Tag Archives: older brother

Sleeve me alone

As the oldest of six, one of my favorite pastimes growing up was tormenting my younger brothers and sisters. Obviously I can’t get away with any of this stuff as an adult. Not as much anyway. It’s one thing for a bunch of little kids to run around the house screaming and crying, but when I try pulling any of these stunts now, things can get heated, nothing ever ends well.


But I was just thinking about this one incident, I was maybe twelve or thirteen, there was nothing going on at home and so, bored out of my mind, I focused all of my attention toward my little sister Emily. For something like five years straight, she would watch Disney’s Beauty and the Beast on VHS, over and over again, to the point where one of the tapes actually had to be replaced due to excessive playback.

So I started teasing Emily. Over what? I have no idea. It was the kind of incessant poking and prodding that, regardless of how patient a little kid might try to be, I was more patient, I’d sit there all afternoon, repeating word for word the lines from the movie, but in a really annoying voice. Or even worse, I’d start reciting the dialogue thirty seconds or so before it played on TV. Like I said, this movie pretty much ran nonstop on our TV, so like it or not, I have the entire film committed to memory.

It didn’t take long. Emily started fighting back, “Stop it Robbie, sto-op it!” which was all I needed to let me know that it was working, that maybe things might escalate to the point where my mom would get so annoyed with all of our fighting that she’d turn the TV off completely, uninterested in hearing anybody’s arguments as to who started what.

But what happened next, I couldn’t have anticipated, a gift from the heavens bestowed upon me through the desperate whines of my sister. She blurted out, “Leave me alone!” Only, the way she said it, she must have misspoken somewhat, because it didn’t come out like, “Leave me alone,” it sounded as if she said, “Sleeve me alone!”

You might think that a minor mispronunciation isn’t really anything to laugh about, let alone something to use as the basis for a never ending series of taunts, but in my family, even the slightest slipup was considered fair game for a merciless assault.

So now I had an entirely new avenue of attack, and just in time too, because I would have eventually grown pretty bored of just repeating Beauty and the Beast. But now, sleeve me alone, this new material was enough to sustain me for a whole day, weeks even. I mean, I’m still talking about it, so it never really wore out, not like the tape on that busted VHS Beauty and the Beast. Seriously, how do you watch a movie that many times?

It wasn’t long before I recruited the rest of my brothers and sisters, a very are team-up, the setting aside of our individual differences to make life acutely miserable for just one. Thanks to our collaborate taunting, pretty soon Emily was reduced to tears, curled up in the fetal position on the living room floor, while the five of us marched around her in a circle, chanting in unison, “Sleeve me alone! Sleeve me alone!”

Like I said, it stayed fresh for a good while. It’s not even totally out of the question for a sleeve me alone chant to start up today, we’ll all be hanging out at our parents’ house, there will be a lull in whatever conversation we’re having, and someone might bring it up, totally unprompted, “Sleeve me alone!” and we’ll all start chanting.

Actually, I started this whole piece out flooded by the comforting nostalgia of childhood memories, but now that I’ve typed this whole thing out, now that I’ve read it back to myself, this is actually all pretty mean stuff. Jesus, what was wrong with me that I found such delight in making my younger sister so miserable? Why does that memory still make me feel kind of happy? Am I like a sociopath or something?

Player two, start

When I was a little kid I always wanted to play Super Mario Bros. as Luigi, but unless you’re playing two-player, that’s never an option, and two-player regular Mario is terrible, each person taking a turn on the same level. It was impossible, trying to sit still, having to wait around for my brother, everything taking forever, just jumping over that hole in the ground such a challenge.


But as the oldest brother, I couldn’t let anybody else be player one. And so we’d start the game up, I’d be Mario in his classic red and brown and I’d have to watch my little brother get to start up as Luigi, classic Luigi, white overalls on top of a green shirt. Was there any difference? Aside from the colors, could Luigi do anything different than Mario?

I guess because they were identical, I always assumed they were twins, the Super Mario twin brothers. But then in subsequent games, Luigi developed his own distinct personality, character traits that set him apart from Mario. He was taller, I could definitely identify with that, because I was always the tall one in my family. He could jump really high, I guess to go along with the whole tall thing. He seemed like a natural older brother, and thanks to Super Mario World 2, I was given the option to start as Luigi.

Unfortunately he’s way too slow, and that high jump, it takes forever to land back on the ground. Not that Mario’s any better. He’s just regular, as regular as he was in regular Mario One. But I hesitate to draw any significant conclusions based on that sequel, because it was a really terrible game, and everyone always wound up opting to play as Princess Peach, whatever, not for any stylistic reason, none that I’m aware of anyway. No, the Princess could fly, or float, it was a huge in-game advantage.

Mario 3, Mario 4, it’s back to basics, the focus squarely on Mario, Luigi never mentioned, not featured on the box artwork at all. He’s merely a placeholder, “Player two, start!” I’d go through the whole Super Mario Land alternating between player-one and player-two just so I could have a chance to beat King Koopa as Luigi. When I finally did it, I was disappointed to see the game scroll through the victory credits as if Luigi didn’t even exist.

“Thanks Mario! You’ve saved the Princess!” even though Luigi would be standing right there, holding the Princess. I think it was Luigi anyway. But it was probably just Mario, no height difference at all, just a Mario twin, a clone, I don’t know, maybe they were short on cash for those third and forth games and they were like, all right Mario, you’ve got to play Mario and Luigi’s parts for this one. Here, put on this green cap and overalls, it’s almost player-two’s turn.

Mario 64, Luigi doesn’t exist. Jesus, even Yoshi gets a cameo at the very end. Spare no expense for Mario’s trusty dinosaur sidekick, but what about his brother? His own sometimes-identical-twin brother, absolutely no respect. And then they’d release Mario Kart or Mario Tennis and fine, Luigi would be there, but strictly as a filler character. They don’t even give Luigi a proper villain. Where Mario has Wario, which is cool, they play on the whole upside-down M for Wario, when it came time to give Luigi his own doppelganger, they created Waluigi, like it was just, whatever, through Wa in front of Luigi and turn the L upside-down on his hat, nobody cares, nobody’s going to pick him, make him really slow and useless so that nobody wants anything to do with him.

He just gets a bad rap, Luigi, I always feel bad for him, like he’s the more relatable of the Mario Brothers. They give him his own game, finally, for the Game Cube, and it’s like purposely unplayable. He can’t jump, he can’t do anything, he’s stuck in a haunted mansion and his avatar is onscreen trembling every time he has to do anything.

I remember when I was a little kid we’d go to the skating rink or bowling alley and there’d always be a small arcade section set up somewhere by the lockers. A few places had this Superman arcade game, a pretty standard side-scrolling beat-‘em-up single player. But this being a big arcade machine, there was a second joystick, and if you somehow successfully begged your mom for a quarter, and someone else also happened to procure twenty-five cents at the same time, you’d both deposit your money and Superman would be joined by a second player.

Who was it, Batman? Green Lantern? No, it was another Superman, the exact same graphic as player-one, but they just filled in the entire costume red so as to differentiate from the original. It’s a pretty basic arcade game, you’d fly to the right and zap a bad guy, eventually the computer would be too much to outsmart, and your mom refused to give you another coin for an extra life or two.

red superman

That second Superman wasn’t meant to be anything, it was just a way to accommodate two quarters in the machine at the same time. But I always thought, man, who is this guy? Does he ever get pissed that red-and-blue Superman gets all the fame, the publicity, comic books, movies, everything, and here he is, this guy decked out in solid red spandex, he’s apparently got all the same powers and abilities as regular Superman, but that’s it. That’s all he gets, this maybe cameo on some shitty arcade stand. Is he from Krypton? Does he have his own secret identity? Doesn’t matter. He gets nothing. Not even a name. He just nominally exists. Wouldn’t that drive you crazy? Doesn’t he deserve at least a little backstory?