Sep. 6, 2015

The Property Of Brothers (And Fathers And Friends)

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Grappling with the heavy-handed (and hairy) fists of the irresponsibly responsible man.

She told me that her mother covered the hole with a framed picture of Jesus Christ. The act of revisionism had only taken a day or two, but I already knew I would have to take her word for it. I already knew I couldn’t go back.

She – my tenth-grade girlfriend, that is – had invited me over to her house to hangout in that two-hour window between school getting out and parents getting home from work. The impending sexual liberation sounded like a goddam Jimi Hendrix riff. Arriving, clad in shining armor, hitching a ride on the back of a friend’s trusty steed at a punctual 3:15 p.m., I was welcomed with open arms and the sound of heavy iron weights clanking against each other.

“Oh, that’s just my brother downstairs,” she said, “Don’t worry about him.”

Whatever. I had far more pressing concerns. Namely, the color of her underwear. We went upstairs to her room. Everything was draped in something. But, like, nice something. It looked like somewhere the princess from Aladdin would listen to pop punk mixtapes on cassette. I sat on her bed and she, still standing, leaned over me to initiate a sloppy makeout sesh. Naturally, my hands found their way up the back of her skirt and under her underwear. Her teal underwear.

It must be mentioned that her bed was parallel with her door, which in our haste, had remained wide open. This meant that her now-bared butt was staring this open door dead in the face. Except, not for long, because before I even got the teal underwear to her knees, her brother (who, keep in mind, as a twentysomething still living at home, was afforded boundless time to get swoll, man) charged through the door looking every bit like a rhinoceros doing blow for the first time. Channeling Rip Hamilton circa 2004, I used my girlfriend, in the final moments of our relationship, as a screen to get past the incited rhinoceros. He swung at my head, missed, and blew a hole through the wall outside her bedroom. I leaped down the stairs and ripped open the front door, but, before I could get through the screen door as well, I felt his hand on my back. He didn’t manage to get the screen door open either … because he threw me through it.

I ran the few miles home. Sometimes I wonder what their onlooking neighbors thought of the scene.

Inevitably, everyone at school eventually heard about the incident. Which was fine, I guess. While the rhinoceros would have certainly beat the shit out of me had he gotten ahold of me, the whole thing felt harmless because the overprotective older brother was – and is – such a tired trope. But now, in retrospect more than ever, it all feels like bullshit. And its bullshit because this bizarro penis envy mentality is not evident exclusively in twentysomething live-at-home brothers, but every conceivable classification of bro.

The overprotective male – of any relation – isn’t a tired trope because it’s overplayed. It’s a tired trope because it needs to be put to bed. For good.

If anything, in the years since being introduced to this rudimentary perception of gender, it has only become more and more prevalent. Even the most microscopic of small talk with a girl can get out-of-hand as a posse of snarling bros descends upon you in a cartoonish cloud of testosterone. We accept the collateral damage of the responsibility-drunk man because it comes from a “good” place. But that good place always leads to a bad one. The proactivity ensures a confrontation in the name of preventing one that has yet to happen. And it’s a confrontation that no involved party has consented to. The chivalrous knight, swinging dick in hand, assumes the role of Justice for no reason other than the fact that he can helicopter his genitals. Women have no such natural defense.

Regardless of intention, men need to stop breaking shit. We’ve already broken way too much shit.

Yes, bars and parties are significantly more dangerous for a girl than for a guy. And if a bro were to interject because, thanks to some elaborate algorithm, he calculated the exact possibility of a suitor being a threat, then hey, sell that thing and make some money, man. There are situations where everybody needs looked out for. One of my friends has frequent fainting spells. Another speaks in the third person. They command special attention and that’s understandable. But this role of the overeager and unwanted bodyguard is rooted in the same patriarchal thinking upon which so much is built. It’s the same thinking that grants men a god-given right to fuck chicks. And, oh yeah, the same thinking that makes bars and parties more dangerous for girls in the first place.

The particular manifestations of this thinking, while sprawling in variety, are stale in their stubborn objective. Not unlike a meninist Twitter account highjacking a series of iPhone advertisements. One such campaign was to ascribe girls a purity that was tortuous in its impossibility. And that worked for awhile. Then the flavor of the month was to scare girls with a standard of sex that was one-part bukkake, two-parts disappointment and guilt. That too worked for awhile. Now, with the girls out of the house and talking to boys (boys!), we resort to veiny biceps. The chastity belt is back in vogue. Only now it wears painfully-pastel Chubbies and conforms to the same vague aspirations as every businessman-to-be.

There are examples of and excuses for this behavior everywhere. A Botox-boosted guest star on a network television show. The flawed, yet lovable protagonist of a movie. Our fathers. A brother. Sure, we don’t have to worry about them. We can always take a cathartic piss on the plot where Bill Cosby’s grave will be and call it a day. But we should worry. Such sentiment never stays buried in the basement. Behind every teal pair of underwear is a whole lot of bullshit.

I know you can benchpress four-and-a-half Jennifer Lawrences. How about carrying your own weight for once?


Benjamin Jeffery (@jawcuzzi) is a big, strong man.