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Oh, Brother

Emily Flake

By Mink Stole | Posted 5/28/2003

My parents divorced when I was 12 and my brother Tommy was 14. It got really nasty, and Tommy and I ended up taking opposite sides. He turned his back on Mom and me and went to live with our father, who got remarried to a woman with a lot of money (the reason for the divorce). Tommy got to go to private schools and an expensive college. It broke Mom's heart when he left, and I've never forgiven him for that. Mom never remarried, and while we were hardly poverty-stricken or miserable, our life was simpler. I went to public school and paid my own way through the state university. Recently Tommy called Mom--out of the blue, after 15 fucking years--and asked to visit. Mom's so thrilled she's acting like Elvis, JFK, and Jesus Christ are all flying in from heaven just to pay her a visit. She expects me to be happy about it, too, and also wants me to help her plan a big celebration dinner. As far as I'm concerned, he stopped being my brother when he sold us out and chose the good life with our father and that rich bitch. He'll be here in two weeks. How do I handle this?

Sister in Name Only

Dear SINO:
Honey, I wouldn't want you actually to do this, but after not hearing from your brother for all these years, I wouldn't blame you if you stuck a fork in his face. When he left with your dad he hit the jackpot. He got your dad, money, an education, and goodies galore. What you got was your mom all to yourself--not a bad prize--but now it looks like Mr. I-Had-to-Do-What-Was-Right-for-Me is trying to take her, too. And Mom's saying, "Come and get me." Which makes you what? Chopped liver? I doubt it. Just because she's all a-flutter about Tommy's visit doesn't mean she loves you any less. She's used to having you around, which isn't the same as taking you for granted. But as far as she knows, she may never see her son again. As happy as this is making her, it's also got to be churning up a lot of other feelings she may not be able to admit to--even to herself. Galling as it may be, your mom's counting on your support, which just proves how important you are to her.

Don't spoil it for her. I know you think killing the fatted calf for him is a waste of a good bull, and you could be right, but for her sake you have to put your anger and bitterness aside at least through dinner. If you can't be warm, be pleasant; if you can't be pleasant, be polite. There's a reason he's turning up now, and I'd want to know.

I'm a 15-year-old high school sophomore who's been dating this guy, a senior at my school, for a few weeks. I couldn't believe he asked me out, because he's a hotshot football player and really cute, and, well, I wouldn't have thought I was his type. But he's getting really strange, and I don't know what to do. He calls me every night, which was flattering at first, but now he wants to know where I am all the time and gets jealous if I talk to any other boys--even if it's about class. I think he follows me around the school, but when I asked him he denied it. Last week he told me that he loves me so much that if I broke up with him, he'd kill himself. I care about him, and before he got all weird we had fun. I just can't handle all this emotional stuff. My best friend told me to dump him, but I'm afraid. What should I do?

Really Confused

Dear RC:
Tell your parents, your guidance counselor, and your principal immediately that this boy has threatened suicide. Every authority on suicide prevention will tell you that any threat must be taken seriously. You can't take the chance that he's only kidding or trying to scare you. If it feels like you're betraying him, you're not. He's unhappy and troubled and may need professional help, which you, since you're not a shrink or a psychiatric nurse, are not qualified to give him, even if you wanted to.

After you've alerted all the authorities, tell him that, even though you still really like him, you're too young to be this serious. Also tell him this is making you uncomfortable so you'd rather be just friends. Be gentle, but don't let him talk you out of it. If he finds out you've told someone about his suicide threat, tell him you did it because you care about him and don't want him to die. If anything he does frightens you in any way, be sure to tell one of the adults you've already talked to. It's not always easy at 15 to confide in anybody over 18, but the point is to get you both through this crap patch so you can grow up to be, you know, adults, so a kid could confide in one of you one day.

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