Recently, the DailyMail published an excerpt from America’s self-styled ‘first supermodel’, Janice Dickinson. You may remember her as the hyper contestant in Season 16 of Big Brother House who bragged that Stallone paid for her breast implants Yes, that Janice Dickinson.
The excerpt piqued my interest and I soon found her autobiography No Lifeguard on Duty: The Accidental Life of the World’s First Supermodel and in one sitting gobbled all 324 pages of high drama.
If ever there was a perfect title for a book, that is the perfect title. From the time she was tiny, no one noticed much less protected Janice. While her father beat her for refusing to give him blowjobs, her mother floated through life in an oblivious, medicated haze. There never was a lifeguard protecting Janice as a child and even she couldn’t protect herself as she spiralled into addiction as an adult.
There were three Dickinson sisters growing up together in the same home with the same parents, yet they experienced wildly different versions of the same family. This is the crux of my blog post today: how siblings can be raised in the same family, by the same mother and father and yet have such different experiences that the family and parents they remember are unrecognisable when recounted to each other.
To Janice’s older sister, Alexis, home was a living Hell. Her innocence and childhood were stolen from her at the age of five when her father began demanding oral sex on a daily basis. She did it to protect herself from being beaten, kicked and thrown across the room. She did it to protect her little sisters from their father. But home was a horror she escaped from as soon as possible, drifting in and out of abusive relationships, seeking healing.
For Janice, the middle sister, home was where she was hated from babyhood. Her father had wanted a son; not another daughter. He offered her approval only if she too engaged in oral sex. Somehow, she found the strength to refuse and he threw her across the room. Beatings were a daily event. She too left as soon as possible.
For Debbie, the youngest, home was wonderful. Her father was a loving father who doted on her. She grew up happily and innocently according to Janice.
One family. Three sisters. Three vastly different experiences of the same family. Three wildly different opinions of the same parents.
Janice recounts one event where this difference experience of the same family wreaked havoc. She was all grown-up, successful, famous and scheduled to make her musical debut by singing for a charity event. Naturally, she had invited her sisters to attend. Unbeknown to her, Debbie had naturally and innocently invited their mother and father to also attend. Janice walked onstage, caught sight of her father in the crowd and crumbled, not even able to lip sync to a recording. She was distraught. Debbie was confused. She had no idea that their parents’ presence was, in fact, unwanted and traumatic. She was completely unaware of the horrors perpetrated in her own home by her own beloved daddy.
Siblings’ different impressions of the same family can cause great rifts in the family as one sibling accuses the other of lying, of dramatising, of playing the victim. But reality may indeed be different for each sibling. Each sibling may be telling the absolute truth. The parent who was kind to them may’ve been a monster to their other sibling. Both realities are true. Both of their truths are true. The three Dickinson sisters’ vastly different experiences prove that.
Perhaps the luckiest sister was the unknown half-sister, Gloria ‘Bunny’ Dickinson, who was just discovered in September. When the biological father she shares with Janice abandoned her mother, it may’ve been a blessing in disguise. Bunny was spared his abuse and his rage and has just been united with her Dickinson half-sisters (pictured above; Bunny is in the middle). She too has a different story, but her story, at least, has a happy ending.