Of my many obsessions (HBO’s Girls, neon Crocs, kale, Kentucky basketball, and Peacock Punk — just to name a bewildering few) I can’t get enough of birth order.
Maybe it’s because my father was one of three boys and my mother was one of three girls, and, as a child, I was able to witness the very real and fascinating phenomenon of oldest, middle, youngest.
Or maybe it’s because I experienced all four appointments myself: I was an only child for three years, until remarriage bestowed me with an older brother; then I was the youngest for three, until the birth of my sister; then I was the middle for eight, until the untimely passing of my brother; then from age 14 on, I’ve been the oldest. ” According to psychologists, the birth-order position you hold for the longest in your family is the one you typically most identify with, so even though the first 14 years of my life weren’t spent as a Firstborn, I’ve held that role for 25 years now.
Whether this qualifies me as multi-personality or empathetic or a good candidate for politics/used car sales is up for debate, but that game of sibling checkers paved the way for a keen interest in how where we fall in our family affects us in life, and especially, relationships. So, like it or not, I’ve become pretty organized (read: anal) and prompt (read: anal) and particular (read: neurotic).
Therefore, it’s probably good I married the youngest of three.
Plus: Whatever You Do, Don’t Say This To Your Partner. Her humor appears on The Big Jewel, Mc Sweeney’s, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, and Fathermucker’s blog; you can visit her website at
She lives with her husband and two sons in Kentucky, where she’s been known to do mediocre local stand-up.
Are you a take-charge firstborn—or the attention-hungry baby of the family?
Where you fall in your family's birth-order hierarchy helps shape your personality and plays a significant role in your relationship.
"Your personality is directly related to how you interact with other people," says William Cane, author of The Birth Order Book of Love, since the first people you interacted with were your parents and siblings.
Figuring out your own birth-order personality, and that of your significant other, is simply one strategy you can use to assess your compatibility, adds Catherine Salmon, Ph D, professor of psychology at the University of Redlands in California, and coauthor of the upcoming book, The Myth of the Middle Child.