Male relatives are indirectly responsible for much of women’s early experiences with the opposite sex and therefore future expectations. Fathers, of course, are a perennial favourite. They can make or mar your romantic adulthood by being impossible to emulate or abusive enough to warrant crap partners. Dads and sons so dominate any talk of subsequent dazzle or damage that brothers often get overlooked.
Brothers. There are villainous ones who grab property, contest the will, won’t give you their kidney. There are sweet effeminate ones who depend on you to drag them off the brink of drugs or drinks. The typical elder brother who plays surrogate dad, bails you out, his little sister, so what if his wife’s smile grows strained at all this over-the-top brother-sister antics? Firstborns by default play a parental figure while baby brothers/sisters can’t be bossy without being ‘cute’.
Most of us make do with our lot in the sibling stakes with adequate cheer. I have just one brother, younger and sunnier, whom I used to bully because he looked like he liked being bullied. It is only after my father’s death that I realised how much a part of the general support system he really was/is. If no man ever measured up to my dad in my fairy-tale search for the perfect mate, it is my brother that every good friend always reminds me of. The open conversations, the ease and trust, the pulling of leg. He has my back as I have his. Though his habit of calling me etta, Malayalam for elder brother, does confuse others.
Liam Hegarty, whose funeral his sister, the novel’s narrator, writes about in The Gathering by Anne Enright, presents the complicated world of a bereaved family. Orphan Black, the Canadian sci-fi thriller, Felix, or Fee, played by actor Jordan Gavaris, in some scenes outshines his foster sister who plays the lead; the blind support he brings to his brotherly air balances out the high tension. In his new memoir, Not That Kind of Love, actor Greg Wise talks of his late sister who died five years ago. He writes of the days towards the end: ‘A better night last night. A calmer Clare and a sharper brother—I knew exactly what was meant around 4 am when Clare asked for a ‘fat-bottomed water’—sparkling water, natch.’
Brothers get sisters and vice-versa in a way newer entrants into lives just cannot. It is not just the mundane common blood group or similar facial features, it is a whole lived past where memories infuse the present. My brother and I never laugh while watching Monica and Ross do The Routine, their dance in the sitcom Friends. Don’t all sisters and brothers have that one dance they practised in their childhood?
Brothers get sisters and vice-versa in a way newer entrants into lives just cannot