There aren’t that many articles about how to work on your relationship with your brother.
There are all these articles about making things work with your romantic partner. Are things falling apart? Does he really like you? Are you a good match? What 10 habits of yours will drive him away (for god’s sake woman, do not leave your tampons lying around!)? What 237 sexy things can you do to remind him of how sexy you are?
There is a lot of information and commentary about parents and children. Babies, young children, teenagers, adult children. Elderly parents. Parents of my generation, who might think we can still get jobs when we can’t, and are trying to kick us out of their house. How is your relationship with your mom? How is your relationship with your kid? Whole memoirs about how your mom’s OCD and her collection of porcelain frogs shaped your entire life.
But what about siblings? They don’t make headlines as much.
And I find myself wondering about how I’m supposed to act with my brothers, now that we’re grown up.
(look how cute and simple they used to be!)
(everyone was so happy back then)
It’s strange. I am the oldest, so obviously, I was the most important. And also, for a glorious while, the tallest. And then one day someone thought I was my little brother’s little sister. And then that didn’t stop. And then one day, my brothers went beyond me. They did things I’d never done. And I saw in them people I had never been close with.
I wrote about how my brothers are cooler than me. They are. Both of them, too. Which is a lot of people in my immediate family who are cooler than me. They are both better-looking and cooler and funnier and smarter than me. I am not putting myself down. That takes a lot of all of those things. And they are. It’s like my parents’ genes worked out all the kinks on me and then they started hitting home runs. BAM! BAM! We could do this all day!
Since my brothers have become cooler than me, I have seized up a little. Sometimes I’m not sure what to say around them. I try to be funnier than I actually am, which usually goes really amazingly well. As you can imagine.
(“seriously, Kate? Are you trying to be funny right now or something?”)
Recently, one of my brothers was going through a tough time. College stuff, second year. But totally different college stuff than me. Second year, my college stuff was like “Oh god!! I got a B instead of an A! I need to go talk to the professor about this. Why is everyone drunk? People are so gross. I am so much more evolved than these children. I am going to go meet with my professor again now and we’ll talk about life and he’ll be really impressed with how mature I am.” Yeah. So a bit of a dick. But in this really dorky way.
My brother’s college stuff is more like, “I am the most popular person in the world and everyone wants me to party with them all the time and I’m pledging for this frat and I just changed my major because I can’t figure out what I want to do and now I’m taking totally different courses that I have no experience in and I’m not getting good grades and I don’t want to ask for help because I have too much pride. But also I am the most popular person in the world and I’m not sure if this is good or bad or just distracting.”
Every time I talk to him, I remember that I didn’t drink any alcohol in college. And that I called it alcohol. I remember that I didn’t even try pot. I remember that I was the kind of student who my brother would have felt sorry for if he even noticed me for a single second.
And that is a weird thing to realize about your little brother.
I want to be able to give advice. I want to have some answers for him. To guide him. But I also sort of want to sound cool while I’m doing it. And I don’t know exactly how to do this.
I keep meaning to call him. To see how he’s doing. How’s the pledging? How does that even work? Am I using the right word? I should probably try harder to hide my deep-seated but ill-informed disdain and fear of all frats. I should probably not mention how I used to feel, when I walked by the frat houses in college, right by the bus stop. The guys would be out on the porches, shirtless, slouching, leaning back as far as they could. Sometimes they would call things at me. The air felt heavy with danger. I wanted to disappear. Sometimes I both wished that they wouldn’t see me and wished that they would say something nice when I went by. If they didn’t notice me at all was that worse? What did it mean?
I want to call him and be there for him. But I feel awkward, so I don’t call.
And then it occurs to me that the reason why I am not calling is that I feel like I shouldn’t feel awkward. I feel like I should be good at this. At my own brother. I feel like we should be automatically comfortable together. We were for so long. We have always been close. We should have something to say to one another now. We grew up together. I was there when he was born. We used to play “moving to New Hampshire” together and dress in flannel and puffy vests, because I had convinced him that New Hampshire was the best place in the world, if very cold. I should know him so well that I should know exactly what to say, all the time. I should understand him better than anyone. I should be great at being his sister.
(look how great at it I was!)
And I’m afraid I’m not. So I’m ashamed. I’m embarrassed. I feel a little like I’m failing.
How do you get better at being someone’s sister? What if they have grown up to be so different from you that you’re not even sure that they want to hang out with you?
I think maybe you have to just call.
Maybe we need a catchy list. 5 Totally Essential Tricks You Need to Know About Making Your Brother Like You:
1. Be there. Set up a time to skype once in a while (I still haven’t done this).
2. Listen. Even if you never went to a frat party, you’re both still human. Humans have ears.
3. Tell him why you think he’s great, even if you don’t say “I love you,” because that would be awkward.
4. Tell him the truth about what’s going on with you. No sugarcoating or showing off. Grownups can talk like this. It builds trust. And it’s fun. Tell him the truth about what you think about his situation if you think he needs help. Just say it, don’t lecture.
5. Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to know the latest word for “guys! this is really cool!” You don’t have to understand his music, which goes on forever and seems to never have any vocals. You are his sister. That’s special, automatically. You get a special pass. So use it, already.
How’s that? Is that a good list? I’m not sure how catchy it was. I keep trying to get better at writing catchy lists, and I’m not sure how that’s going. I think I’m bad at sequencing, because I don’t know what should come next. I don’t know much. I just have a feeling. I just know I want to be close with my brothers.
It feels really important to me to get good at being a sister. Because I love these guys a lot:
And in honor of this, because we were really badass together, as crayon people:
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Do you have siblings/a sibling? How is your relationship with them? Have you worked on it? Has it always been a certain way? I’d love to hear about it.
Unroast: Today I love my thumbs. They happen to be perfect.
P.S. I totally leave my tampons (you know, unused. I’m civilized) lying around. Haven’t driven Bear away yet, somehow.
Reader(s) cake pic!! This was for a 26th birthday and I’m told the picture was taken with this blog in mind. Which makes me crazy happy, of course. Send me yours!