Wednesday, March 05, 2008

On Sibling Rivalry

On Sibling Rivalry

"That donkey is such a bad influence on you..." ----Marge Simpson

I am 31 years old. I reckon that's the first thing I need to say. I'm 31 years old, and am now well past that foggy border I crossed way back when into adulthood. It's an intangible thing to know, but I suppose that it could be said with relative ease that at this point, "I should know better."

And I am losing weight. I should also mention that. It wasn't a New Year's Resolution, per se, but it coincided with a couple minor life events around that time, that I decided once again to make a real effort at getting myself into a normal-sized pair of britches. I say, with a real fear of jinxing such things, that things have been going well, two months in. I've stayed away from scales, as such things vex me, when the result is not exactly what I want it to be, but I can tell you that I'm down a belt-loop, and almost two.

I ate dinner with my sister and brother-in-law tonight. We live about an hour apart, and we met halfway between at a little place I like to call The Outback Steakhouse. Perhaps not a choice in keeping with the previous paragraph, but I consider it a treat.

My sister and I have a relationship that we like to think is unique, but is probably true across the board for most sibling relationships. It is built around mutual irritation, more than anything. But, I realize, more and more, that we are different sides of the same coin. Very often, there is no person on Earth whose thought patterns mirror my own. A scary thought for her, I'm sure. But it is a key to victory, I believe. In this game of mutual antagonism, to irritate her, I must do only that which would irritate me.

Different sides of the same coin...a coin where each side's purpose seems to be pissing the other off. Things are said, things are done, generally for the express purpose of getting a rise out of the other. Usually, these things are kept out of public view.

I've had my shoes tied to wicker furniture. She's had her shoes thrown onto the beams that run across the A-Frame of my parents' house.

She's had every drink she's put down in a conspicuous (or inconspicuous) spot drank or dumped. I've had a strange game played against me, where every bite of food I take has been counted aloud (a contest I found rather more disconcerting than I'd ever have thought).

She has come into my work and told the people who work for me the embarassing things I've done in my life (I think it was her who told the people at a former store I worked at that, in my teenage years, I had a crush on Deanna Troi). Sadly, I was unable to carry through with my plans to have her lose a penny drive at her school, in which the teacher whose class raised the least (or was it most?) pennies got slimed. I'd have gladly paid for the privelege of sliming her myself.

Mindless games are played. There is a competition called "The Game of Hello." In it, the first person to break from saying "Hello" once a telephone conversation begins, loses. Mindless, yes. Does it do anything to break our resolve to defeat the other? Tonight, I heard my brother-in-law, presumably unaware that a contest was underway, tell my sister "Just hang up if there's nobody there."

I guess my point is that there is competition. Usually, such things are not contested in public view. Tonight, though, was a horse of a completely different color, sex and species.

Dinner was fun. I enjoy the Alice Springs Chicken from The Outback. There is nothing like ruining a streak of healthy eating by eating a chicken breast smothered with bacon, sauteed mushrooms and two kinds of cheese. Still, I had a salad and drank unsweetened tea, so I think I'm okay for today....

There was talk of how to get a rise out of me against my brother-in-law. My sister's ploy was to say to me about my brother-in-law: "He beats me." His response, to me: "Only when she says something bad about you."

As an aside, let me mention that our waiter had the very best pompadour in all the restaurant. Indeed, it may have been the best pomp on this side of the state. If I could pull anything off besides the White Man's Afro, I'd like to think I could pull off a pretty fly pomp. But not nearly so fly as Steve the Outback Waiter's.

The meal ended. We paid our bills. We walked outside, and began the trek to our respective vehicles. We'd parked near each other, at the back of the restaurant. Jeff and I began walking one way. My sister stated that she was going to go the other way, around the opposite side of the restaurant.

There are many subtle clues as to when "the game is on." Sometimes, I miss them, much to my pain and chagrine. Sometimes, she does.

But when we both realize it...

So. If you were in attendance for the great race at The Outback Steakhouse in Cleveland, Tennessee, I'm sure it was the complete opposite of A Thing of Beauty.

"When I saw you pull up your pants, I knew what you were doing," April told me, at the finish of the race.

Yep. I'm 31. She's 27. And each of us on opposite sides of the Steakhouse, we were running to the back of the restaurant, trying to get to the cars first.

I mentioned that I'm losing weight. I don't say that to say "Hooray Me!" because such a thing would tend to jinx me. I say that, to say this: My pants don't fit the same as they once did. Indeed, being a bigger feller with bigger gut than ass, sometimes, the pants make their way south of the equator a little more than I'd like. The effect is even more pronounced when you're wearing a pair that's possibly a size or two too big.

I didn't get a good look at the couple in the car, waiting by the take-out door. My brother-in-law did, though. Their look of confused, momentary concern was a thing of beauty, he said. Come to think of it, seeing a 6'4" dude holding up his pants as he makes a sprint for the back of the restaurant would be a concern as well. We're not quite into Dave Attel "naked guy running down the street" territory, but it's getting there.

Which is not to say that the view on the otherside of the eatery was any less entertaining. My sister was carrying a purse and two to-go boxes, and not wearing shoes meant for running.

More power to her, I guess. She won.

I'll call a spade a spade. She won this one.

But there will always be competition.

When I am 83, and she is 79, there will be some manner of mindless competition. If anything, it'll be worse. At 83, I'm liable to break a hip racing to the car.

Just watch it, is all I'm saying. Bad things happen when we get together.


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