I have found something to add to the long list of injustices and ruthless mistreatment that I have suffered at the hands of my parents. For a long time, I was deeply angry that I was the eldest. Whereas most teenagers yell at their parents, ‘I never asked to be born,’ I personally screamed, ‘I never asked to be born first’.
Being born first is the pits. Your siblings spend their entire childhoods being slower and stupider and more boring to play with than you, and then suddenly spring up and show you up by beating all your academic and sporting records. ‘It is well known,’ I remember telling my little sister, as she smashed my 400m record.
‘That it is much, much harder to set the pace than to overtake it.’ Unfortunately, despite my years of campaigning, there is still no prize for “setting a now-beaten record in more difficult circumstances”.
Being the eldest means you are always the one tasked with coming up with interesting games and then, as reward for your effort and ingenuity, admonished by your parents for being ‘the ringmaster’.
‘But if we weren’t here, who would you have to play with?’ My little sister often asked me. ‘No,’ I explained crossly. ‘You should still be here. Just I should be in the middle.’ ‘I’m in the middle,’ My little sister replied sadly. ‘Mum forgot my birthday last year.’
‘OK,’ I said thoughtfully. ‘Maybe I don’t want to be the middle child. The youngest. That’s a great gig.’
‘I’m not sure, you know,’ My little sister replied. ‘We exclude our little brother pretty consistently. Plus, you spend your entire childhood being worse than your siblings at everything, just because you’re littler.’
‘Another excellent point,’ I mused. ‘Perhaps being the eldest is the best.’ My little sister, entirely uninterested in this conversation, wandered off to make a sandwich. An hour later, I accosted her in her room. ‘I’ve got it,’ I yelled happily. ‘I need a twin.’ ‘But what if your twin was better than you? Then you wouldn’t even be able to claim your imaginary “difficult circumstances” prize.’ ‘I wasn’t finished,’ I said quickly. ‘I need a twin, who is slightly worse than me at everything. Now, let’s go ask Mum and Dad why I didn’t get one.’