I know men older than him who come from older times and older societies of thoughts that aren't as hard as he is.
This is hard. I don't want to be the grudge-holder in all of this. And I fear that it will be taken that way. But I simply refuse to welcome all of the same condescending speech patterns and the contemptuous fodder that has been their manner of speaking to me all these years. They don't have to agree with me or think of my position with any respect, but I don't have to keep the door of communication open, either.
I know I don't know them now. Of course I don't know them. I don't know them in an every-day sense. I wouldn't have a clue of how they take their coffee, how they approach budgeting, how they feel about the weather, or how their thoughts and thought processes have changed over the years.
What I do know is that one brother throws it in my face that I don't know him but continues to be an arrogant and disdainful prick. In ten years (or more), he has told me that he doesn't get "as angry" any more, he has implied that he has changed or grown, he has insinuated my own pettiness when I've included random, if inaccurate, disclaimers indicating what he deems is an "old school mentality." (I sent both brothers a video of a dad and daughter singing a Disney song together just a few weeks ago, prefacing the text with what I thought was an easy reference to our harder days - "you gotta crack the tough a moment to watch it. Once you do, it'll melt your heart.") But I still get hot replies and defensive retorts. And aggressive responses. ("I love how you send something sweet and then fuck it up by sending a follow up text with some old school mentality of how you think I am." End quote.) This from a brother who thinks he's somehow improved since his days of his abusive temper, the days of chasing my other brother and I around the house pounding on us, the days of being a frightening maniac who could have easily turned into a news story. Maybe his progression is that he doesn't feel the need to scream at us, to jump up and hit us. But maybe any progression has only been fraudulently achieved because of the physical distance and time. Of course he'd chill out some over time as a natural course to aging - he'd be another whole brand of whacknut if it hadn't. But there's no evidence to support me thinking differently of him than the hardened asshole that I do. This is a guy who, when punching a guy at a bar in the town where I lived, took me down in the recoil, on accident, but never apologized, never had a moment of "oh shit, I'm sorry" when he saw me go down, never had that "oh crap" moment where he realized how out of control he was. Drunk or not, some critical sense of something will still poke through. It did not poke through. I was married with kids at the time. And he was just fresh out of the military himself, divorced, and had a kid himself. We were both adults then, after years of being out of school and a rash of experience. I can appreciate that the physical distance between us would prevent me from knowing how my brother truly "is" now in any definitive circumstance, but how can he not at least understand that the same distance makes his touchy, easily offended responses to me even more apparent? What does accusing me of not knowing him actually accomplish? How does accusing me of not knowing him actually show me the changes he said he's made? I used to think his defensive reactions were hurt ones, hurt by an older, clueless, and mean sister who was too hardened to think of them softly. Now I finally understand, because of my own journey of self-discovery and wound education, it's just him. Still struggling at something and me not helping.
What else I do know is that the other brother used to be the more sensitive of the two and has revealed the glorious influences of our dad and the extreme mentalities of the country around him. In the twenty years since leaving home, he was always kinder to me and spoke in more philosophical tones, if only vague metaphors at first, but was constantly getting hit. From the external, physical influences and abuses of my dad and other brother to the contextual influences around him to the very literal military experiences to the eye-opening experiences of life with his wife and children. It would have only been fair for him to have had enough when I got pissed at him for sending me one of yet another many hundreds of similar inappropriate or vulgar jokes, texts, photos. He's been trying to shed the heavy cloak of guilt for a great many things - mostly misplaced and never his responsibility (parental guilt trips, various guilt trips by others, over time and over many years) - for a great many years. But the colours of my dad's upbringing flashed through his "FUCK OFF WITH YOUR OVERSENSTIVITY" in a heartbeat. It was those words coming my way after finally, finally collecting the pieces of my own self-worth (a hard thing to say even now) and finally finding people in various interesting places to support the idea that I had self-worth and dignity and proposed more than just the mere suggestion that I could be respected, that my ideas could be respected, too, that hit me the hardest. Because it was the old hitting the new. It was a past calling from its grave. Those words were a violent shake to what I'd come to know, surprising and shocking and then, all of a sudden, not the least bit jarring. Of course it wasn't. Of course I was the one out of line. Of course I was the uptight one, the oversensitive one, the feminist, the french-influenced liberal bitch. (Ha HA! I'm not liberal anything. If only knew how little Canada was influenced by French anything.) Of course I was the projection of everything negative about a woman having the actual gall to not only get healed to a place of feeling worthy enough to stand up for herself, but to call out the trend of typical behaviour in all of them. All three men. All three defensive, temperamental, controlling men. The trend of sending, saying, giving, joking their sister/daughter bullshit, inappropriate jokes until the end of time even after being asked not to and could they please not and so on and then freaking the hell out because they did not get the reaction or response they felt they should get. Heaven forbid it actually repulse me and make me feel awkward. Heaven forbid I ask nicely for them not to be like that with me and they actually show enough respect to DO IT without backhanded jabs. (I have actually received "oh, sorry, didn't want to offend you" texts from all three of them in the sore aftermath of incidents where I've said something and they've sent me other jokes that are truly harmless. That's so over-the-top.)
And all of this, ALL of it, nothing much unto itself. Stories here, instances there, dotted and speckled throughout the course of knowing each other in broken ways from damaged people. Every family deals with it. But if they had ever looked at me once as a person whose viewpoint could be respected, I could have felt respected, or felt okay to have views different from theirs, or to have my memories just be that - memories set in the past with one perception, not necessarily wrong even if not accurate and either left there or positively addressed. I know I would not have had to request to not be sent/told/relayed/emailed stupid, ignorant, inappropriate jokes more than once over the course of many years. In fact, it's not even that I can't take the joke as much as it is that there is absolute zero reason for it to be sent to a female family member because it's awkward as fuck. Why can't you weirdo men just fucking get that, why don't you?
And for that, I have struggled my entire life to own what I know, what I say, what I do in attempt to ward off how crazy I feel I am. And it streams down from the malignant ideas of an unwell patriarch. I have assigned every bad experience I've had to another person, all because I've not been able to to address that this is the way it has always been with my dad and my brothers. Hot and defensive and broken and controlling. Heaven forbid we hear, much less entertain a contrasting view point. My brothers, being part of the centralized integral unit I grew up in and hardened as they are (and oh, they are) and contributing to the entire yarn ball of useless, negligent mess between us, still do not even begin to compare to the source of their attitudes, which is the trickle of poison of our dad's neanderthal-like thinking. And that's where the sweeping generalization comes in. Each of these men separate in their own experiences now that they're in the world, but absolutely together in their hatred, their meanness. And even though I still forgive (mostly in the hopes that they can forgive me), I do not have to invite the continued abuse.