With the death of Phil Everly announced the other day at the age of 74, and in 2013 the loss of Joan Fontaine (sister Olivia de Havilland) and Mike Winters (whose brother Bernie died in 1991) to name just 2, it got me thinking about siblings.
In the entertainment world of acting, we have the Redgraves, Barrymores, Fondas, Sheen/Estevez, Cuzacks and Carradines to mention just a few, but these are the ones I ‘grew up’ with. Living their lives in the goldfish bowl of the public eye, unless you know the family personally, you can only go by media and other reports to get some insight into the people behind the faces we see in front of the camera.
I have met, albeit fleetingly, a couple of celebrities, though I don’t know if they had siblings or not. One was a professional darts player who ‘charged’ £1 for people to play him, the proceeds of which went to the local hospital’s Premature Baby Unit. If you beat him, he paid you back your £1 and added another, out of his own pocket.
The other was the late Lionel Jefferies, who was opening a fete in my home town, and seemed like a really nice guy.
So, whilst I cannot comment on sibling rivalry (however colourful the media reports have been) that may or may not apply to any of those mentioned above, I can tell you things that have stuck in my mind about siblings I have known.
My own consisted of a trifle, complete with glass dish, ball of wool and an almost dislocated jaw. Let’s just say the wool started it, I had a round bruise on my face and I learned to control my temper as I didn’t realise the top half of somebody’s head and their mouth could go in different directions.My nephews also had a set to when they were very small. The younger punched his brother who went wailing to their mother. He was told to hit him back, to which he replied ‘But I love my brother Mummy!’ They are both in their 40s now and successful in their own rights.I know one pair of sisters who fell for the same guy. The girlfriend overreacted and he got out of the relationship pretty quick as he couldn’t handle their animosity, especially in his direction when he hadn’t actually done anything wrong!
Siblings will vie for parental attention, and in many instances will play one off against the other. I know of two brothers whose parents divorced and the youngest boy was forever manipulating the entire family. If his toy got broken, someone would always replace it. If he broke his brother’s toy, that was ‘an accident’ and no replacement would be forthcoming. He was always the focus of attention and as the youngest, people fawned over him to the extent that he didn’t feel the need to do anything for himself and would cause havoc with no fear of reprimand. However, his brother had a different set of values, got himself a paper round and became very popular. The younger brother then wanted a share of the elder’s Christmas tips just because he was related, not that he had helped or participated in the round, and it was the only time I knew their father not to give in to him.
I am sure that those of us with brothers and/or sisters often feel we are left out, forgotten or ignored. In Nature, the loudest and most demanding chicks in the nest are the ones who get the lion’s share of the grub (excuse pun) . The quiet one tends to get pushed to one side and may sometimes even die.In life, camparisons will always be made, especially with same sex siblings. I’ve grown up with it but accept things as they are although it took me a while to do so. I can’t compete even if I wanted to, but my attitude now is why should I, or more importantly, why should I feel the need to? I hate confrontation, and apart from the trifle episode, I have never retaliated. Perhaps that makes me weak, I don’t know, but I do know that I can stand up for myself should the occasion call for it.
There has never been any rivalry between my brother and I though. We are as close as siblings can get even though there are 12000 miles between us.He saw himself as my protector, friend, and ally from the day I was born.
He still is.