Friday, November 21, 2014

Nature and nurture

When my wife and I were at the children's hospital last weekend, my Little Bro's mother-in-law and an aunt were also visiting. At one point Little Bro and I were going back and forth, and I think actually I was doing most of the talking (understandably, I was hyper-happy to see my niece doing well and Little Bro was on at least his third day of living in the limbo of hospital time and everything brain-fuzzing that goes with that) and when I stopped to take a breath my Little Bro's in-laws both kind of chuckled in mild amazement and commented on how much he and I sound alike.

We don't look that much alike; he got the blond hair and blue eyes and I am brown/brown all day, and he's built on the lean side whereas I look exactly like you'd imagine a forty-year-old with a desk job should. People have told me all my life they can see a strong familial resemblance between us, but it's hard sometimes for me to make it out. That probably has as much to do with subjective perceptions as anything, since we had the stereotypical love/hate relationship growing up and a huge part of developing my earliest self-image probably got wrapped up in differentiating myself from my closest blood relative.

Little Bro and I really weren't bonded that closely as kids and when I hit adolescence the gulf widened, but when our parents were getting divorced and I would come home on breaks from college and he and I would both need to get out of the house, and could drive aimlessly and talk, we finally started to connect on a more meaningful level. It's a cliche to say that men, even very young men, can only be comfortable interacting on a vulnerable emotional level when there's some kind of stilted physical arrangement offsetting it, like being side-by-side in a car both facing forward and not looking at each other, but that is just one of the many cliches that I have actually lived out in my day. And if that's what it took for Little Bro and I to be reasonably big parts of each other's lives to this day, so be it.

Still and all, whether we were rivals needling each other or polar opposites studiously ignoring each other during those growing-up years, the fact is we did grow up under the same roof, with the same parents, going to the same school in the same town and taking in the same pop culture via the one tv in the house with a cable box and a VCR. Of course we speak the same language with the same accent and inflection, how could we not? That much, at least, I do take for granted, so it's always a little odd to me when anyone else thinks it's striking enough to merit commenting on.

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