Tag Archives: teasing

I taught my sister how to shave her legs on Easter

When my family was little, every Easter my grandparents would take the whole family out to dinner on Long Island. I’m the oldest of six, and growing up, going out to a restaurant with just my immediate family was pretty much a logistical impossibility. But each year it was everybody on my mom’s side, all of my aunts and uncles, all of the cousins, all of us sitting down to a ridiculously long table at the New Hyde Park Inn on Easter Sunday.

All of these annual dinners were more or less identical. It’s like, when you’re a little kid, everything feels mostly the same, you don’t feel yourself growing up, you don’t notice your brothers and sisters getting older each year. And having a holiday ritual that doesn’t change from year to year, it kind of reinforces that feeling, like you look back on all of those Easters and they all just kind of blend together into one generic Sunday memory.

But one year in particular stands out. Even though by the ninth grade I was pretty far removed from all of that Easter Bunny nonsense, my littlest sister is ten years younger than me, so I kind of had the extra several years where I had to wake up in the morning and act surprised at all of our baskets of candy.

After a traditional breakfast of Cadbury eggs and marshmallow peeps, the festive atmosphere quickly descended into chaos as my mom desperately tried to get us out the door on time for church. My grandparents’ dinner reservations were right after mass, but nobody was dressed and ready to go, so the plan was to swing by the house on the way to dinner so everybody could finish putting on their nice Easter clothes.

The car rides to and from our house were never very far away, but whenever the six of us had to pile into a single minivan, there was always enough time for everybody to get a little crazy. Depending on current alliances, my brother Brian and I might be teasing our little brother Joe, or Kevin might try to torment Joseph and Jessie. Warnings of “knock it off!” from my parents would go mostly ignored. With no way to enforce any sort of behavior behind the wheel, car trips were a free for all of yelling and laughing.

But this one year, for whatever reason, my sister Emily fell into the crosshairs of my oldest-brother mean-spirited wrath. I was actually trying to tease my younger brother Kevin, he was wearing shorts to church, and I wanted to get him crazy by commenting on how he didn’t have any hair on his legs, to make him feel like a little kid.

“Even Emily has more hair on her legs than you!” I pointed and made a face. I started my over-the-top jerk laugh and waited for Kevin to start wailing in protest, but instead Emily got really quiet and cried.

It was probably one of the first times that I actually felt bad about something that I had said. Of course the intent was to make someone else miserable, but not like this. This was beyond the normal crazy inter-sibling rivalries. My teenaged mind wasn’t really capable of processing what was appropriate and not appropriate to say in regards to your little sister, but it was obvious that I had crossed a line, and I wanted to fix it, immediately.

Usually our verbal sticks-and-stones were fairly easily remedied by a joke or an “I’m sorry” or an especially strong yelling from mom and dad, but Emily was clearly hurt here, to the point where I remember my dad giving me this look from the front seat, like, what the hell man? What did you say?

Emily wouldn’t talk to me during church, and she wouldn’t entertain my apologies on the ride home. But I had a brilliant idea. As soon as we got home, I’d help her out. “Emily,” I told her, “I can fix this. Look. I have a Mach 3 razor. Just wet your legs and shave.” And it worked. She wasn’t mad at me anymore. She took the razor and I went downstairs to see if I could get in a game of Mario Kart before my parents started corralling us back into the minivan.

Not even five minutes later, I heard a scream from upstairs. Thirty seconds after that, my mom yelled out, “Robbie! What the hell is wrong with you?” I guess my sister didn’t yet understand the whole razor thing. I don’t know. I mean, yes, looking back now I realize how stupid I was. But at the time, I really didn’t think anything would go wrong.

Not like it did. Not like the three inch gash on my sister’s shin, the one that bled all over her pastel-colored Easter dress, ten minutes before we were supposed to be sitting down at that long table with my grandparents and all of my aunts and uncles and cousins, all of us there for that Easter Sunday dinner at the New Hyde Park Inn.

I still feel bad about that one. She was fine. Like, it didn’t need stiches or anything. But yeah, it was a mess, and we were definitely late. Emily was probably a little traumatized. And my parents were pissed. Like pissed, pissed. And I totally deserved it. I couldn’t have just made anybody’s life a little easier. No, I was always finding some way to be a giant pain in the ass.

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?

A little league sob story

When I was a little kid my parents always signed me up for little league baseball. I started when I was in the first grade and kept going all the way until fourth or fifth. But I went to a Catholic school that didn’t have any sports teams, so it was always a bunch of public school kids, and me. That was terrifying, the first day of practice, my mom would just drop me off to my randomly assigned team where I’d encounter a bunch of boys my age who already knew each other from school.

The early years were easy enough, because from my own experiences as a I kid I feel that people don’t start acting inherently mean toward each other until like the third or fourth grade. After that it’s every person for themselves. There are cool kids, there are kids that are cool with the cool kids, and then there’s always like one or two kids that don’t fit, that take the brunt of everybody else’s pent up frustrations.

I’m not trying to paint a woe-is-me picture of my childhood. I definitely wasn’t the cool kid in grade school, but I wasn’t on the opposite end either. Except for when springtime came around and one or two times a week I’d get dropped off at baseball practice, fed to the lions of this whole little kid social structure that I wasn’t a part of.

My last season of baseball was definitely the worst. The fourth or fifth grade boys were outright hostile toward me. There were three especially, one of them was the coach’s son, all three of them were good at baseball. I had no relation to the coach, no real association with anybody, and I sucked at all sports.

Going through my memories, I picture the three boys always the same way, the cool kid in the middle flanked by his two lieutenants at either side. I don’t even remember specifically what they would say to tease and harass me, I just know that I hated it, that I dreaded going to practice. They would throw baseballs at me when I wasn’t looking, stupid little tricks here and there to torment me.

And I couldn’t even complain, ever. One, little kids all hate tattletales, and so if you ever tattle, it’ll get even worse. Two, this kid’s dad was the coach. He was coaching his son and all of his friends from public school. And me, the one random kid from a different school, the one who didn’t really know how to play baseball.

I made it through the season alive. It wasn’t that bad, probably because it was only once or twice a week. Although I can’t imagine having to deal with something like that every day. But the whole season, my whole relationship with these kids, my last real experience playing baseball, it all culminated at this end of the season lunch hosted by the little league.

It was every team in the league, every player and his dad, at some catering hall. There were trophies given out, some random MLB player to sign autographs. There were raffles, free t-shirts, stuff like that. I remember at some point during the festivities these three goons had me surrounded. Not wanting to deal with their bullshit, I had this moment of rage, of pure fury. I picked up a plastic knife, probably the flimsiest weapon imaginable, and I started chasing one of the kids around a picnic table. The place was packed, and we all lost each other pretty quickly amongst the crowd.

But then maybe ten minutes later, I’m sitting with my dad, and all of the sudden my coach comes out of nowhere with the three idiots by his side. He starts yelling at me, yelling toward my dad, claiming that I threatened his son with a knife. The coach was this big fat asshole, much older than my dad, and he’s over here spitting and yelling, like he had any idea what was really going on, just blindly taking his son’s side.

And what about these three kids, these three tough guys? They spend a whole season picking on me, and when I finally stand up for myself they go off running to the coach, crying, making up some ridiculous story about me being the problem? Come on.

What gets me is that even though it all happened so long ago, that none of it really mattered, like I have my life and none of that nonsense did anything to affect where I’m at right now, I’m going through all of these memories and I’m still getting pissed off, I’m still feeling, if not the anger, then I’m viscerally feeling, remembering exactly what the anger felt like. I was a little kid, I was backed into a corner, I reacted, and then next thing I know I have this coach yelling at me and my dad’s telling me to try and get along better with the other kids.