Bros Before "Boos!" / by Courtney Mehlhaff

Sometimes I think I'm at a distinct disadvantage because I didn't grow up with a brother.

If you haven't noticed, dudes really like to mess with people. And I find that I'm ill-equipped to deal with their teasing and hijinks, simply because I haven't had a chance to develop a thick skin against these good-natured deceptions.  

Case in point:  Recently I returned home with a friend after lunch and a movie.  My apartment door is set to lock automatically behind me, which is awesome when rushing to the bus in the morning but more troublesome if I dare to step outside without keys.  (Once I literally whirled around and karate-kicked the door open at the last minute while signing a pizza delivery receipt, but that's another story).

On this particular day, I discovered that the deadbolt-only mechanism had somehow been disengaged, and my apartment had been easily accessible the whole time I'd been gone.  I remarked worriedly on this subject and stayed behind to fiddle with the lock while my friend stepped inside ahead of me.  It was at this point that he decided to say loudly, "Oh! . . . Hello."    As if he'd encountered someone lurking in my apartment.

Just to reiterate, he thought it would be hilarious to pretend to greet the person who'd broken into my home while I was out.  Me.  The woman who lives alone and frequently checks all her closets before bedtime because, hey, I don't have the only key out there.  Me.  Who accidentally locks herself out on her balcony because a security bar will prevent pervy Spider-Men from scaling the wall to the second floor.  Me.  Who automatically jumps to the worst-case scenario every time.

If your stomach has never plummeted directly into your feet, I can't quite describe the sensation. But after hearing those words, for a split second everything stopped.  I was already in fight or flight mode, and he was smirking at me from the living room.  When I finally breathed, words came with the exhale: "I'm going to kill you."

Of course he laughed, and I laughed (eventually).  I'd made the same threat only a few months before, after we'd seen a horror movie. I'd confessed that the scariest part was when something mysterious had yanked on a girl's leg in the dark.  As a preemptive measure, I quickly followed this admission with, "If you sneak into my bedroom tonight and pull on my leg, I will kill you."

There was a long silence while he considered feigning innocence. He then groaned, "But that's what brothers DO!"

Yes, I am learning this, sir.  I am learning.