Saturday, July 05, 2008

Venus Beats Serena at Wimbledon; Kevin Confronts Past

I don't follow tennis that closely, but I do follow sibling rivalry with particular zeal. Venus, after losing five of her last meetings with Serena, restored sibling order. Their father, Richard, flew back home because he can't stand to watch his daughters play each other.

As the oldest sibling in my family, I did a small and quiet fist-pump to myself. Older siblings always have a tough graveyard spiral of an existence. We are in firm control until the first time the younger sibling(s) questions one of our bogus lies -- "Wait a second! There's no monster in this closet waiting to eat me!" From that point on, it's a long slide. The younger sibling finally beats you at basketball or chess or with a club. Maybe he/she does better than you did on some school test. A sense of impending dread sets in: the age advantage is vanishing fast.

When you're 10 and your sibling is 7, you are lord of all the world and several nearby galaxies. When you are 43 and your sibling is 41, you have nothing left. I'm in between those two arbitrary measuring points. My brother is two and half years younger and certainly has his own talents and successes. As the older brother, there is pride in this. Maybe it was something I taught him! But there is doubt too. Maybe I was holding him back with teasing or being an idiot when I was 12.

I'm sure Venus has had to grapple with these questions. She's had plenty of her own success, but it must have been hard to lose five straight times to her younger sister. There's always plenty of talk of the middle child getting Jan Brady-ed and forgotten or the younger sibling constantly living in a shadow, but there's also something that happens to the older kid who has to examine and compare personalities, achievements and success. I've always been proud of my brother and truly want the best for him, but it's nice to know that, like Venus, there's still some fight in the aged Sibling Who Would Be King.

So two cheers for the younger siblings. It would be three, but come on, we have to have something on you.