I grew up in a family of girls. Boys, therefore, were an enigma to me. Especially brothers. I studied them from afar and came to a simple conclusion. First born brothers are serious, straight-laced and traditional. Second born brothers distinguish themselves by being all that their older brothers are not. Athletic, outgoing, funny, charismatic, maybe a bit of a rogue.
This doesn’t hold true in every case, but there’s always some polemic features between brothers. I know it’s true of my dad and his older brother Vernon. My dad got in anywhere he wanted to go with a smile. His brother, on the other hand, carried a baseball bat behind the driver’s seat of his car. But Vernon meant business, and business was very good.
The second set of brothers I studied were close in age boys named Jaime and Fernando. I liked Fernando. He was hilarious and charming. But Jaime was the one who liked me. Or, rather, he felt challenged by me.
My narcissist of a mother had let it be known how I did on the entrance exam of a private school she had no intent on sending me to, just to get a rise out of all the other Mexican Catholic mothers. After all, what is the point of having children if not to use them as pawns? Jaime, a freshman at the school, got word of my scores and interrogated me in the library of the Kino Springs club house as our mothers drank vodka cranberries and our fathers drank everything else.
So Jaime sized me up and found himself lacking and the only way to rectify it was to call me long distance from school and question me about what I had learned. He, now a sophomore, and I, now a freshman, talked about geometry. The whole time, I wished that it had been Fernando but, as I was to realize, the charming boys don’t go for girls like me. No, it’s always the ambitious ones who want to check under the hood and see how my brain is running. Anyway, thank God for small miracles because he turned out to be quite conventional.
The next brothers were not actual brothers but best friends. Danny, my ex, had been somewhat deprived of his younger brother when their father decided to split them up, so that young Matthew would not have to live in his big brother’s presumable shadow. Danny took on his next door neighbor Loren instead.
I liked Danny. And by that I mean I read an entire book of quotations I’d borrowed from my cousin Peter and memorized every quote dealing with unrequited love so I could utter them and think of Danny. I was 16.
Danny, well, he knew I liked him, and he hated me. I heard him say as much. He even asked me for my AOL password because he knew I would give it to him. And then he used it. This was back in the days when AOL charged by the minute.
But something changed over the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. He’s gone to college in Flagstaff and I was sure I’d never see him again. Only he heard about me changing through a friend, and so we started messaging from afar. We started to date. And that was when the brother stuff came to fruition.
Loren, Danny’s best friend and childhood neighbor, started calling me from college as well. I’d known Loren, but only in a limited capacity. But, for no apparent reason, he started to call on a regular basis. The conversations were always pleasant, but I had to keep a lid on them as my mother and sisters were wont to spy and judge and satirize and humiliate me. My mother would come into the room at regular intervals and tell me to get off the phone. But I was having fun. What I didn’t know was that I was a pawn.
Danny and Loren, as pseudo brothers, competed over girls. Veronica Duncan, Karina Celaya, and now me. When I mentioned to Danny that Loren and I were talking, he spilled the beans. One of them would win, and the other would concede. Silly girl that I was, I felt flattered by all the attention, when I should have noticed the red flags and run in the other direction, away from both of them.
Nothing too bad happened. I went to see Star Wars with Loren, my little sister Margot in tow as a chaperone. He drove me all the way home to Nogales with her in the back seat. There was nothing there. Loren was funny and bright, but there was no way he was ever going to catch up to the boy I’d liked since I was eleven.
Danny’s actual brother Matt was, in fact, a typical younger brother. He was in a punk band and had a revolving door of women, while Danny was a slave to responsibility and ambition.
Now that I am much older, and hardly a paragon of success, I think I’m still doomed to attract older brothers. Whatever I give off, it comes with a tinge of competitiveness that men don’t find in most women. Younger brothers don’t care about that in the least. They want someone warm and caring. No one has ever accused me of being either of those things.
But, just for a change, I think it would be fun to be with the cool one. The relaxed, funny, happy-go-lucky one instead of the one who vomits his resume at you. Just so long as he’s not a comic. Because that would make my vagina curl up inside itself and then sew itself shut.
I’m just not the kind of cool girl, Pink Lady Michelle Pfeiffer in Grease 2, who can get me one of those. I’m not the enigmatic artist, Amanda Peet in Igby Goes Down, who men lust after. Just a nerd with a couple of tattoos. So older brothers it shall be.