I come from a family of three girls, which tended to result in my father wearing a lot of glitter while trying bemusedly to persuade us to go fishing. I had an extremely male haircut for the greater part of my early childhood, and was almost convinced that I was a tomboy until I realized how much I liked eyeliner and hated running. Because I wasn't a boy, and neither were my sisters, I missed out on any exposure to the Realities of Maledom. Such as...
Look, I know that male and female siblings don't spend a whole lot of time frolicking naked with each other past the age of eight, but the presence of a young male body in the house would have helped with a lot of my false assumptions about male... bits. Like, that men don't have nipples. Or that the testicles were housed in separate sacks, that swung around each other like tennis balls in socks, like that weird metal knocky-back-and-forth apparatus that important people have on their large maple desks. I'd have liked to have avoided that mental image.
How To Behave Around Men I Liked
Not only did I grow up with two sisters, but I went to an all girls school, which meant that as soon as I got in the vicinity of someone with the capability of growing a beard, I acted like my tongue was fused to the back of my teeth. Later, as puberty struck, I developed this really charming habit of standing with my legs crossed, swaying, and firing out insults like some kind of incontinent and aggressive old man. And I couldn't for the LIFE of me understand why nobody asked me out on dates.
If I'd had a brother, who brought his attractive friends around to the house (I might still have a kind of idealized idea of what it's like to have a brother), I at least could have got that stage out of my system inside my own house, while I still had a room to run to, a door to lock and a pillow to scream into.
How To Have Male Friends
My total understanding of men was that they would either want to knock me over and call me fat, or they would want to have sex with me. I had no capacity to understand that there might be some middle ground, wherein someone with a penis might just want to be around me without taking their clothes off. I even developed a concept of my "gay best friend" because I thought that men might be fun to be friends with, but didn't want to chance it with someone who would no doubt immediately fall prey to my substantial fifteen-year-old charms (tartan culottes, sparkly butterfly hairclips, crippling lack of self-awareness).
How Men Behave Around Each Other
Why do they hit each other so much? Why do they act like they hate each other? Why do they constantly try to pull each other's pants down? How do they all instantly know the handshakes?
Mysteries wrapped in enigmas clothed in trousers that don't really fit at all. As a girl with two younger sisters I was the most loving big sister in the world, in between the times when I was pushing them down the stairs or weeing on them in the bathtub. Point was, they knew when I was motivated by love and when I was motivated by a desire to let them know that being 18 months old than them did mean that was, and always would be, vastly superior. But boys? They treat friends and enemies just the same, to the external eye. The world seems convinced that women are more complicated than men, but I remain unconvinced, and the Friendly Wedgie is largely responsible for that.
Yes, having a brother would have made me a much more rounded and educated teenager. I would have had boyfriends and male friends in their thousands, all clustered around me, laughing at my jokes and fighting to hold my hand. Or, maybe I would have been exactly the same, only with scabbier knees and a greater understanding of how skid marks happen. I will never know.