THE BLOG
10/22/2014 02:38 pm ET Updated Dec 22, 2014

How I Dodged Barbies and Boy Bands

Though I never finished reading Charles Bukowski's Ham on Rye, the character Henry still haunts me, with visions of his horrible acne and his sweating body beneath a wool army school uniform. But I will never know what happened to Henry, because like religious freaks who burn books, I have older brothers who would steal them when deemed inappropriate for their little sister. My brother Seth lent me his copy of Ham on Rye and he immediately took it back, after I started asking questions about the sexual nature of the book. This is what brothers do, and for this, I am grateful and semi-illiterate.
 
Because I was "reading" Charles Bukowski at 11, my friend from middle school is positive that I was the coolest girl in school.  I've tried convincing him, that not only have I still not finished Ham on Rye, but it was only because of my older brothers that I dodged boy bands and Barbie Dolls and turned out relatively "cool." No matter my insistence that my "hipness" was unintentional and due only to three heavily influential siblings, he still maintains that I was always an original.
 
Thin walls and a loud stereo forced me to listen to my brother Fred's Country music. Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard were blasted in my ears, and eventually my soul. I tried to fight the love, but it didn't work. I was almost embarrassed to admit the adoration, and then like everything else, Country music became "hip." Being able to discuss country music legends, and know specific songs most didn't know much about, only reinforced my pop cultural intellect. Once again, an older brother's good taste had caused me to appreciate something beyond my peers. Fred had also made me sit down and listen to a young Colombian singer with one name, Shakira. I was in love from the moment I heard that voice and listened to her years before her Stateside debut.  Fred's interest in sharing his music (i.e. blasting it so loud, it had to be appreciated) enabled me to develop a wide musical repertoire at a young age. 
 
My oldest brother Andrew's cosmopolitan taste in culture ensured I was highly educated in all things artsy and cool. He even flew with me to Boston when I started college, and hung Andy Warhol posters all over my dorm room, to make sure his little sister had a good start. When we were really young, he introduced all of us to Woody Allen, The Smiths and Peter Sellers. One of my favorite films is The Party. I remember watching it for the first time, and crying from laughter. And who doesn't love to laugh? With hardly any dialogue and shot in the late 1960's, it wouldn't be a film a young girl would pick on her own, but because of my brother's good taste, I was able to benefit from the comic genius of Peter Sellers.
 
So now the baton must be passed, and my boys get to benefit from the influence of my unique and very cool brothers. On a recent plane ride back East, I planned ahead of time and downloaded The Party. The kids settled in, and I pressed play on my Mac - - the first scene opens up, and Peter Sellers ties his shoe, and manages to blow up an entire film set. Neal and Liam sat, cackling loudly for the entire plane to hear and I didn't even shush them. I stared at my kids faces, how they looked at each other to share in a laugh, how they got hysterical when Peter Sellers accidentally lights a woman's wig on fire, and it was one of my happiest moments. And I owe it all to my brothers.
 
So being the only girl of older brothers afforded me a grand entrance into mature worlds. And the irony is, my brothers usually allowed my entrance, but quickly created boundaries when they felt it was inappropriate.  My diverse taste in music, art and film is due to their influence, and my natural sense of style created out of these components. It wasn't intentional, but my big brothers made me pretty darn cool. I'm not even sad that I dodged Barbies and Boy Bands.