When, approaching 20, I was about to get married, my brother summoned me to his office for "a little talk." He told me that sex was only for procreation, never pleasure, because then it would give women power over men. Men had to rule their families, and with that rule came responsibilities. He had to make as much money as possible so his family would feel secure. His talk disturbed me. It was the first time I ever disagreed with anything he said. "What about happiness?" I said. He waved the back of his hand in disgust and said, "It isn't a man's place in life to be happy. It's to be responsible."
That talk was the beginning of a change in our relationship. I got married, left baseball, had children, became a schoolteacher, and dreamed of someday becoming a writer. But most of all, I began to formulate my own ideas of what it meant to be a man, and usually those ideas conflicted with my brother's. Now, when we met for our little lunches at a diner in town, I no longer just sat there, absorbing his monologues. I disagreed with him, got hot, argued, stood up, my face flushed, and stormed out. He'd call me the moment I got home. "Your problem, Brother," he said, "is that you refuse to accept life's answer." I shot back, "I don't even know the fucking question."
After one of our many arguments, my brother looked at me with a knowing smile and said, "Why do you always have to be better than me, Brother?" I was dumbfounded. Better? I was just different. Why did he need my eternal acquiescence? Over the years, I began to realize my brother created these little scenarios at lunch on purpose to rouse my anger. It was his way of fulfilling the role Dad had prescribed for him. The older, wiser brother trying to make a man of the young, hot-tempered, immature brother. He was, after all, always trying to make a man of me, precisely up to that point, but never beyond, at which I would become independent of him.
It was a crushing blow for my father to see his two sons begin to drift apart. "After all your brother's done for you," he said to me. He tried to punish me into reconciling with my brother. When he found out I had been having affairs with other women, he shook his head in disgust. "A real womanizer!" he said, with some satisfaction, as if my behavior proved some point about me he'd always believed. I just looked at him and said, "If it had been my brother, could you have called him a womanizer?"
My father looked truly pained. "I could never do that," he said. "It would hurt him." Then, after a long pause, he said, "Why have you always been jealous of my special relationship with your brother?"
"I'm not jealous. I just think it's sick."
Dad was most crushed by my decision not to become a lawyer and join my brother's firm. I didn't tell my father that it was my brother who discouraged me from becoming a lawyer. He hated the law.
"Then why'd you become a lawyer?" I said to my brother.
He gave me an ethereal smile, turned up his palms to heaven as if presenting an offering, and said, "For Dad."
"Jesus! That's sick."
He shook his head at my ignorance and said, "There's more to it than you know, Brother."