Dear Auntie Sparknotes,
I'll just dive right in: my brother is in my friend group. He's the person who almost everybody likes, and I seem to be the only person who doesn't like him. My friends think we just have a strong sibling rivalry, but that's not it; he makes me feel like crap about myself all the time. He'll come home from a party and come talk to me:
"Oh hey, what're you doing loser? Being a loser? I was just at a party, and now I'm gonna go party some more. See ya loser."
No one cares. I've talked to my parents about it, but they just tell me I'm overreacting.
Everyone likes him, including my very best friends, and I honestly feel like they like him more. I'm already kind of a loner, and if I stop being around him ever, I'm scared that the few real friends I have will choose him. Two of my three best female friends have crushes on him. My two best guy friends both seem to be better friends with him.
I've lived my entire life in his shadow. In everyone's eyes but mine, he can do no wrong. He's 17, a high school dropout obsessed with fighting, he hooks up with random girls all the time, and he treats girls horribly. He's a party boy; I'm just his weird dorky little sister who has no life, no friends, and has never been anyone's favorite. Even our parents chose him over me. I've been grounded for getting a B-, and if I ever snuck out and got caught, I'd be grounded for a year, whereas he doesn't even have a curfew.
I've dealt with this my entire life. He was two grades ahead of me before he got held back, and one ahead when he dropped out, and we went to the same schools, so teachers would always tell me how much they loved having him and then they'd look at me disappointedly. Please tell me how to deal with this. I can't take it much longer.
Well, you're right about this much: one of your parents' children is, indeed, a big fat loser.
But guess what: it isn't you.
And guess what else: your problem isn't your brother. It's that you've been comparing yourself unfavorably to him for so long, you've convinced yourself that everyone else is doing the same thing. Which is, not to put too fine a point on it, batshizz ridiculous and you need to stop it right now.
For instance: that look on the faces of teachers who've heard he dropped out? Yes, they're disappointed—but geez, Sparkler, not with you. A teacher's job is to keep students engaged and interested; for a lot of them, hearing that someone they've taught has since dropped out of school feels like a personal failure. They're sad, for your brother and for themselves. And your parents? Yes, they've made a choice not to discipline your brother... probably because they've decided it's better to focus their efforts on the kid who actually still has a chance to succeed.
Which is not to say that your feelings of frustration aren't understandable; they are. But before we go any further, I'd like you to put aside the self-pity for a moment and try to understand how awfully, achingly miserable your parents must be—and how little they must think of your brother to have decided, at least for right now, that he's not even worth the effort it takes to parent him. Imagine what it would take to actually give up on your kid. The indifference, the shrug-offs—that's not because your parents think he can do no wrong. More likely, it's because they think he's hopeless.
And despite what you may think, being such a pathetic failure that your parents write you off is not an enviable condition—nor is being a hard-partying, violence-obsessed, uneducated meatbag whose best hope for the future is to spend it pumping other people's gas.
Which brings me to this: yes, your brother is popular and desirable... for now. Yes, your friends have crushes on him... for now. Yes, he acts like a wanker to you when you cross paths at home... for now. But the only reason this even bothers you is that, in your heart, you actually believe that he's more fun, more interesting, more likeable, and more worthy of your friends' and parents' and teachers' affections...
...instead of seeing the truth, which is that his status as an alluring bad boy will last another three years, max, before he becomes that 20-something creepster who hangs around a convenience store on Saturday nights and offers to buy beer for high school kids in the hopes that they'll invite him to a party.
And that you wouldn't trade places with him for a million, bajillion dollars.
And that him calling you a loser is tailor-made for illustrating a certain idiom about pots, kettles, and name-calling.
And then, rather than trying to change your brother (impossible), or change the way your parents deal with him (improbable), or change the timeless allure for impressionable teenagers of older, braindead douchebags who never made it past the tenth grade (never gonna happen), here's how you deal:
Really. Pity him for his lack of promise. Pity him for his sad and narrow little life. Pity him for the years he'll spend watching you surpass him in every way, while your parents cheer your successes. And most of all, pity him for that moment, years from now, when he looks back... and realizes, with horror, that 17 was the best year of his life.
He'll probably cry and everything.
Do you have a hated older sibling who gets away with murder? Vent in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.