On Brothers And Men

Growing up in a family with no sisters and three brothers ultimately had a big impact on my life. They are all significantly (9+ years) older and therefore had all left the nest by the time I was in junior high. Actual memories I have of them were from my limited, prepubescent personal interactions with them. Hiding in trashbags, a badminton (or flimsy volleyball) net in the backyard, complaining about mowing the lawn, houses made of couch cushions.

After they left, my parents – and I – would fill in the following blanks as to who they were; that is, with my being the audience. That is the thing about filling in the blanks. When you don’t really know anything about a person, others can make them out to be whomever you want them to be. You can also project on them any sort of role you feel they need to fill and they won’t be there to dispute that portraiture. So though I never knew them as well as even one of their high school acquaintances, there was an extremely high bar that their absence created – even bars that weren’t true to life. But they were created for me to overcome. When I did – I got the violin scholarship, played last in the piano recitals – it would prove that I was worthy of being loved. I even fulfilled their role as lawn-mower, as I probably mowed the quarter-acre lawn more often than my Dad did after the brothers left the nest.

The absence of my brothers created a need in me that went created yet unfulfilled. I have always had the love and approval of my Dad, so I wouldn’t say I had your stereotypical “Daddy Issues” you always hear about in women’s magazines regarding sexuality and equating the aforementioned with approval. Also, my mother is not the girliest of the girly so female sexuality for the most part went repressed – or, shall I say unexplored for the moment. Instead, I had “Brother Issues.” I have had, for most of my life, a need to be accepted by men as peers – whether I admitted it or not. It was something I had never had, but wanted. It was something I could see beyond my reach.

An example of a comment that really lit me up recently came via email, when discussing politics with a coworker (not something I recommend – especially via email). Regardless, he told me after a valid argument I made that I “seem really emotional.” While I was incredulous that he had made the personal attack first (telling me to “do a little reading, study a little macroeconomics” - when it was a major I flirted with in college) and I ignored it in order to keep the conversation on the issues, he had to go still further and reduce my arguments to the downfall that is my female tragic irony. Well there I go again – getting emotional on tax structures. Typical.

After I thought about it, I was content to conclude that my actual arguments had actually exasperated him enough that he had to default to personal attacks. If it’s one thing I’ve learned about politics, people stoop to the entire character summations when they are about to lose on the issues themselves. Men and women do this. But enough about politics.

A positive to the environment in which I grew up is that I have had practice at discerning whether a minimal amount of respect for the complexities and capacities in another human being is there or not. This is directly in contrast to people who only connect with others if they can see the end result of benefitting themselves – for the sake of vanity, obligation, networking or romantic interest.

I admit that I used to be a “one of the guys”-type of girls. In college, this necessarily meant having trouble “finding good girlfriends” because all of the others were so catty, but I wasn’t. But after awhile it was a point of self-examination for me. It is so much more likely to have nothing to do with everyone else and everything to do with me if the common denominator was my ability to relate to them. In retrospect, I felt that there was very little that connecting with other women would do to benefit me, perhaps simply because the option was never even in my peripheral vision growing up. But as is often the case, I’m thankful that my vision has expanded and is better than I could even dream of at a prior time in my life.

Sometimes, our vision is so narrow that it can only go one of a couple ways. We project things that we ourselves are dealing with on others – but what that really says is more about ourselves than the person or object we project that upon. We can’t handle being wrong or even leaving room for another person’s view, so maybe we press the hot button issues in order to distract everyone’s attention. And then there are people who are content to leave things open, to leave things uncertain.

“Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Certainty is.”

-Anne Lamott

I favor stillness. Because the real irony is that we have faith that the things we believe are 100% correct. All this, despite the fact that our imperfect life, experience and perspective is one in a trillion lives, experiences and perspectives that have come to pass.

Even now, I still have more guy friends than girlfriends, but now I’m blessed enough to have a girlfriend or two I can trust in every situation. And most recently, I’ve been befriending handfuls of other women I just cannot wait to get to know. I treasure girls’ nights out more than any other, because together we share, relate, cheer on, envy, back up each others’ experiences. I’ll push for every opportunity to get girls who can keep up with my snowboarding group to come along. In a way I’m reclaiming a sisterhood I didn’t have biologically and making it that much better. I want everyone to know that there are no excuses, no pre-written roles for you that you didn’t buy into yourself. Continually ask yourself, what do you really want? Just have faith to follow that through and become the person that can appreciate it in its purest form.