Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Under One Roof

I've been getting a distinct ROYAL TENENBAUMS vibe since last night, when my younger brother moved back into the basement temporarily. I guess he had some issues with his apartment and his job and his roommate and his car, so now he's crashing here for a few weeks while he hunts for a new job and a new place to live. I don't have a problem with him moving home per se- lord knows I'm in no position to- but I don't look forward to his time here either.

A lot of this has to do with his relationship with my mother, which is, to put it mildly, strained. More to the point, they've been antagonistic toward each other for years. While she's never been the smothering type or a disciplinarian, she's very strong of will and free to offer strong suggestions. I'm cool with that, but my brother is not, and he is incapable of just saying "yeah, uh-huh" and letting it go. Another problem is that my brother is actively lazy, to the point one can be without actually putting any effort into it. Leave him to his own devices, and he'll sleep fourteen hours every night and leave a stack of filthy dishes on the floor of his bedroom (I'm not hypothesizing here). So whenever he moves home, my mother feels the need to impose strict rules on him- she and my dad are in charge, after all- and since he clearly wants to feel grown-up and independent despite not having a job, an apartment, etc., he protests loudly. What really gets my goat is that his ideas of grown-up life are so unformed, yet he so resolutely refuses to change them to accomodate the outside world. He's like a six-year-old who looks forward to being an adult so that he can drive, watch dirty movies, and move out of the house, but can't quite grasp the responsibility that comes with this increased freedom. My experience living away from home was hardly a rousing success, but at least I got my bills paid on time.

My personal relationship with my brother hasn't always been rosy either. We're civil now, but it hasn't always been so. Back when we were both still living at home before I went to college, he seemed to equate me with mom because I wasn't exactly receptive to his shenanigans, and this was compounded by the fact that he was a few years behind me in school. Because of this, he had several teachers who had previously taught me, and they would sometimes approach him as my little brother, with the expectations that came with that. I was a good student once upon a time, and maybe there was some pressure on his part to live up to the expectations I set (a friend once dubbed him "LIPS"- meaning "lives in Paul's shadow"). But I wasn't off the hook either. Maybe because he has never been the kind of guy to do his own legwork, he participated in many of the same activities (Boy Scouts, marching band, choir, and so on) as I did, which became quite the annoyance for me, since he wasn't very good at most of them and was hanging around largely because I was there. If he was any other kid, he might have taken the hint that the activity wasn't for him, but because I was there, I suppose he figured that since I could do it so could he, and so he tried to coast on the goodwill I had built over the years.

My brother has always been mouthy, but ever since he served in the Navy he's gotten pretty unbearable. He seems to lack the capacity for empathy, and whenever he meets someone with whom he could establish some common ground, he instead adopts an antagonistic stance. For example, at a wedding we both attended in January, he met a girl who had served in the Army, but instead of commiserating about their service experiences he gave her crap about how the Army supposedly sucks compared to the Navy. Yeah, real cool. He's one of the most self-centered people I've ever met, to be honest, and it's this selfish outlook on life that causes him to learn precisely the wrong lessons from his bad experiences. Mom disciplines him not because he needs to shape up, but because she's a bitch (his word). The Navy cracked down on him not because he was averse to discipline but because they're a bunch of assholes. And so on.

So there it is, my brother. I know that he's not as entertaining a topic as Barry Manilow-themed license plates or Cameron Diaz's scrawny tush, but life isn't all sunshine and roses. I don't mean to sounds like I hate the guy, but maybe if I vent now I'll get it out of my system so I can just ignore him for these next few weeks.

1 comment:

Champaign American said...

"If he was any other kid, he might have taken the hint that the activity wasn't for him, but because I was there, I suppose he figured that since I could do it so could he, and so he tried to coast on the goodwill I had built over the years."

That's a classic "I want to be like my big brother" thing...I'd instead maybe suggest a "mentoring' approach. Call me to discuss details!