I grew up with two brothers, one older and one younger, and it's obvious by who I am today.
I display my bodily functions with pride, often silencing a room with my vociferous belches. I was obsessed with "Street Sharks," my siblings and I had the greatest collection of Pokemon cards ever (until a boy named Edwin stole them at a birthday party), and I can still kick anyone's butt in Mario Kart (N64, not this new Wii wheel sh*t).
I am known by most friends as the tomboy friend, even in my 20s, and I'm more comfortable chilling with the guys than getting dressed up and going out with the girls.
As a child, I had dreams of being my older brother's twin brother -- if only I were a boy, born 15 months earlier. I wore boxers with overalls and my FUBU jersey, got a haircut after telling the stylist that I wanted my hair "just a little bit away from head" and had my first 25 slumber parties at Tommy and Spencer's houses.
My brothers have taught me plenty over the years about sports, farts and beer, but there are some other, less direct lessons that I've taken from our relationships. Here they are:
1. Fear is an incredible motivator.
Never will you ever run as fast as when you're being chased and think you might die (or worse) if you might get caught. My older brother used to chase my sister and I through the house, and we would have to lock the door to our bedroom and barricade it with our dresser until he moved on to another hobby.
I was never a skinny girl, but I ran like a Kenyan sprinter during those fearful moments. I once got caught and held down while my brother captured a fart in a plastic container and suffocated me with it.
After that day, I took soccer practice a bit more seriously. I needed to build up strength and stamina if I was ever going to put up a good fight.
2. Screw the haters; just do you.
There are expectations that the world puts upon us in regard to age and gender. In the fourth grade, I truly loved two things: eating black olives and wearing biker bandanas.
My younger brother liked when my sister and I dressed him up like a Barbie and did his hair and makeup. As long as you're having fun and enjoying life, who cares what everyone else thinks?
3. Fighting can bring you and another person closer together.
There are few things as satisfying as a screaming match with a brother that ends in tears. You leave with a good cry and get every cruel thought you've ever had off of your chest.
Then, in the morning, you watch Sports Center and eat bacon and everything is better than the previous day. We still laugh about some of the more epic battles -- a family favorite being the "A**hole Troll" episode of 2013.
Nothing gets the family laughing like the mention of the day my sister posted up outside of my brother's bedroom door, sobbing and screaming something along the lines of "You're an a**hole troll, but I love you because you're my big brother!" until around 5 am.
4. There's always room to move up.
My two brothers and my sister were super into Rock Band when it first came out, and they made a band called "Beef Curtains." I had no idea what that meant at the time, but they practiced almost every day and I begged to be in the band.
I even offered to do backup vocals, but they always just said I could be the manager; a job that meant I brought them water after their "performances." I watched them practice almost every day, knowing that my loyalty would merit me a place in the band eventually, and after several months, I thought I'd never get a chance to shine.
Thankfully, someone was gone one day, and they needed a second guitarist! Aside from the fact that I totally blew it, I was a member of Beef Curtains for a day and nothing could bring me down.
I wanted to be in the band; I thought it about it every day and never gave up. My dream eventually came true, and it turned out that it wasn't really a good fit for me; however, I still got the chance to try. If I could play a performance with Beef Curtains, I can probably do anything I set my mind to.
5. Tough love is the best love.
Brothers are usually not very quick to compliment or acknowledge achievement. They can be critical and mean, but that only means that when they do compliment you or acknowledge an achievement, they're bursting with pride deep down inside.
My brothers have been there to tell me when I gained weight and started looking "mom-ish"; they told me to get a real job plenty of times during my post-grad, fun-employment period; and they've not-so-kindly reminded me to shave my armpits on multiple occasions.
However, my older brother made me a photo collage on my 21st birthday, and on the day of my college graduation, he told Instagram that I am the "second smartest person he knows after himself," which really means I'm the first. My little brother sent me a picture of my name on a plaque in his high school, and he texts me every time he reads something dorky or about cats because it reminds him of me.
No matter how mean brothers can be, their sincere compliments and acknowledgements make up for everything they've ever done -- even if they kicked you out of the band before it started and made you eat a fart.
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