I was taking Social Psychology, Body & Language: Studies in Literature, Macro Economic Theory, and The Novel & Psychoanalysis for the semester. That’s when it happened. “It” was when things began to overlap, when one course was suddenly touching on the exact things I was learning in another class. What I learned in Econ made everything I read in my Social Psychology class make perfect sense. It felt like a well-orchestrated meal, with the perfect wines to enhance the subtlest flavors. Synergy. It’s happening again now.
Now, I can’t escape jealousy. It’s coming at me full force, everywhere. Recently, it hit me over mini burgers, though, that certainly wasn’t the first strike this week. I’ll cover that bit later. First, I’ll begin with recency, as I’m apt to do. Over mini burgers, my date brings up a woman he has stopped dating so he can date me. Perhaps he stopped dating her for other reasons, besides me. That’s not the point. The point: he keeps bringing her up, despite my communicating with him, “Please, when you bring her up, I end up feeling like shit. So, despite the fact that you choose to spend your time with me, please don’t remind me of what you ‘gave up’ for me because the whole sordid mess makes me feel like–yeah, like that.” And that’s how it goes, and despite my honest communication, he licks the soul of his suede shoe and goes there, all the while looking into the sky like Charlie Brown. “What? Did I do something wrong?” I just spent half a day telling you, communicating with you, saying things that were really hard for me to admit, and then, you apologize, say it won’t happen again. Then, BAM! You pull a fcuking Emril on me.
“What, I didn’t mention HER.” Whatever. He totally mentioned her, and when he saw I was upset about it, he offered up a heartfelt, “I didn’t mention her; you did.” Believe me. I did NOT. Sometimes you’re unsure. There’s a cloud over right or wrong. This is not one of those times. And, it’s really not about right or wrong, it’s about working it out. I didn’t want to listen to him defend himself, tell me things that were “totally not the point.” I know it’s not about right, but when do you get to the point where you can say, “You either just don’t care to pay attention to what I outright tell you is important to me, or you’re an idiot.” And I am so sad to say that way too many a man puts his hands in the air and claims, “idiot.” It’s fine the first time. Fool me once. But keep telling me you’re an idiot, and I’m going to believe you. You’re not fooling me twice.
At the end of the day, it’s data. That’s all it ever is. You take it in and assess. This is how he responds to me. This is how he behaves when I communicate with him honestly… he leaves me in tears at the end of the night. In his head, he’ll blame alcohol, or a miscommunication, or his big dumb trap. He’ll say it’s “drama.” But really, it’s just uncool. I wasn’t just showing him how I felt, I was telling him, directly, in English. It might as well have been a flash card I waved in front of his face thirty times before the pop quiz. ‘I don’t like it when you mention her. It makes me feel like shit.” Right there, on the index card for the taking. Fast-forward three hours, and he’s mentioning her casually, as if he’s asking what the soup of the day is. That’s just not okay. It’s worse than failing a pop quiz or arriving a half hour late. This isn’t a test; it’s your being reckless.
Am I jealous of the woman in question? Yes. I don’t know her, or care to (because it’s just another thing to obsess over, so the less I know, the better for my health), but I am jealous. I’m not jealous, thinking he wants her. I know he wants me. But I’m jealous that despite how much I’ve told him it actually hurts my esteem and my own feelings of worth, he continues to go there, obliviously. And you know what, that’s my problem. It’s my problem that I let him even come close to my worth. Like I’ve said before. Who the fcuk is he? This isn’t about jealousy; it’s about worth. And, I know mine.
Back to the “first strike” of the green word…I was in the bathroom when it first struck. Public bathrooms aren’t just breeding grounds for pubic lice, salmonella, and a host of other fecal-borne bacteria. They breed jealousy. Would you look at her back? It’s sculpted and tan, without even a hint of a beauty mark. I have rolls and moles. Enough said. So, in turn, these restrooms, tucked into trendy bars throughout our city, are a destination for self-deprecation. It might as well be a topless beach in Capri.
“If I were at the airport, they’d make me check these under-eye bags.”
“Honey, that’s nothing. I haven’t shit in four days. My stomach is so distended.”
“OMG, don’t say that! Say BOWEL MOVEMENT. Be a lady.”
“Want a fiber pill? I keep them on me at all times. Or maybe a gas pill will help?”
Listen long enough, and you’ll learn there’s a “cream for that” and the name of a great gynecologist, psychic, and tailor. Public Restrooms are the new Yellow Pages. You leave with an empty bladder, but the rest of you is still full of shit because now you kinda hate yourself. “I’ll just never have that figure. I mean, it’s really not in my genes. I’m so not having dessert now.” Your night is basically ruined.
I thought, at least, I’d escape jealousy in my own bathroom. I was flipping though my latest magazine arrivals, shaking my head, mental note to self: “buy gold flats,” when it happened again. Martha Beck addresses our competitive natures and our tendency to play the “er” game in this month’s O Magazine. Okay, that’s mine–I call it the “er” game. Is she smarter, prettier, thinner, richer than I am? Martha calls it “a setup for failure.” I have to agree. Though, I’d take it a step further. It’s more like a setup to gain five pounds (because you immediately try to diet), a master plan for biting off all your nails, and a guarantee that you’ll end up crying, feeling like you’ll never be good enough. Well fcuk that noise! I am good enough, and if you don’t think so, go play in someone else’s sandbox; I like mine the way it is. Besides, this isn’t about you. What was I even thinking, letting myself feel like shit based on what anyone else thinks? I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me! Besides, I have killer hair, so go throw sand somewhere else.
Martha suggests you pay attention to any of these telltale signs of your assbackwards thinking:
You get irritable or depressed when someone else succeeds.
You don’t feel loved or loving.
Meeting a successful person, you feel anxious rather than honored.
You actively hope for others to do badly or to fail
You criticize everyone and believe everyone is criticizing you.
I felt better after seeing the list. I wasn’t on it. Not in one sentence. I’ve never been competitive with anyone but myself. I took stock for a minute to figure out why that is, worried it was some self-fulfilling prophecy anchored in a fear of failure. As in, “I don’t care if I ‘win’ because I know I’ll fail anyway.” It’s just not the case.
Growing up, I loved swimming until I was on the swim team. I loved to race to beat my own times, but once a starting block, lanes, and prizes came into the picture, I wanted none of it. As long as I sucked, I was happy because the focus was on improving, but once I improved and began to come in first place, it was no longer about me. It was about winning. So I stopped swimming.
Two days ago, out of the blue, I was asked, “What do you think the difference is between jealousy and envy?” To which I responded, without missing a beat, “Jealousy is about you.” Then I just blinked in silence. “Jealousy is about your own insecurities, whereas envy is about admiration. Envy isn’t destructive; it’s wistful.” I hate when I’m jealous, mostly because I know it’s my problem. I don’t mind being envious, but jealousy gets me hating myself. Then I went back to reading The Times Book Review of Katherine Harrison’s new book, Envy. Man, can she write. I’m so jealous. Ahem, envious.