There’s nothing quite so beautiful like a clean toilet.
If you’ve lived with little boys, you know what I’m talking about. I’m obsessed with sparkling white toilets. To the point that when I’ve visited friends, if I use their bathroom and their toilet is dirty, I’ll clean it. I’m that neurotic about it.
Sometimes I talk about this with friends who didn’t grow up with little brothers or any brothers at all and they have no idea what I’m talking about. Sure, a clean toilet’s better than a dirty one, but…? Obviously they’ve never lived in a house where they regularly had to clean the toilet before they could use it. Their toilets were never permanently yellow-gray and sticky.
I’ve survived four little brothers (I’m the oldest and only girl) and sometimes people say to me, “Wow! You’re really prepared for marriage!” which is a horrifying thing to say to a single young woman. On my list of “Top 10 Things To Say To Guarantee Nina Becomes a Spinster,” it’s at least #3 and just barely above “women tend to marry men like their fathers” and “you’ll spend the rest of your life with them!”
Nobody ever qualifies this statement, so I’m left to stew in fear. Hopefully, they meant, “Wow! After four little brothers, living with anyone would be an improvement!” What I’m worried they meant was, “Wow! Your spirit has already been broken and you’re ready to live with a part-man, part-monkey beast that eats all your food, communicates in grunts, smells like a middle school locker room, and leaves dirty underwear lying around!” Excuse me while I look up directions to the nearest nunnery.
(WikiHow has an article on how to become a nun. Did you know that? I’ve looked it up many, many times. True, I’d have to be baptized a Catholic first, but there’s no part where you have to renounce your Mormon membership, and to be honest I think God understands these things.)
Whatever these well-intended people meant, they were right. Dealing with little brothers has prepared me for life. It makes up 80% of the reasons why I know I’ll be a great nurse - someone’s bleeding? No big deal. Clean it up and get on with life. Gotta change diapers on the elderly and clean them up? Also no big deal. It’s just the wrinklier version of stuff I’ve already seen. (Unfortunately, little brothers don’t prepare you for the older gentlemen who, uh, prefer female nurses to help them bathe and clean up. You’re already clean, sir, I’m not wiping you again. Let’s get your pants on. Ugh.)
Not only that, growing up with little bros has played into my dating life as well. Take, for instance, my one and only Tinder date: (I only lasted a week, so stop judging.)
He seemed nice enough on his profile, so when we met up at Jamba, things seemed ok at first. About twenty minutes in, I knew I wouldn’t date this guy ever. I try to give men a chance - say yes to the first date, don’t expect rainbows and butterflies, don’t judge them by first impressions, etc. But this guy was way too Utah-y for it to work. We didn’t have much in common and he was super Mormon (I’m not talking about core Mormon beliefs. I’m talking the unwritten, cultural rules that are stupid but everyone follows and then judges others for not following. YES THOSE GIRL’S SHORTS SHOW HER KNEES, AND WHO CARES, THEY’RE JUST KNEES, SHE IS NOT SEDUCING ANYONE WITH THOSE KNEECAPS, SO CALM DOWN, JANICE).
But he didn’t pick up on that. He thought I was great. I thought I wanted to be done with this date, and then I was going to go home and delete my Tinder. (I did.) I finished my smoothie. He finished his. I waited for us to get up and leave so I could go home. But he kept talking and talking. I lasted for maybe ten minutes of conversation while giving subtle signs I needed to go, like throwing away my smoothie, picking up my bag. He didn’t notice. I knew I needed to take drastic measures, so I subtly changed the conversation.
Him: So, what are your plans this summer? Are you going to visit your family?
Me; Nope. Which is a good thing, too, because my brothers poop.
Me; Nope. Which is a good thing, too, because my brothers poop.
Me: Yeah, I grew up with little brothers. It was so nice to go to college and live with girls, because maybe they’ll be gossipy or catty but at least they won’t poop on my stuff out of spite, you know?
Him: ……...I guess?
Me: Oh man, the stories I could tell.
So I started sharing random childhood stories about my brothers being weirdos when using the bathroom. I figured it’d freak him out, you know, make him think, ok, maybe not this one, she’s a little unbalanced, who talks about poop on a first date? But after being thrown for a few seconds, HE JOINED IN. That’s right. HE LIKED IT. He thought I was “down to earth” and “funny.” NO, MAN, I’M CRAZY. TAKE ME HOME. So I tried other topics. I shared my cockroach horror stories from my time spent in Houston. Unfortunately, he’d lived in Louisiana, and he had better ones. What finally got him to realize I was crazy, in the end, was my story about my job as a nude model. (Technically, I’ve never been a nude model, but that’s a story for another time.)
You might think that’s an extreme example. It’s not. It’s actually the third best date I’ve ever had. Not because I’ve only been on three dates, but because my dates are spectacularly bad.
A woman in my church who’s a theater professor at a nearby university wanted to set me up with one of her students. She got us free tickets to one of her plays (Noises Off, 100% recommend), and when the guy came to pick me up, he let me pick the music on the drive up and it turned out that we had the same taste in music. Pretty great so far, right?
So we’re asking get-to-know-you questions during the drive (the play was an hour away). We talked about where we’d grown up, school, favorite things to do, the usual. One of my favorite icebreaker questions is “What animal would you reincarnate as? So, I asked him.
Him:.....(long pause)....Well, I’d have to say anything that was cannibalistic.
Me: (laughter) I’ve never gotten that response before!
Me: (continuing to laugh because it was pretty funny)
Me: (looking over and not laughing anymore because I just realized that he hasn’t laughed at all.)
Me: Uh, that was a joke, right?
Him: No, I think cannibalism is actually really cool.*
So all I can think is, OF COURSE I would go on a date with a serial killer. Hey, there hasn’t been any news about girls going missing, or being eaten, so maybe he isn’t a murder. OH SWEET HOLY CHEEZE-ITS ABOVE, I’M GOING TO BE THE FIRST VICTIM. THEY WILL FIND MY BONES YEARS LATER, THE FLESH PICKED CLEAN OFF. THEY’LL IDENTIFY MY ROTTING SKELETON BY THE TEETHMARKS HE’LL LEAVE ON MY BONES.
Here’s the thing about brothers (well, this applies to siblings in general): you learn to fight. And you learn to fight and hurt them as quickly as possible, because you’ve maybe got only a few seconds before Mom separates you. So if you’re going to fight, and you’re both going to get in trouble, you might as well do as much damage as you can. Sure, maybe you’ll spend extra time in your room, but nothing can take away the smug satisfaction of knowing you won, and they’ve got the scratches and bruises to prove it. Saying sorry will not negate a black eye. And when you’re the oldest and only girl, and you have four boys under you, you have to maintain that pecking order at all times.
So I looked over at him and calmed down. He may have had thirty pounds on me, but I had two inches on him and I have grown up with brothers. I know how to fight, and I am excellent at fighting dirty. I am prepared. So instead of freaking out or texting 911 or sending up my last prayer to Heaven (ok, I will admit I was sending up a few choice words), I looked him over and assessed him for weak spots. He probably thought I was checking him out, but I was just mentally preparing myself to bite.
(Tangent: the next person to bug me about my love life is getting dragged along on my next date. This kind of crap happens regularly. We’re not gonna talk about the guy who wouldn’t shut up about his love for The Notebook, the guy who told me I was “cool” but he was gonna date this “cute girl” he really liked and if it didn’t work out he “might get back” to me, or the guy who already had a girlfriend.)
I guess those people are right, brothers really do prepare you for life in a different family. Arguably, they’ve prepared me to see men as gross, impulsive creatures that I’ll be stuck with forever, so thanks for that trauma. The good news is, if they can at least aim when they go to the bathroom, I think I can live with it. For now, I’m just glad my roommates don’t hold farting contests.
*These are direct quotes. They’re burned into my brain and will probably stay there for all of time. Unfortunately, dating therapy isn’t a thing.