Tougher Than Mike’s Hard Lemonade: The Strength of Brotherhood

by: Mar Curran

My brothers and I have a weird relationship to outsiders; there is a fragile balance of order which must be held at all times for us to remain nonviolent around one another. I believe this is because I have tried to poison each of them as a child and they still have not forgiven me deep down. When I was four and my brother Thomas was three, I tried to feed him laundry detergent powder to see if he would foam at the mouth. I believe this means early on I was a scientist, a man of inquiry. When I was six and my brother John was one, I showered him with ripped up leaves from a tree my mother thought was poisonous, telling him it was money from the sky because he had just won Wheel of Fortune. I believe this means I have always been a huge homosexual with a flair for the dramatic.

At a first glance you might think my brothers would not be the supportive types. Thomas is a 21 year old fraternity president majoring in business with a flair for Reaganomics who works in a major bank predicting stock changes. John is a sixteen year old who works out for hours daily, asks me if I enjoy killing babies to joke about my stance as a pro-choicer, and addresses the president by his full name, Barack Hussein Obama. They each enjoy red meat, violent sports, and arguing about who could more effectively beat the other one up. If they were able to grow facial hair more evenly, I might liken it to being related to two young Ron Swansons.

My brothers are actually two of my greatest allies, though. After I came out as queer, my mother went through a phase of insisting it never be brought up, especially around my father, lest my gayness rupture one of his arteries or poke an eye out. While discussing a family vacation a month after she had told me my gayness should be Anne Frank-ed, hidden away to only see the light of day in my memoirs, she  told me in hushed tones that I shouldn’t bring “anything gay” on the trip. Thomas, upon hearing this, took it upon himself to yell, “Are we just going to leave Mar behind then?”

When I turned 21 and started drinking, Thomas also took it upon himself to make sure I did not embarrass the male lineage of the Curran family. At my birthday party I asked my dad to pick me up some Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Let me be clear: I had not started drinking until I turned 21, not a day sooner, and was the definition of a lightweight; one Mike’s Hard would make me fall asleep if drank too quickly. I was easing my way into what would later turn into a life of one p.m. hangovers and multiple nights a week at Berlin that I thankfully have grown out of now.

Thomas wasn’t having any of this. “Dude, you’re never going to get girls if you drink that,” he announced. “Yeah,” John echoed, despite the fact that he knows nothing about alcohol and is in fact the world’s youngest teetotaler, having vowed never to taste alcohol so as to not look like a dumbass, aka like me.

“Well, what should I drink then?” I asked them, genuinely perplexed. So far in my life, I had only had Mike’s Hard, a sip of Blue Moon which I maturely deemed “poopy water,” and maybe three drops of whisky mixed into a half liter of 7Up. I didn’t really even drink the whiskey, to be honest; my best friend at the time gave it to me while we were watching a horror movie and I spilled it on myself. Three times. And maybe the horror movie was Zombieland, so not really a horror movie persay. I was not cool enough to be handling my own drinking decisions at that point in my life.

Thomas got a thoughtful look on his face, one usually only reserved for math equations and picking his Final Four bracket teams. “You need to start drinking scotch or something. Maybe whiskey,” he finally decided. “Worst case scenario, go for a Bud Light. Mike’s Hard Lemonade,” he scoffed. John just shook his head.

My Grandad Curran walked into the room. The patriarch of an Irish Catholic family on the Southside of Chicago, I have only seen him in pants other than pleated khakis maybe three times in my life and he has a neatly groomed mustache. If any of the guys on Mad Men got their shit together, they might grow up to be as gentlemanly as my Grandad in their old age. He looked at us all and asked in his Irish brogue, “Now, what’s going on out here?”

Thomas, not missing a beat, turned to him and said, “We’re trying to decide what kind of drink Mar should have to look tough.” My Grandad gave me the once over. I felt like my pores were oozing “dyke” at this point. I pass pretty well living as a man full time now, but back then I totally looked like k.d. lang’s younger sister. My brothers and I even shared clothing occasionally when I couldn’t find the right sweater vest and they didn’t want to look like Steve Urkel, because what straight cisgender dude wears sweater vests. So, I was unsure of how my Grandad was interpreting the word “tough.” Was he thinking female empowerment or butch carpenter? We all paused. He let out a sharp breath, slapped me on the back and yelled, “A Guinness, that’s what we need to get you!” My brothers and I just laughed. Two weeks later I heralded his suggestion, drank three Guinnesses in half an hour, and then threw them up into my hat at Trader Tod’s. Thanks, Grandad.

My brothers have always been there for me, regardless of how I identified or other people saw me. It may not always come out in the most politically correct way, such as when they decided I should have my own dating show based on The Bachelor called The Lezachelor, but they mean well. Just like I will support their lives of marrying straight ladies and having kids in the suburbs, I know they will always support my life of living with cats and trans men forever in the city. Because that’s what being brothers means: you overlook how fucking weird you seem to each other and remember that at the end of the day you love each other. Even if your brother is a banker. Maybe especially because your brother is a banker, as you’re a writer and will be poor forever.

So here’s to all the brothers out there, arm wrestling and shaving with one another. Let me buy you each a Mike’s Hard Lemonade someday. My brother’s paying.

Mar Curran is a trans/queer rights activist and community organizer; he is on the boards of Video Action league, Advocate Loyola, the Queer intercollegiate Alliance, and works with GetEQUAL. As spoken word artist, he has read at each All The Writers I Know event. He studies Communications and Women’s Studies at Loyola University Chicago. Curran likes beer and cats.

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