My brother was the tallest man alive seven years ago. I know this for a fact because its not true now and humans notice what surprises them. I rarely look at Jose Luis now but when I do, I am sometimes startled that he does not stretch looming above all for seven feet as he does in my vague memories. When I was very young and only the members of my family had a place in my consciousness, I was extremely proud of my strong, tall brother whom was on the surface, the family pillar of strength. Esther, my older sister, and me would sometimes absurdly pretend to be his mother, she remembers though I no longer have those memories; we would play and giggle on my mothers bed. Today, Jose Luis and I are separated by deep bitterness that is more an unspoken tradition and the residue of an old fight than anything else.
We live in the same house though I rarely see him and never speak with him. Somewhere along the road for reasons I can only vaguely remember and which have in importance with time we stopped talking and it is not at all the five-year age difference that caused this change. I felt a deep resentment for him that has faded today but now it no longer matters. My young mind formed hurtful perceptions and eventually it seemed to as that the root of all my problems was my brother. We moved to our second apartment when I was eight years. My father separated with a thin wall the largest of our two bedrooms to allow for my sister and I to have a room of our own.
I hated the cramped space that had to fit the small lives of my sister and me; hated how it always seemed that my brother was preferred. His tiny room was all the less tiny because of the sister he didnt have to share with and it made so little sense to me that two existed in the same space occupied by one. It also seemed that while my sister and I were neglected of our parents love, my brother was showered with it as well as concrete representation of that love. My father who could not understand or particularly like his quiet daughters after the age of six bestowed all love and attention on his tall laughing son. When my sisters and I received dresses, he received stereos and new TVs and his own illegal cable box. I know my brother paid for some of these things on his own as, to my mothers exultant pride, he worked a few hours each week at a supermarket.
Esther and I had only the option of fighting for the TV in the living room as my brother guarded jealously from his sisters everything he owned. We always wandered to Jose side when he was not home. My sister would stretch comfortably in the bed and I would sit stiffly at the very edge in paranoia. If the front door was opened and slammed as it always was by the adults of our house (my brother included), we would turn of the TV and run to our sides. My sister reluctantly and with straying glances at the bed and I hurriedly angry at my brother just for being home. It was not in m sisters nature to hate and she did not feel as keenly as I the feeling that we were like beggars.
My brother was 11 when we emigrated from Dominican Republic and half of his life had been lived there whereas mine began the second we departed the airplane. He had memories of names and places that I did not and these common experiences endeared him to my parents. They could share letters and phone calls of news with him while I couldnt remember any of them. But what most separated my brother and I was simply that he was a boy and I was a girl. In the distant world that my family lives in men are the very essence of gods. And we were always trained to serve him.
I did not understand why my mother cleaned his room and served his food when she laughed in annoyance if we requested the same. My father directed all complaints about domestic affairs to the women of the house. My brother did not take turns washing the dishes with my sister and I. I hated this chore and hated my brother for not having to do it. The difference in how we were treated went beyond domestic affairs; it was the tangible differentness in how we were treated that left a tight little knot of pain in my throat. In all arguments, he received preference and we were merely told not to argue with him.
Jose grew up treated this way and as surely as he has memories of the land I cant remember, he has absorbed these customs. Now 20 years old he is less sexist version of my father. I always make allowances for what happens in my family as ancient ideas are hard to change. However, it is not only my family that has set ideas about the genders; most culture, including the great enlightened one of the United States places women in a specific role. I was proud of escaping my brothers fate of being inherently sexist but I realize that I have observed and lived the roles of women since before I could really understand them. I am not as unbiased as I consider myself to be as I too find myself disapproving of women who are bodybuilders because they are womens well as body builders.
I have never been in love but have a set image of who that person will be and always I think manly. I dont play sports and cant imagine doing so. I feel great admiration for the girls who hold their own in Gym class everyday. It is more significant that they should do so than that a man could hold his own with a bunch of guys.
I am quick to point out the sexist ideas my supposedly enlightened friends express and yet I fully appreciate the ideal of a gentlemen and often wonder like many other girls, why there arent more. I have ambitions dreams of being a writer and journalist someday and I planned the very details of this future life. But always my plans are consistent with a distant family; I must not do this because I want to have more time for my children; I must not this because it would be a strange living situation. I too am an old relic of the past! A closet sexist, to invent a new term. In myself, I can define the very core of the problem that stops more progress in improving the relationship between the sexes.
Weve come to the point, away from the drastic ideas that women cannot vote or that they must never work. We have established that women are equal to men and worked vigorously for work policies that give women better pay. Now, however, we come to the hard point in which we eliminate the conventions we like. For the sake of the right to vote Bush into the presidency, we give up the right to be offered a seat by a gallant gentlemen on crowded trains.
And do I really want a world in which men and women are equal; Can I part with that great excuse for bitchiness: PMS Is that even possible. Of course, I know I have to and I certainly will because if not, I will have to sit tightlipped through all debates about gender, torn between being a traitor to my sex and an aid in a cause I only half believe in. I choose to stimulate passion for the right of women and forget the myth of gentlemen. And perhaps someday my brother and I may embrace and help each other with the load of being closet sexists.