sexist, my dad isnt some horrible guy. I am his only daughter and the youngest of all my siblings, so I figure that’s why he acts a little too protective over me and still sees me as a kid. As angered as I was about what my dad told me, I let it slide because it didn’t seem like I had anything to think about at the time because I didn’t have a boyfriend. However, I was also scared to ever tell my dad if I did. This wasn’t the first time I had been treated differently than my brother.
Jumping back to being seven years old, I recall things like having to set the table everyday. Which if you ever had to do you would know its an extremely annoying task, mostly if you were like me and were obsessed with watching movies, because I would be running back and forth trying not to miss the important parts. I can’t say there was no good to come from setting the table because everytime we ate me and my brothers would have a competition on who could finish their food first and I would always lose, until I discovered we had two size forks.
Everyday I would give myself a big fork and give them little forks. The most shocked i’d ever seen them was the first time they ever saw me finish before them. “What? No way? That’s impossible” “Better luck next time” I replied with an evil smirk. This went on for years until one day I asked, “why do I always have to set the table?” My question was never really answered. Instead I was told “because you’re always downstairs and your brothers are upstairs.” I didn’t say anything back although I knew that what he was saying was just an excuse. I always noticed a pattern which was my stepmom cooking in the kitchen and me being asked to set the table. After that day, I did start to notice a change. I still continued to set the table quite often, but some changes were made. There started to be days where my brothers were told to do it, or it would be split and I would set the table while my brothers would grab drinks for everyone.
Life at my mom’s house was very different, maybe because she was a girl and new how it was to be treated differently and wanted for me and my brother to be raised as equals. We always had the same chores, bed time etc. The thing with my mom knowing how it was to be raised as a girl she knew the danger and scariness that came with it.
There was an overlap on where my mom and dad agreed and that was on my curfew and where I was not allowed to go out and my brother was, even at a younger age they were more strict on what time and where I was going. This was always extremely annoying and very frustrating. My mom was always extremely strict if I wanted to spend the night at someone’s house or go out with friends. She gave me the same speech everytime I left the car, it was very serious and always felt extremely long and I didn’t really understand why she would tell me all the time. It would start with who i’m going with, where I was going, when will I be back, then she would get number of my friends parents.
Although my brother got a similar speech, it wasn’t the same and wasn’t as stressed as mine was. I know my mom wasn’t the only person giving this speech to their kids about safety but I always noticed it was more focused on girls. This didn’t annoy me as much until I started to get older. When I was thirteen years old, I was at my dad’s house and I got a message from my friend saying there was a fair in town. She asked if I wanted to go with her, it was already pretty late and I already knew it was going to be a struggle to try and convince my dad. I finally got the courage and went downstairs. I began by sitting next to him, pretending to be interested in whatever he was watching. “Wow this movie seems really interesting, I might watch it later” “yeah it’s really good, I rented it earlier, if you want to watch it you have to by tomorrow because I have to return it” I nodded and after about seven minutes began asking him if he knew there was this really cool carnival that was only open that weekend. I could tell he could see where I was headed in the conversation and he chuckled a bit. I continued on with all the really cool things about this carnival and how all my friends were going. Then got annoyed when my brother walked halfway down the stairs said “i’m going to the movies with my friends in an hour” turned around, and walked up stairs like it was nothing. While I got told no, because it was late, already dark outside and not safe. He gave me a compromise, and I took it. He said “the fair will still be there tomorrow and you can go then when its earlier.”
Over the years I realized more and more that what was happening wasn’t fair and needed to be talked about. I went to my parents and began to talk to them about how they were making me feel less than my brother and how it wasn’t fair or equal what they were doing. I told them that “I deserved to be treated the same way my brother was treated and that, I want to be able to leave the same time and be able to come back the same time.” “we are so sorry, thank you for coming to us and letting us know how we have been making you feel” Without even realizing it, my parents especially my dad realized what he had been doing. After telling them, I felt as if a weight was lifted off my chest, I felt free. I wish I had went to my parents sooner because since then, me and my brother have been treated as equals and I no longer felt alone or less than my brothers. h