My brother never cleans his bathroom. A thick crust of toothpaste encases the sink. Whiskers from his razor sprinkle the faucet. An inch of standing water encircles the shower drain, and mold dots the tile grout. I’ve stopped bathing when I visit my family.
It’s the kind of bathroom where you flush the toilet with a pen.
And then you throw away the cap.
This year, I decided to forego my attempts to right my brother’s ship. Hardly anyone ever listens to their older brothers and sisters. I’ve learned that the hard way. In fact, giving them advice can make things worse. Siblings have a way of doing the opposite of what you want, and vice versa.
The less I try to intervene, the happier our visits have become. We exchange presents on holidays and birthdays now. We actually kind of like each other. He picks out great gifts, like booze. Also, he’s easy to buy for — games, books, art, the kind of stuff we both appreciate.
My brother will never see me as a role model. It’s just not his style. He doesn’t want role models. Every now and then someone I know talks about an older sibling as a positive influence. But they almost always follow their example. Not their advice. There’s a difference.
Older siblings like me make a huge mistake when we try to act like authority figures or mentors. Younger siblings hate it when big sis talks down to them. Even if they happen to be right. Study your friends who have older siblings. You may find that I’m onto something.
Mine’s never followed my example, or my advice. In fact, younger siblings like mine seem determined to do life the opposite way. If I took AP classes in high school and made a 4.1 GPA, then he took non-honors and tried hard for Fs. He skipped so many days that our principal forced him to attend summer school just to graduate.
While I went to college, my brother started a band. Because I moved out, he decided to spend the rest of his life in my old bedroom.
My trips home used to end in disaster. Throughout my 20s, I tried to give my brother life tips. Lectured him on the importance of college, determination, curiosity. It only pissed him off.