channeling stuart smalley

In ALL, BREAKUPS & BREAKTHROUGHS, DATING & MATING, HE SAID SHE SAID, INTROSPECTION, MARRIAGE by Stephanie Klein28 Comments

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.

Comments

  1. Agree 100% about the "er" game and how it can be the downfall of any person. Yes, you are smart enough, pretty enough, thin enough, and soon to be rich enough.

    And you know what….I have killer hair too…ok, you got me…not as killer as yours.

  2. Actually, jealousy is best thought of as what happens toward PEOPLE, whereas envy is about THINGS.

    You feel jealous when someone is getting attention from someone else and you feel left out. So, not wanting your date to mention the woman he stopped dating for you is correctly a feeling of jealousy, as you mentioned.

    But envy does NOT necessarily have anything to do with admiration–it has to do with "someone has something and I want it–I'm envious that she's got it and I don't." Or: "You've got it and I want it." And yes, it may also connote a slight admiration for the other who has what you want. You could be envious of her book contract, larger natural breasts, higher test scores, prettier smile, etc.

    And it just isn't true that envy can't be destructive–while envy is seen as green rather than red hot like jealousy–and therefore tends not to lead to vindictive rageful acts–it still can cansume a tremendous amount ot wasteful energy in comparing how much the other has that you wish you had. It also leads to anger and resentment.

    Lastly–you were not jealous of Katherine Harrison's writing (there is no third person involved so you can't be jealous) you were ENVIOUS of her writing talent, which you cutely tried to say in purposely confusing the two words.

    end of dissertation.

  3. I personally enjoy it when you yourself compose a longer piece such as this one, because it goes a long way in diminishing the jealousy of the people who criticize you for writing about the Hamptons or taking pictures of nights out with friends, but in which case perhaps it arouses only my envy, more aptly termed admiration. I rarely envy, and I am not a jealous person.

    This fellow, this past-tenser: his incessant mentioning of the woman he ditched to your "benefit" (which is debatable) reminds me of nothing more than Edina Monsoon in an episode of Ab Fab—"What's the point of greiving if there's no one there to see you do it?". Ergo his "sacrifice" is only such if he brings it up so that you might feel all of the "er" adjectives yourself: "luckier, worthier, attractive-er", etc. Any stranger in a bathroom would tell you he sounds like a pill.

    And you do have some kickass hair.

  4. i think it's a function of age. you and i are the same age, and lately i've found myself having very similar thoughts. i chalk it up to the fact that i always thought that by the time i was 29, i'd have accomplished so much more, i'd be thinner, i'd have a better-looking boyfriend, et al. it's like a treadmill of dissatisfaction. because i haven't quite lived up to the standards i set for myself, i get a bit of the green uglies when i see people whose lives i thought mine would be a lot more like. ugly? yes. hard to admit? definitely. honest? mm hm.

  5. Could you BE any more right? Holy cow Batman, I think you are onto something here. Seriously, this week was a doozy and I've got that jealousy bug going on too, but at least we recognize it. Its a matter of how I deal with it that will make me either feel better or worse.

  6. i thought this was actually one of you best posts. sod the people who think it's too long, go read a poem!

  7. I did like this post even though I think Bob Dylan there is right. However, what I am confused about is the direction this post took. It seemed like you started out talking about how the present is all a product of our past, but then you focused (it seemed to me) almost entirely on the present (or mor recently occurring events). The only time you addressed your past was very briefly at the end where you say how you didn't have any of those bad qualities Martha mentions.

    Ok the guy clearly cannot behave in a manner that pleases you. Good sign you shouldn't be with each other. However, what I am still not getting is why you are jealous and how does it relate to your past.

  8. It's your job to spell out your needs; it's his job to fulfill them with his undivided attention. You've done your part…holding him accountable for his only means you're not willing to settle. Good for you! As my newly-single friend said last week, "I wasn't unhappy because I expected too much; it was because he wasn't giving me what I need."

  9. That guy has issues. It was a good long post, yes you're real, but not so fcuked up. For every girl whose back you admire in the bathroom there's another who's admiring something about you that makes their self esteem do a bellyflop. It's social justice. Damn I hope you find the right guy someday.

  10. Jeolousy is like a poison that rips through your veins…ugly, messy, and definitely makes you feel like shit.
    By the way have you ever read the book "An invisible sign of my own' by Aimee Bender…a part of you reminds me of the character in that book…with the whole "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." Read it! I think you will enjoy it?

  11. I don't care if it hurts,
    I wanna have control
    I want a perfect body,
    I want a perfect soul
    I want you to notice,
    when I'm not around
    You're so fuckin special
    I wish I was special

    But I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo
    What the hell am I doing here?
    I don't belong here

  12. If that song doesn't sum a lot of things up for the newly 30-something I don't know what does…

    The years between 20-29 go too quick!

    There is no other buzzkill than mentioning an "ex-" especially when you are dating someone new. After you get past the stage, where you are in a bonafide relationship, you should only tread lightly.

    I think jealousy manifests because we at times feel the grass is always greener, over there. Not looking at how green it really is under your feet. Sometimes, things may seem dull and numbingly slow but usually it is more a reflection of oneself. Just my two cents…

  13. It's not hard to understand why he might still be thinking about the ex (guilt, or whatever). But it's very hard to understand why he wants to keep reminding YOU about the ex, unless he wants you to feel obligated in some way. Or maybe this is his way of poking at you for having an ex of your own (since you've mentioned some men have a problem with your sordid past as a former wife).

  14. "Public bathrooms aren't just breeding grounds for pubic lice, salmonella, and a host of other fecal-borne bacteria. They breed jealousy."

    SO true. Because there isn't the distraction of dim lighting and loud music in the bathrooms.

    Also, there are always full-length "fat mirrors" in bar bathrooms. And you wouldn't really be jealous of someone's sculpted anything unless comparing it to your own…

  15. My advice–and trust me advice is like body hair: everyone has a worthless amount–is to call up this "ex" and ask her to sit down for a drink. She might have a lot to offer. You might even become friends. In the very least it would diffuse her status as some non-human, abstract entity. I guarantee you it wouldn't bother you anymore and it would teach him a lesson because once you ask him for her number he won't say another thing.

    Insensitive Man: Maybe I didn't mention this but do you know I left that sweet girl ex for you?

    SK: Yes, I do. Actually I had drinks with her last night. Cool chick. Boy, did you screw that one up.

    Oh, eliza, I weep for you. Measuring out your life with coffee spoons is no way to live.

  16. That's brilliant, Fanny.

    I once (briefly) had a boyfriend who was always bragging about how he would go to strip clubs and the strippers would be all over him. It was obvious that he was saying this to make me feel insecure. Next time I had a bf who talked that way, I called his bluff. We were with a group of his friends and I said, "let's go to [strip club]." They enthusiastically agreed, but the bf was mortified and never mentioned strippers again.

    It might be better, long-term, not to keep someone like that in your life. Short-term, however, if someone is pushing your buttons, it's interesting to screw up the buttons a little and see what happens. :-)

  17. I get jealous when guys I'm dating bring up their ex girlfriends. It makes me think that they're thinking about them and wondering what if…

  18. How about happy with what you got…
    to be richer, smarter, for what? for who?
    Tis the journy that counts, no matter where u end up.
    Go where ever u desier..no worry where it eventually takes you.

  19. Hi,
    I just found your blog after reading the NYT article. Congratulations on making the big time! Just read about your insensitive date. Well, he certainly has some issues. Those are HIS issues, though. Every relationship has some problems, no matter how small or how good the relationship. In a way, we just get to choose which problem we want to have. So, is this the kind of problem you want to have?

    Jealousy is a symptom of having more space between you and your s.o. than you are comfortable with. Of course, the first assumption is that the relationship is worth the trouble to 1. transmit that information and 2. fix it. (2) depends on how much it bothers you (lots in this case, obviously) and how much trouble it is. There are many different ways to decrease space between two people, not all of them may involve him never ever ever mentioning his ex again.

    Just some free advice, never take it for more than it's worth. Good luck and love your blog!

    Dulce

  20. there’s a great bit in “white teeth” where zadie smith goes off on a rant about those who think people “deserve” to be loved. and she basically says, look–you deserve to have enough to eat, you deserve decent medical care, but you don’t deserve to be loved. no one owes you love, and if someone doesn’t fall in love with you, it’s not a failing on their part. even if you really really want them.

    this weird idea that everyone–especially women, and i hope i’m not selling out my gender here–”deserves” all the emotional privileges that they desire is crap. (does ANYONE deserve to have someone sit at their feet for long repetitive conversations about “where this is going?” and smile adoringly everytime they try on something that makes them look fat?)

    most of all, though, i can’t begin to understand why anyone *deserves* to have someone “give themselves fully”. that’s an awfully huge thing to give someone, and frankly, i can’t believe that simply having been born entitles you to “have” another person.
    please. if you want to own something that will love you unconditionally, get a dog. otherwise, get a grip and realize that having someone who thinks you’re pretty damn cool, and is willing to give you head, ain’t such a bum deal.

    (and if you’re lucky enough to score a sincere “i love you”… consider it the incredibly rare privilege that it is, not the fulfillment of some god-given right.)

  21. From NYC (Manhattan) You write very well Ms Klein just like Amy Sohn in the NY Mag . Keep it up. Your blogs are very interesting even for an old Indian from India where women are now coming into their own in every way including expressing themselves freely as you do. I don't see any comments yet from Indian women in NYC I hope many of them see your blogs and post comments.

  22. Hey i understand this all to well. I am 29 also and man is it hard to look around you and see that everyone it seems has what you want. i suffer from the green and red uglies at times. it is usually when I am unhappy with myself or feeling insecure. I hate feeling insecure. It sucks. So when this happen I work on myself, bring some balance. And you are right. It is bad how people feel less than someone else. What they don't know is that other person feels the same about him or herself. Interesting, love the post.. keep it up

  23. Thats definatly all true. I'm only 13 and i can tell the difference. But your taking ti to personaly. Magasines are theyre because they can spread ads and bad rumors about people to make tehm feel bad. The rate of people who are anerexic has gone up drasticaly since teh invention of printing. we should kill it ok something, jkz. Still ..I don't see why you read tehm. They're not worth the time, your always feeling bad about it. It's NOT a self-esteem boost in the least. If you want to hear or read something that WILL make you feel beter, go to a friend. Your not the only one out there who wants something, and then you know you can't have it. So what? She's thin. OMG wow!! It's not that big of a deal to tell you the truth. The only thing it gets her is attention-something she obviously can't live without! Wouldn't that be horrible? The reason your here isn't for attention. It's for your friends, the people you love, and so much more. They can't see through that. Don't get jelous of the stupid ^^ (No offense to anyone I hope-I'm talking in general here)or mad because tehy have something that really shouldn't even matter. Good Luck, I hope you have a better time of it and keep up the good job. I love reading your articles and that's saying a lot, for me anyways. You express how you really feel-something a lot of people don't have the guts for. That's awesome! Keep up the awesum work. I'm definatly showing this site around so other people can learn from it too.

    -Sunny

Leave a Comment