An ass beating a day, keeps the loser away: lessons from a big brother.

My brother never let me win at anything.

He was four years older and he loved sports. I vividly remember his sport cards. He would carefully protect the ones of value and we’d play with the less valuable ones. He loved Mario Lemieux and Paul Coffey. He spoke with passion and admiration, trying to bestow upon me the importance of these guys, and why I should care.

He was four years older and he taught me to throw a ball by throwing it directly it at my face… You don’t want to miss a ball that is being thrown at your face. In the long shadows of a waning summer we would play catch on either side of the house. He’d toss the ball up and over the roof, and I’d wait patiently on the other side to make the catch and throw it back.

At the end of one school year, we were given Super Soakers as a gift. We would chase each other around the twisted metal that surrounded my Dad’s shop and hunt one another down. I was often the prey. My brother would have friends over, and I would try to keep up, chasing after them, trying to keep up and “win,” for once. I never did.

He was four years older, and they would often run off on me, and try to get away from the “little sister.”

I remember we would play road hockey in front of my Dad’s shop. I’d usually have to be the goalie. My brother would narrate his descent upon me, as he flipped the ball from side to side of his hockey stick – no doubt channeling Don Cherry or Ron Maclean… I would pray that I could defend my goal…I rarely did. He would unleash an unforgiving slapshot, and the ball would pass me yet again. My brother would throw his hands up in the air and run up the driveway shouting, “Gooooooooooaaaaaaallllll.” Often beating me by a ridiculous margin, our games regularly ended with me throwing a complete freaker, slamming my stick on the ground, crying, and running into the house.

Just once, I wanted to win.

He was four years older than me. Bigger, stronger, and he gave me no mercy. I remember we would wrestle. As I grew older, I would surrender immediately. There was no use fighting the larger opponent. I hated always losing. I remember watching TV, laying on my stomach, and he jumped on my back and pinned my feet to my butt. “Okay,” I thought….I’ll just let him get this out of his system….” He then reached around and hooked a finger in each side of my mouth, administering a double fishhook and rearing me back. I was completely helpless.

He was four years older than me, and he beat my ass…

I remember my brother was working on his left handed punches – hockey player. One day he said to me, “Crystal, I’m working on my left handed punches, so if I hit you with my right (keep in mind my brother punched me on the daily) you get to hit me back (keep in mind, I never hit him back because it was a futile effort).” I was thrilled at the thought of a “free punch.” I agreed.

Soon after, I was washing dishes and my brother walked by and threw a right punch that caught me in the arm. “That was your right hand,” I screamed at him delightfully, “I get a free punch!” My brother smiled devilishly and agreed. He was a man of his word. He bared his arm to me, I drew my arm back and punched him as hard as I could, but before I could relish in the momentary joy of landing a free blow, he tagged me back with his left hand. The left punch hurt as much as the right.

He was four years older than me, a boy, and it never made a difference.

He treated me like someone his own age, he treated me like I was a boy. He treated me like he would have treated any one of his friends, only I was weaker and smaller and a female. I hated it. I cried about it, I whined about it. I tattletaled to our parents about it. I was a cry-y faced little bitch about it.

But when I got on the ice to play hockey, nobody fucked with me, and if they did it was often not worth it. When I fell down countless times during figure skating practice, I would get up and try again. When I played baseball, I played “like a boy.” When I was called “just a girl” during anything I spit hate with my eyes and showed them how this “girl” played. When I had the opportunity to win, I fucking did.

My brother is four years older than me and has often called me “aggressive.” Well, thank you big brother. You are the one that fostered that trait. When I got in a fight and was jumped by multiple people, the first thing my brother asked was “how are your hands?” And the first thing my Dad asked was “did you win?” The answer was, my hands are fine, and yes, I did win, despite being out numbered and never having been in a fight before.

My brother is four years older than me, and he ignited my passion for sports and the love I have for competing. I honestly don’t know if I would have even been an athlete, if it wasn’t for him. And when I received a scholarship to give the hammer thing a try, my brother bought me my first ever pair of throwing shoes. My heart swelled when I opened that box, and saw those shoes. It was like a silent approval, and a nod to my accomplishment. And when I was back from school in the summers and we played slo-pitch, he still whipped that ball at my face….because he knew I was capable. And if the ball hit me, he would have told me that I should have caught it. And he would have been right. Being a girl wasn’t an excuse.

My brother is four years older than me, and he taught me how to lose. I wanted him to let me win so badly, but this is the lesson and the legacy my brother gave me. He taught me how to fail, many, many times. And his infectious love for playing and sport, always brought me back to whatever game it was we were playing, often to just lose again.  My brother gave me no mercy when we played. He was stronger, he was older, and he was a boy, and he taught me that being a girl was not a crutch or an excuse, and by doing that I always felt I had a chance, I always felt I deserved a place at the table, even when it was hopeless, even when the odds were stacked against me.