Schadenfreude in My Facebook Feed

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Schadenfreude: pleasure derived from the misfortune of another, or, just maybe, from the fortune he never wanted

Although he was my mortal enemy and chief bully during my formative years, my brother Steve and I reached a détente when I reached my 30s, and he saw me for the first time less as a four-eyed, fat and ugly, lazy loser and more as a hard-working, loving mother of two. By the time we’d helped our second parent die of cancer, we saw each other with something approaching respect, two good-at-heart people trying our best to make it through this perplexing world.

Marcy's catfish and a classic MustangGrowing up, Steve was a proud misogynist, calling women “Ws” for “wenches,” as in this I-swear-it’s-true command to an old girlfriend: “W, get me a beer,” in front of our family while watching football.

To my never-ending horror, she got up and got him a beer.

I still cannot hear Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful” without hearing it as Steve’s frequent serenade: “You … are … so … ug … a … ly … to me. Can’t you see?” The song came out in 1974, which means it’s been playing this way in my head for over 40 years, interpreted here by a guy I paid five bucks on Fiverr to sing it:

(Source: Vikastomar)

Everyone admits Steve’s a funny guy. Living in the same small town, I would occasionally hear first- and second-hand stories of the hilarious stand-up monologues he gave to packed barrooms about how pathetic I was.

I worked as a cashier at Caldor, and one time as I stapled a customer’s receipt to his bag, he read my name tag and said, “You don’t seem that bad.” He’d heard Steve’s monologue the night before at the bar at Chuck’s Steak House.

bully circle quotationWhy Steve was obsessed with hating me I never quite understood, but I went toe-to-toe with him in profanity-laden screaming matches, his spittle flying toward me as his face reddened. When a certain vein would pop out on the right side of his forehead, I knew it was time to back off. A big bull of a man, he never struck me, but the worry of that was always lurking. I was more careful when I was home alone with him and comforted that I knew “9-1-1.”

During our bouts, I constructed lawyerly arguments against him, and I shared the psychological theories I was learning in college, like the view that his homophobia probably stemmed from latent homosexual tendencies. That vein made a quick appearance, but the phone was nearby, and I rehearsed in my head: “9-1-1, 9-1-1, 9-1-1.”

Even when not spouting off against women, homosexuals, or one of our family members, Steve was difficult to get along with. He wouldn’t cooperate for something as simple as posing for a family photo. He also scorned marriage along with any of his buddies who fell victim to it.

That makes the latest twist in our relationship the funniest of all.

Steve met a single mom in the Philippines and married her. She Facebook friended me, and I now see regular updates in my news feed from half a world away of my big brother Steve posing at an underground river, posing in Hong Kong, posing at the beach.

By all indications, his wife is a loving, family-oriented woman. I wish Steve the best and hope he has found happiness with his new family. I, too, feel the sweet stab of schadenfreude to see him posing stone-faced for those photos, part of his new married life, part of his ninth circle of Hell.

About Marcy

I blog about trying to get out of my comfort zone, completing 101 things in 1001 days (and beyond), and writing my memoirs. My book: Timid No More.
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15 Responses to Schadenfreude in My Facebook Feed

  1. Abby says:

    Well, this was an entertaining and revealing post! Brother Steve, whatta guy. “W, get me a beer,”!

    Maybe time has mellowed him. I will say however, I’ve known a few Filipino women – my mom was one – and they definitely aren’t as submissive as they look. I bet she’s keeping him in line with her own version of a popping forehead vein.

  2. Nancy says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed walking down memory lane with you, Marcy. You are a gifted writer and bring the past vividly to life – with more humor than I remember at the time! One time, Steve called me a W2 (that’s W squared… I don’t know how to type it!) to which I replied, “Why thank you, Steve, I think I am a Wonderful Woman, too.” That vein you speak of popped immediately! And you taught me a new word, Schadenfreud! Now, if at my age I can just remember it (and how to spell it), there are a few other people I would like to use it with! You will have to come out with (Don’t be) Too Timid and Squeamish Volume 2 so that I can continue to enjoy this story. Jay and I read stories from volume 1 often!

    PS Did you notice Steve was caught smiling in one photo from the Phillipines. I mentioned it to F she was aware of and very proud that she captured that moment. And, I’m not sure about the mellowing part, but I agree with your friend – F strikes me as a very strong woman! One day we must travel and meet her! Most importantly, Steve seems very happy, and I am glad for that.

    • Marcy says:

      Thanks for reminding me of the W2 story, Nancy! Awesome–I had forgotten it, but your story brought it right back. You were always talented at going “toe-to-toe” with him yourself, but in a much calmer fashion than I could manage. Thanks for your kind words.

  3. Cyn K says:

    I think this reflects that old adage “never say never.”
    Cyn K recently posted..labor relationsMy Profile

  4. Nancy Lowell says:

    Sibling relationships… For about ten thousand reasons, and really none at all my brother’s and my relationship improved greatly after our mother died.

  5. Hema says:

    Haha! Life got Steve after all. I really enjoyed reading this.

  6. Meg says:

    After reading this short essay, I want to know more. Why was Steve so mean? Why was he such a dick? What was your age difference? And, good lord, why did he make you the subject of his jokes in public? This would make a great intro to a longer piece. Your writing has a great pacing to it, Marcy.

    • Marcy says:

      Thanks, Meg. Hmmm, I wish I knew the answers to your questions. What does make people like that? The comedic monologues were probably the most bizarre part of it. Friends of mine from high school witnessed them and would report back. He’s six years older than I am.

  7. Adam says:

    Why did your parents allow your brother to behave as he did? It was up to them to assert acceptable behavior, especially to one’s own siblings. If he was severely disordered and unable to behave appropriately, they should have gotten him the help he needed – and protected their other child(ren) from being harmed by it. You say he is, now, at least somewhat less inappropriate with age, but still showing at least one sign of sustained unhappiness: posing stony-faced. Whatever has been eating at him all his life seems to continue to do so. Now it is up to him to get the help he needs. I’m sorry that you had to experience so many years of being the target of his disorder’s abuse. I hope you would no longer tolerate that sort of thing.

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