Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder… Or So I Thought.

Maren Scharf is a new addition to The F-Word Blogging Team. She’s an enthusiastic feminist, cinephile, environmentalist, wordsmith, and DiCaprihoe.

For four months now I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying the coveted “only child” status that so many younger siblings dream of. I’ve grown accustomed to the euphoric solitude that evaded me for so much of my childhood. However, it all ended rather abruptly when my older brother got back from his first semester at college yesterday.

He left for Brown University this past fall with aspirations of becoming a music journalist. From a young age he proved to be exceedingly interested in music and for a while now he’s written music reviews and conducted interviews with bands that have come through our area; he’s even gotten some pretty cool paid gigs with companies like MTV. He plays guitar, he writes, and he’s been taking art classes for the past few years where he’s made some pretty insane stuff. In other words, he’s a really cool brother- at least on paper.

Unfortunately we don’t get along – we never have. For as long as I can remember our relationship has been unyieldingly sub-par. Although a lot of things have changed since he got back- his room is cleaner, his beard is longer, he has a new lanyard with the Brown emblem emblazoned down the side- our relationship has remained completely and utterly unchanged. I don’t really know what I was expecting and I guess it’s probably my fault for expecting anything, but this… this is certainly not ideal.

All my friends talk about this blooming connection between themselves and their college-aged siblings, a rekindled love for one another after being away. I think that’s what I wanted. My dad warned me not to get my hopes up, and I tried not to, but when you tell yourself not to want something I think it becomes more and more desirable.

I began imagining our grand reunion, where we would hug and he would tell me all about college, beginning with light hearted chit-chat and leaving the intimate details for after my parents had retired to their room… and in the dark everything would be different – we would have become friends.

I now realize just how ludicrous the whole idea was. When my brother left we didn’t say goodbye and when he came back we just sort of acted like he had never been gone. Everything was the same. We’re not confidantes, we’re not friends, and we’re certainly not the sibling power duo I constructed in my mind. We barely talk and the only thing we share is our mutual distaste for one another.

Of course we’ve had moments where we didn’t want to tear each other’s hair out, but those shining flashes of placidity are few and far between. Regrettably it doesn’t seem as though a healthy relationship is something that will simply arise through extended separation (at least not for us). Better luck next time maybe?

But now I’ve been thinking… what exactly is it that keeps my brother and I from being closer? Notably, one might attribute our petulant differences to a 27 month age difference… but, as much as I’d like to chalk it up to a minor maturity gap and move on, I know that there must be something more.

Being raised by the same fantastically liberal parents… our world views are exceedingly similar. Though our individual interests don’t necessarily align, they definitely don’t conflict, and they often overlap. Our taste in movies and music are eerily similar and our style preferences look like they could be found in the same catalog… maybe even on the same page. So essentially, we’re pretty alike.. which is all the more disheartening.

Theres no discontinuity at the base of our humanistic ideals that could possibly account for our severed relationship. So… is this just how siblings are supposed to be? Are we supposed to hate each other until we’ve grown up, had kids, and gone our separate ways? I hope not.

But if we’re this similar how could we possibly fight the way we do? Is it possible we’re too similar? After extensive retrospective evaluation… I think that must be it. In order to maintain a sense of individuality, I think we’ve learned to focus on our differences, blinding us from those things that bind us together.

Unfortunately, I don’t really see a quick fix or drastic change for my brother and I anytime soon. He’ll be back at college in a month and while he’s here I probably wont be seeing much of him. Our relationship will require a long term reconstruction from the bottom up. Slowly we will have to adjust the way we perceive one another, as well as the way we identify ourselves. Until then, we’ll just have to take it one step at a time.

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Maren Scharf

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