I am the oldest of three siblings. After bringing me forth into the world in 1992, my parents failed to realize that they had already reached the Genetic Promised Land by creating the best possible human that could be recombined out of their collective genes; in a foolish quest to improve on perfection, they went on to have Viking Brother in 1994, followed by Jesus Brother in 1997.
Just trust me, those make a lot more sense than their real names.
Some couples have kids that seem to get better over time; the eldest child is clearly a rough draft, followed by successively more polished kids. My parents, on the other hand, are more like a cheap Inkjet printer – the eldest kid came out the brightest and most vibrant, while the successive children are faded and only barely acceptable. If my parents had continued to have children, I have no doubt that we would have had to start tethering them up in the yard from sibling #4 onwards.
First person to send this post to either of my brothers gets to fucking die.
Since moving to Manhattan, however, I’ve starting meeting a lot of people who grew up as an only child. Families in the vast sprawls of the Canadian wilderness tend to have a couple of kids, so they’ll have extras if one gets dragged off by coyotes; families paying $200 per square foot of floor space in Manhattan tend to just have one and make it count. My only-child friends have often expressed envy, or a sense of deep longing upon finding out that I have siblings – they assume that siblings are basically lifelong automatic best friends that kind of look like you, and that without this, their lives contain an un-fillable void where childhood games of catch and late-night whispered secrets should be.
And siblings definitely can give you those things. But there’s a whole other side to life with siblings.
I need to make one thing clear here: I love my brothers. I always have. I would happily stab a tiger shark in the eye if either one of them needed me to. I’m making fun of them on the internet in a forum where they cannot defend themselves because it’s fun and because I’m a terrible person, not because I hate them. But we didn’t always get along when we were growing up, and there was one sibling in particular who sometimes went out of their way to be selfish, unreasonable and manipulative in an attempt to make the other two miserable.
It was me.
It was definitely me.
So if you’re lamenting your lack of siblings – or if you’re just unhappy with the siblings that life dealt you – take a moment to be glad that you didn’t grow up with sister who subjected you to:
1. The “Tigger” Game
To preface this one, you need to know that I was obsessed with Winnie the Pooh as a child. Winnie the Pooh wasn’t just my favourite. It wasn’t just something I really liked. Winnie the Pooh was the sole motivation for my continued existence. Eating food, sleeping and bathing were activities that I only agreed to partake in because they facilitated my ability to stay alive a little longer in order to consume more Winnie the Pooh. All other biological imperatives paled in comparison to my need for an anthropomorphic teddy bear walking around with his junk out in the Hundred Acre Wood.
Winnie the Pooh was my cocaine, and I wanted you to say hello to my little friends.
My favourite character was Tigger, a congenitally deformed tiger with a prehensile tail whose primary method of locomotion was “bouncing”. Tigger was cheerful, confident and full of energy – his jovial antics were often the basis of the group’s adventures, and he usually served as a foil for his anxious friend Pooh. Personally, I always assumed that his boundless optimism was a coping mechanism to help him deal with the fact that he was a genetic abomination, the last member of his failed species, and therefore doomed to die alone without ever feeling the warmth of a woman’s touch, and I felt that this was very noble of him, given the circumstances. You are correct in assuming that I did not have a lot of friends at preschool.
My mission in life at that time was to spread the good news about Tigger and his bouncing, the way that some people go door-to-door passing out copies of The Watchtower. Luckily, this was right around the time that Viking Brother turned a year old, and my parents started letting me interact with him by myself more often. It was my privilege – nay, my duty – to introduce my brother to the world of Winnie the Pooh. And the best way I could think to do that was by pretending to be Tigger, and showing my brother all the joys of being “bounced”.
And when I say that I “bounced” my brother, I mean that I beat the absolute shit out of him at every available opportunity.
My parents would come around the corner only to find me, their angel-faced 3-year-old daughter, choke-slamming the baby into the carpet like he owed me money. Having an audience did absolutely nothing to deter me. I would continue to do my best impression of The Undertaker in full view of our parents, apparently firm in my conviction that this was the only way to open my brother’s heart to the warm glow of the love of my lord and savior, Christopher Robin. When my parents rushed to stop me and ask just what in the everloving fuck I thought I was doing, I would look up at them and answer the same way.
I tell my Tinder dates that I’m not interested in getting married because I’m a modern career woman who rejects the patriarchal convention of marriage, but in reality, I can’t get married because I know for a fact that my parents will treat the entire wedding reception to a video of me pile-driving my sickly infant brother into his own carseat. I have seen the videos. There isn’t a judge in the land who would deny an innocent person an annulment after witnessing that kind of dark horror lurking beneath the surface of their new spouse.
For the record, neither Viking Brother nor I have any recollection of any of this, possibly because we were very young children, and possibly because I inflicted a great deal of blunt force trauma on both of our vulnerable brains. But home movies don’t lie. And now, even in my mid-twenties, I live with the constant worry that my brother actually does remember the long afternoons of Winnie the Pooh-inspired savage beatings, and he’s just waiting for the opportune time to get back at me by suplexing me into the kitchen table.
I deserve this.
2. Jesus Brother’s First Lost Tooth
I lost my first tooth in a pizza pop. It happened at school, in the first grade – one moment I was eagerly biting into my lunch, all my teeth intact, and the next thing I knew, I had a mouthful of pepperoni and pizza sauce, but one fewer tooth. I managed to spit it out instead of swallowing it – a philosophy that I later went back on in my college days (sorry, mom) – and the next morning, I woke up to a shiny toonie under my pillow where my tooth had been. It was a wholesome childhood memory that went down exactly how it was supposed to.
The Canadian tooth fairy is apparently much more ripped than her American counterpart.
My youngest brother, on the other hand, lost all three of his first teeth when I violently ripped them out of his head.
In hindsight, you’re welcome for the easy $6.
When I was ten and Jesus brother was five, we got into a fight over a flashlight. Why I was so desperate to claim this flashlight for myself, I cannot recall. Maybe I needed it to vanquish the Lovecraftian horrors that lurked in the shadows of our unfinished basement. Maybe I was planning to run away to try my luck as an underage, potato-shaped acrobat in a travelling circus, and the flashlight was the last item I needed to make a clean getaway. Maybe I was just being a vindictive little shit, and I wanted to take away any item that brought my brother even a hint of joy. Honestly, it could have been all of the above.
My brother decided to go for the nuclear option, and popped the end of the flashlight into his mouth. After all, everyone knows that according to the unspoken rules of sibling-dom, sibling saliva is a cursed and feared substance, and any object tainted with it is thereby the rightful property of the saliva’s owner forever. Normally, I would have respected the loathsome power of the spit, and retreated from battle to lick my wounds and prepare to fight another day. But on this day, I decided I was not going to take orders from my brother’s pitiful drool. I grabbed hold of the flashlight handle and ripped it out of his mouth like I was hoisting Excalibur from its stone.
Someday I will learn how to draw backdrops that don’t look like the default Windows XP desktop. Today is not that day.
My feeling of triumph lasted exactly as long as it took for me to notice that my brother was crying and suddenly had a gap in his mouth where his front teeth had been.
My parents just about came unglued. Not only had I hurt my youngest brother and robbed him of a wholesome, formative childhood experience, but I had also given our teachers and neighbours reason to believe that we lived in the sort of household where children lost teeth by the handful. Jesus Brother’s permanent teeth eventually grew in to fill the holes in his face, but there are still three small, baby-tooth-sized holes in my conscience. Oops.
3. The Sugar Twin Challenge
Viking Brother and I are only two years apart in age, which meant that we were basically joined at the hip as children. People often mistook us for twins – we were the same size for several years, because Viking Brother was always large for his age, and on standard curves of female height, my height registers as a sad tuba noise. Unfortunately, this closeness generally came at the expense of Jesus Brother. Jesus Brother was a full five years younger than me, and asking nine-year-old me to include four-year-old him in my adventures was like asking me to form a meaningful relationship with an amoeba. Viking Brother and I resented having to lug him around with us, and so we decided to punish him for having the audacity to be born at the wrong end of the 1990s.
Jesus Brother was desperate for our love and acceptance, and he had the critical thinking skills of a four-year-old; this meant that he was willing to do pretty much anything we told him to without question. The temptation was too good to pass up. We didn’t want to hurt him or put him in physical danger, but we did want to find a way to confirm our smug sense of superiority at having had the good sense to come into existence at an earlier point in linear time than him.
That was when we invented the Sugar Twin Challenge.
Our parents were on a health kick for much of the early 2000s, and at one point, this involved replacing all of the sugar in the house with Sugar Twin, a low-calorie artificial sweetener. American readers might not see the problem with this. Sugar Twin and similar sweeteners sold in Canada are made with a different formula than sweeteners sold in the USA; Canadian versions of artificial sweeteners are made from sodium cyclamate, an ingredient that has been banned in the USA, South Korea and (formerly) the United Kingdom, but never in Canada. Apparently when your populace lives among bears, moose and bobcats, you let them take their chances with their morning coffee.
Sugar Twin is almost tolerable when hidden in coffee or muffins, but on its own, it tastes like the back of an old spoon dipped in the frustrated tears of a diabetic who forgot their last insulin shot. It tastes like a Brillo pad that was once used to clean up a puddle of spilled diet 7Up. It tastes like the hazy memory of sugar swimming in the blurry mind of a senile person who has started putting iron filings in their tea. It’s disgusting, and our goal was to get our hapless brother to eat as much of it as possible.
I look forward to the inevitable cease and desist letters from a company trying desperately to hide the fact that their product tastes like someone poured corn syrup on the wreckage of the original Bluenose.
We lead our youngest brother to the pantry, his cheeks pink with the warm glow of love and inclusion, and we handed him a spoon piled high with a mysterious brown powder that we claimed was brown sugar. And then we watched him eat it, giddy with anticipation for the moment that his little face would fall, and he would realize that he had been bamboozled.
The joke ended up being on us, though, because it turns out that Jesus Brother has both the palate and intestinal fortitude of a homeless goat. He was capable of eating mass quantities of Sugar Twin without any visible reaction at all. Eventually it reached the point where Viking Brother and I started to feel a little upstaged by his performance, and so we also started forcing ourselves to gag down tablespoons of artificial sweetener, just to prove that he wasn’t better than us.
When Sugar Twin lost its weird, metallic allure for all of us, we started making Jesus Brother eat other strange, random shit from the pantry, partially to bully him, and partially to test the limits of his mutant powers. Over the next few weeks, he happily consumed straight corn starch, maple syrup-green ketchup smoothies (it was the early 2000s, ketchup came in green back then), and spoonfuls of loose spices mixed with expired Tang powder. We might have worked our way through everything in the pantry and graduated to sampling the cleaning supplies, but our parents eventually caught us mashing raw broccoli into a bowl of dry cocoa powder and demanded to know just what in the hell we were up to. That pretty much put a stop to things.
So there you have it. My secret shame is out there for the world to see. This post excludes a lot of the daily name-calling, slapping, stealing, blaming, chasing, pushing, punching, wrestling and lying that wasn’t noteworthy enough to be illustrated and aired to total strangers on the Internet, but that more or less covers the worst of my egregious behaviour towards my younger brothers. Look forward to Part II of this post, which will be written after my entire family views Part I and bombards me with reminders of all the other forms of pain and suffering that I inflicted on my siblings. Until then, if you have a sibling, go ahead and shove them for no reason. Do it for me.