Tuesday, November 10, 2009

birthday layers

Today is my oldest brother's birthday. I've got two older brothers, so I'm the baby, and the only girl, and before you think yup, she was a brat may I also ask that you add tomboy to that mental picture. So I'm a brat tomboy, which should explain a lot. Rest assured that if I ever break my hand punching someone's face, I'm gonna pitch a fit.

Growing up, whatever my brothers did, said, wore, or listened to, I desperately wanted to as well. I grew up wearing black and refusing to wear skirts and listening to heavy metal music and rocking out to Anthrax, Metallica, and Motley Crue, and then as my brothers' tastes varied as they got into college, I started getting into Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, etc. Come to think of it, I STILL wear black and refuse to wear skirts and am still listening to all those bands. Hmmm...

Anyways, both my brothers are amazing guys, honest and direct, hilarious and stubborn, hard-working and incredibly talented (one is an 3D effects animator, the other focuses on graphics. I can't even draw a stick figure very well). I look up to both of them very much, but here's the thing...I don't know them very well.

Oh, it's not for lack of trying, I promise. But there's a bit of an age gap, and I'm, well, a girl, and I've got my own stuff going on in LA. But most of all, there's a little bit of distance because that's how we were raised. And this isn't going to turn into a post about my crappy childhood, because this isn't a blog where I dump that stuff on you guys. But I will say, of all the things that make me the most heartbroken about how the three of us were raised, you know, besides the physical abuse and stuff, is the fact that my father pitted the three of us against each other. We were taught that our siblings were never our allies -- they were our competition, our threats, and it was made very clear that there was only so much love to go around and that we had to compete for it.

Fuck that. And I hardly ever swear on this blog so you can get how pissed off this makes me.

Anyways, I'm steering this post in the wrong direction, as I'm trying to make it lighthearted and instead heading really quickly towards an Epic Fail on that one. Because the point is, of all of this, of everything that I am saying here:

If you really, truly want to get to know someone, check out their wish list on Amazon.com.

We had asked my brother a while back to get us a list of stuff he wanted for his birthday, since we usually try to celebrate it on Thanksgiving because that's the date closest to his birthday when we're all gathered around the same onion dip, and lo and behold, Sunday night an email appears in our in-boxes with a link to birthday bro's Amazon wish list. And I'm scrolling through it, noticing the usual stuff, like some Godsmack albums and Pink Floyd posters and Boston Bruins gear, and then there's the Salvador Dali print of Swans Reflecting Elephants WAIT WHAT?

And there is it, both Swans Reflecting Elephants and Van Gogh's Starry Night, on his wish list. And I know my brother is incredibly intelligent but I'm still like, How does he even know who Dali is? In my entire not-that-long life we have never had a single conversation where he expressed interest in any type of art that was created long before computers, in the dark age of paint and brushes and women who weren't the size of starving Abercrombie and Fitch models.

And as someone who loves art (in a pedestrian, hey that looks familiar, must be whats-his-name kind of way) this absolutely blows me away.

But then I think about it - isn't my Pink Floyd, Boston Bruins, Battlestar Galactica and Godsmack loving brother allowed to have layers, just like me? I wouldn't want someone to look at the things I like and assume I don't know a Jackson Pollack from a Monet. Or that I'm just some air-headed blond who doesn't know the difference between Picasso and LOL Cats.

It got me thinking - what else don't I know about him? What else will I find out about my brother, if we just keep talking, if I don't let my busy life and my brat tomboy persona and the past get in the way?

So happy birthday, big brother. Here's to keeping people on their toes, and never, ever apologizing for being yourself. Your talent and your drive make me so incredibly proud to be your little sis.

And can I borrow that Godsmack album sometime?


Jenn said...

this is so true!! you think you know someone, but they always have layers. sometimes when i see things my brother posts on facebook, i'm like "how does he know that??" or "he watches that tv show???" and then i realize there's always time to learn more.

happy birthday to your brother!

Maggie May said...

I love this post. It's interesting to me too because Lola is 7 and her two older brothers have a big age gap between them and her. I'm sorry you grew up with that kind of suffering. It sucks. I know. You obviously turned it into something special because your spirit is loud and clear.

jennifer from pittsburgh said...

Great post! Made me think a lot of how my two older brothers and I were so competitive growing, but actually very close now. Hang in here and keep trying with them both. Guys take time.


Firstly, hope your brother will have a wonderful Birthday! It's interesting how we don't even know much about our own family sometimes...I must admit I know know much about my own father! Anyway, your brother sounds cool, Dali's surrealism rocks!

krista said...

hey honey, talking your truth isn't dumping on us. we stop certain behaviors and cycles by acknowledging them.
now enough serious stuff.

Taylor K said...

GREAT post. I am glad that you are learning more about your brothers, and in the process, becoming closer with them. The GREATEST thing (and believe me, there were many AWFUL things they did as well) my parents ever did was to cultivate an incredibly close relationship between my siblings and me. They are relationships that got me through, and continue to get me through, extremely hard times in our childhood and through adulthood. I look forward to seeing more about your blossoming sibling love! p.s. we have two original Dali prints in our home! I feel so cool. :)

Nahl said...

So I have a cliched answer for this, but because there is an element of truth to it, I'll tell u the cliche:
What hasn't been done before, do it now. I know that so many years have gone by and nothing can make up for those, but you should be glad that you can still attempt to get to know your brother more. Honestly, it's going to be SO much fun, and I know it's easier said then done because I too have a younger brother I'm not close to AT ALL..and that does make me sad,but since you're the baby of the family I'm guessing your brother would like pampering you...even if that pampering means answering your silly questions about his art?
Just a thought.

Kristin Quinn said...

Happy Birthday to your brother! Now go get him some art!!!

Lori ann said...

You really just make me want to hug you.
Happy Birthday to your big brother. It sounds like you and him need to spend some time together, dinner maybe?
It's so common for siblings to develop a newfound closeness as they grow older. I bet your's would love to see how well their little sis has turned out. I love reading your posts. Really.

And the Amazon list, brilliant!

Barbara said...

Difficult when you're young and separated by years (no common ground at all) but when you get older age doesn't seem to matter so much. We're all 12 years apart but I've ended up good friends with my older sister, even though we don't live near each other. Unfortunately not so much with my younger brother. Maybe it's tougher with men. I keep trying though.
Thank heaven for the internet- making communication easier and faster.

Marion said...

Wow, this is a very thought-provoking post, Phoenix. I have to agree that my friends know me better than my sisters or brothers. Nobody in my entire family even remotely likes poetry. They have no idea that I blog or write poetry and I like it that way. My sisters and I pretty much raised ourselves because Mama was a bartender and brought her work home, so to speak. But I think it's great that you're learning new things about your brother. It's never to late to communicate. LOL! Blessings to you and to your brother.

Anonymous said...

I marvel at your honesty. And you ask some key questions that I think all of us ask ourselves. There's so much about my parents and sister that I wish I knew more about. I'm sure they have interests, dreams, and feelings that we've never discussed.

Kris said...

Great post, but I can't say I can relate. I'm one of the only-children... not to be confused with lonely. :o)

Iva said...

Happy Birthday to your brother!!

Joker_SATX said...

Wow...this is a great post! I file this under the Taking it for Granted file. Not that we do this consciously. Unfortunately, we do this subconsciously. We come to believe that our brothers...our family...the people that are near and dear will always be there. And we never stop to think (as you have) how well do I know this person?

Good for you! Here is hoping that you have embarked on a new beginning! And that you share many wonderful years getting to know your brother. I think you will find that he is probably in the same boat....

Wine and Words said...

With you on the skirts. Burn 'em...and dresses too. Don't know my brothers very well either. They have admitted that they were there for each other during the abuse years, and let me take it all. I love how you continue to try though.

Jo said...

Happy birthday to your bro!

I always say that siblings are the only people who have as much shared life experience, and no one will ever understand each others past in a way that siblings can. And by that I don't mean they have to be on the same side of that familiarity coin. You know how close I am to my brother. Well, growing up we had that shared experience from different sides of the fence. Me: Good kid. Outgoing. People (parent) pleaser. Him: Good kid who was misunderstood (by the parents), so became a bit of a rebel. Lone wolf. Introvert.
We were constantly compared to one another by teachers, and he got the raw end of that. He's smarter and far more talented than me, but somehow was made to try to live up to his big sister. Pitting kids against eachother is awful. I don't know why adults do it!! I'm so sorry that happened to you guys in your home. It happened in ours as well. Thankfully, as we grew up we were able to see through it and past it. Sounds like you've been able to do the same.

Sorry for such a long comment. This post really touched me. I guess I just wanted to say that I hope you continue to learn about your brother, and in turn let him learn about you.

And, Godsmack rules!

Gwen said...

Awe...I love this post. I think that soon you will get to have a wonderful relationship with both of your brothers.

I also agree with Krista. If you have something serious you would like to talk about we're all ears just like you would be for us. That's what friends (even bloggy friends) are for. :)


Rachel said...

Man, does that ring familiar. I too am the baby - youngest of 10, most of them boys - and you learn to grow up hard and kinda tuff. Got into many a scrap and to this day can handle myself in a knock down, drag out.

I too never got really close to my brothers for the same reasons (abuse, competition etc.)

Its ruff out here for a pimpette.

drollgirl said...

oh, i hope your brother reads this post and that he and you get together and get to know each other better.

i have two sisters and one brother. my youngest sister is my favorite person on planet earth, and i'd like to ship my older brother and older sister to another planet. ugh.

i guess i don't have much of a point, but you already seem to have so much good stuff in common with your bros, and it might be really fun to learn even more. :)

drollgirl said...

and another thing. i LOVE your taste in music and in fashion. we are soul mates. or blog mates. or whatever.

have you watched "that heavy metal show" on vh1 classic?! dude. i am telling you. my (pathetic) life is much improved since finding this show. it is a scream! recent guests include rob halford, steve vai, slayer, lita ford, etc. LOVE IT!!!!

Ida Nielsen said...

Isn't it amazing how different siblings can turn out even though they're sharing the same genes!?! I often look (or, used to, since I now live half way around the world from them) at my brother and sister thinking 'who are you people?' Apart from looking alike there really isn't much similarity between the 3 of us.
I really enjoyed this post! Best wishes on more 'layer peeling' ;-)

Clarity said...

Okay BFF, working backwards to missed posts and I am touched.

Happy belated to your brother. I understand what you mean about layers, they are delightful. As for being pitted against one another - auful, terrible and I am glad you all moved on. Perhaps email him (them) more regularly, I find that is a good way to know one another over distance and he sounds lovely.

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