When I got the invitation to my sister's wedding, I was ecstatic. I was 17, had never been to a wedding, and honestly, was just pretty pumped to have been invited. I ignored the fact that she had neglected to tell me, prior to the invitation, that she had divorced her first husband and was getting remarried.
My half-sister, Michele, is 16 years older than me and had never been great at communication. We are tenuously connected by a father who abandoned her suddenly, and who abandoned me slowly.
Our father was a teenager when Michele was born and quickly bailed on both her and her mother. You'd think by the time he got around to marrying my mom and having three kids he'd have gotten his shit together. Since, unfortunately, he just wasn't that kind of guy, I naively viewed our mutual daddy issues as something that bonded us.
Due to the fact that Michele was not exactly close with the dad who swapped her out for a different family, she and I didn't grow up in the same household. That did not, however, stop me from idolizing her.
I'm the youngest child with two older brothers. I'm sure I'm not the only girl who begged their mother for a sister, so I know the sisterless girls of the world will understand that when I discovered I had an older sister out there, it was like my wish had been granted. I had no idea if she was actually all that great, but in my eyes, she was basically a fairy godsister. She might as well have flown into my life on a freaking unicorn.
So, when I received a wedding invitation addressed to me with a plus-one, I quickly convinced my then-boyfriend, Daniel, to road trip to another state with me. We set off to see what I believed would be a magical day full of love, sister reunions, and maybe a bit of fairy dust.
Turns out, the wedding was a joke, and I do mean that literally. After driving almost 500 miles, spending hundreds of dollars on gas and a hotel, and getting all dressed up for what I assumed was an actual wedding, I discovered that the legal ceremony had already taken place at a courthouse the day before. The outdoor "ceremony" I witnessed involved the bridal party sitting on four-by-fours in racing gear, the bride walking down the aisle to a skipping boombox, and the newlyweds taking shots of Jägermeister after reading their "vows" from a racing magazine. I stood there, letting my heels sink into the muddy grass, while the rest of the guests shuffled around in jeans and tracksuits.
After the ceremony, guests were led into a hunting lodge lined with a few folding tables covered in two-liter bottles of Vess soda, assorted bottles of booze, and a snack spread that looked more appropriate for a frat party than a wedding.
I shuffled over to the receiving line, still hoping that reuniting with my sister would make up for the awkwardness of being overdressed.
When I got to my sister and her new husband, their lack of recognition was obvious. I caught them quickly glance at each other, clearly hoping for some sort of hint as to who I was. They gave me tight-lipped smiles and vague greetings as they went in for the compulsory hug, thanked me for coming, and started talking to the people behind me. My sister literally looked right past me and poof — my sparkly reunion carriage turned into a crappy week-old pumpkin.
My sister had forgotten my face.
Daniel guided me to a table, where I sat in a daze. Michele had invited me to her wedding knowing that I would have to skip school to drive to another state to see her "just for fun" wedding and then didn't even have the decency to remember who the hell I was.
A few minutes later, Michele showed up at our table, laughing.
"Ohhhhh my Gooood, I totally didn't recognize you! I asked my husband how he knew you and he asked me the same thing! We had no idea who you were! Isn't that hilarious?!"
No. That is not hilarious.
I was no longer embarrassed or anxious — I was angry. I had let my angsty teenage guard down for this shitty sister, and she saw the whole thing as something to chuckle about over Cheetos and shots.
I gave her the same fake smile she had given me in the receiving line and said nothing, not because I didn't have anything to say, but because I figured causing a scene with the bride in a hunting lodge full of people who were likely carrying maybe wasn't the best course of action.
At this point, I was ready to leave, but Michele grabbed my arm and insisted we take a picture together. She waved over the cameraman (who, really, was just a friend of hers wearing cargo shorts and wielding a camera slightly above disposable-quality), placed me in front of a tree, and said, "Let me just grab my sister!"
Wait. What. Fucking. Sister.
Michele returned with a girl around 13 years old. I stood there as Michele explained that this girl was her other half-sister. Apparently, her mom had another daughter with Michele's step-dad. This girl had spent her entire life growing up with Michele around. After years of chasing Michele, basically begging her to be the older sister I had always dreamed of, I was placed in front of the girl who lived in the place I had always wanted but never had. Michele did exactly what our father did: traded in one family for another.
As a 17-year-old, I was furious and petty. I ranted about the unfairness of having such terrible family members, and I trash-talked the wedding. Years later, I realized how pointless that was.
Michele may have disappointed me in the same way my father did, but I don't waste any energy on wishing them ill anymore. As an adult, I realized that blood relation isn't everything. You deserve to have a family that loves you and treats you with respect, and sometimes that means choosing that family for yourself instead of relying on what you were born into.