Is there still a debate between nature and nurture? Does anybody out there claim that babies come to this world with a blank void in the place where personality lives, only to soak it all up from their environment? Whatever the latest psychological theory says, by the time the dudes poked their wrinkled little heads out, and made their debut on this crowded planet, they had enough personality to start their own country.
If I didn’t catch each one of them with my own shaky hands as they emerged, 17 months apart, from the very same womb, I’d think that my two sons are not even related to each other. My theory is that back in the place where babies come from, these two got together, and made a pact against our hopes for peace and collaboration in the family. “Always, always argue about whose turn it is to take out the dog,” they agreed, and locked their little baby pinkies in a solemn vow. Then, when both descended, and landed under our roof, they immediately started perfecting their act. Like yin and yang, but without the harmony, Abbott and Costello without the laughs (well… some laughs), like a cat and a dog, where the dog never goes out to pee.
One is tall, fair-skinned, and thin as a twig; his brother is medium height, olive-skinned, and sporting the muscular structure of a swimmer. One is a social extrovert, loves sleepovers, and needs his pack around him; the other has one or two friends, doesn’t like going anywhere, and could spend days on his own as long as a parent-on-duty is near by to provide regular meals.
I could go on and on: one’s an athlete, the other a couch warrior; one grounded in the world, the other floats a few inches above ground with ideas and imagination; one loves math, the other English.
A family vacation with these two is like an American war in a Middle-Eastern country: you can plan how to go in, but there’s no knowing how you’re coming out. Good luck finding an activity that they both like, in a place that they both want to be, and at the same time.
For years I’ve watched them grow up while growing apart. In my imagination I’ve seen them as adults, completely estranged, maybe calling each other once a year on holidays: “Hey, happy Passover, dude.” “Yeah, sure, whatever. To you too.” “So how have you been?” “You know, busy.” “You mean busy like back in January of 2012, when you where too busy to let the dog out even after I already took her out TWICE that day?” “It was only ONCE, and the day before I took her out THREE times!” And on they’d go…
Despite our hopes, and efforts, bribes, begging, and loads of empty threats, our two boys continually compete for love and attention by elevating themselves, while blaming the other for all that’s wrong in the world. They never became the best friends that we wanted them to be. They are too different from each other, too close in age, too similar in gender, too…whatever. They have loved each other as family, but haven’t liked each other as friends.
But recently things are changing. As their grownup faces are starting to emerge from under the pimples and teen stubble, one can suspect that maybe they are related after all. More than that, they start discovering some common interests. They’ve been spending hours upstairs by the computer lately, claiming to learn HTML code through some website. The word “hacking” flies in the air a lot. Sometimes it gets awfully quiet up there, which makes me wonder when the FBI is showing up on my doorstep.
They’re planning on taking a high school course together, they’ve been “hanging out.” They borrow books from each other, say hi and bye, the other day they even spontaneously embraced in a bro hug. Something is changing. Now, of course they still fight, and sometimes say things like, “I don’t ever want to talk to you again, a$$#0le.” But it’s different, they make up faster and burst into an erudite discourse about some BAMF YouTube video that’s really sick.
So I haven’t lost hope yet. My father, in a fit of rage as a kid, chased his brother, my uncle, and almost killed him with a pair of heavy scissors. Today these two not only look like identical twins, they’re also inseparable. Maybe running with scissors runs in the family.
But I gotta go now. Someone has to take this poor dog out.