Auntie SparkNotes: My Brother Bashes Everything I Like
I have a situation that I'm not sure how to deal with. Basically, my brother is a hard-ass.
A little background information:
My 19 year old brother goes to university (doesn't dorm yet) and is very S.T.E.M-oriented (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), is an atheist, and plans to do research on genetics. I'm almost the opposite: a 17 year old girl still in high school, lover of theatre, a firm believer in God, and planning to go to community college to start a path as an English major.
I know it's normal for people with such opposite life choices to clash, but this is almost too much for me. Ever since my senior year started my brother has been bashing my views on everything. Everything! At first it was a small joke about something that might be related to a performance at school or a grade on an essay. However as the year progressed he started being more relentless (for lack of better words), on everything from my religious beliefs to my career choices.
Take for example the play my class is currently putting on: Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Cool, right? Not for him. Anytime I mention it he goes on about how "theatre can't contribute to society because putting on a performance doesn't benefit anyone." Next thing I know he's going on and on about how people should do more S.T.E.M.-related things so that "maybe the world won't be full of idiots that just want to memorize something from a play."
My question is, how do I deal with it? I try talking to him about his "passionate opinions" but he keeps on telling me to "stop being a little butt-hurt high school kid and get over it." Even though he's being a total hard-ass and is very condescending, he's still my brother and I want to get along with him.
Ooooooh, Sparkler. For starters, I'm going to let you in on a cool secret: your brother? Is no hard-ass. He is... well, I don't know what the opposite of a hard ass would be. A squishy front-butt? You know what, let's go with that. He is a squishy front-butt, OR, a front-butt that goes squish.
And as for your squishy bro's bad behavior, here's what is probably, actually going on: like many teenagers, he is currently in the process of defining himself as an individual, asserting his independence, and establishing himself as a person with his own tastes, beliefs, pursuits, and opinions... and, like many teenagers, he has chosen to do all these things like an insufferable blowhard buffoon.
Basically, what you call "passion" is actually something much less interesting: the overcompensation of an insecure dude who can only build up his own sense of self by tearing down everyone else's. That's why he keeps harshing on everything you love—because it makes him feel better about his own shizz. And hopefully, like most teenagers who go through a sanctimonious asshat phase on the way to adulthood, he'll eventually figure out that life isn't a zero-sum game and stop being such a smug jerk.
In the meantime, though, here's what you can do: feel sorry for him. I mean, seriously: your brother is so threatened by the existence of other people's choices that he can't even see or acknowledge the value of William motherfranking Shakespeare. That's so sad! And it's also so not worth arguing about, because at the end of the day, it's just one person's opinion—which he's entitled to, and which you can't change. So when he makes condescending comments, the best way to deal with his nastiness is to be unflappably, fabulously breezy about it, and simply refuse to engage with him when he's trying to pick a fight. For example:
Him: Putting on a performance doesn't benefit anyone.
You: Okay! Well, I'm getting a taco. Byeeeeeee! (skips away through a field of daisies)
Basically, your brother says this stuff because he gets off on feeling superior—and when you react defensively to his stupid remarks, you give him exactly what he wants, by acting as though your life and your choices need to be defended. But they don't! They stand just fine on their own! Because we all know that the importance of art, music, theater, and literature to society is self-evident; if art didn't have value, nobody would make it, or pay for it, or seek it out.
But we do, and always have. So if your brother wants to believe that a performance doesn't benefit anyone, despite a few thousand years of human history and multiple billion-dollar industries' worth of evidence to the contrary, then there's no point in arguing about it. You might as well just pity him what he's missing, change the subject when he's whining, and wait (with fingers crossed) for him to grow up and stop being a butt.
Do you have a condescending sib who constantly disses you? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at email@example.com.
Want more info about how this column works? Click for the Auntie SparkNotes FAQ.