Jealous Types Anonymous
Hi. My name is Sara, and I am the jealous type. It took years of awkward anger, temporary recluse, and over exaggerated encouragement to finally get me to this point. But I’m here. And now I know. I am jealous, and I have a problem
Phew. Feels good to finally get that out. I’ve been battling with this disease for years. Alone. In my bed while everyone is out. On a barstool drinking a beer I hate but know will earn more points than her Amaretto Sour. Sitting at the bottom of the tub letting the water pummel the back of my head while I cry.
I’m a wreck when I don’t get what I want. I’m confused, scarred, and self-destructive. I stare in mirrors coaching myself through life – smiling big to contemplate the role my teeth play in whatever fate should come to me. I look deep into my sad, brown eyes to see if something will happen. If my anger and frustration will come out of my soul and stare back at me with the answers to my failures. It’s scary standing there. Mere inches from yourself – in bright light, with dark circles under your eyes, with a strange kind of infinity haunting you. Every time I do it I go until I’m holding in welled up tears and have fully exposed how I really feel to myself. Then I slither back towards my cave and write something clever about how beautiful she is. Whoever she is this week. But this is not reality. It’s just another personality entertaining the idea of admiration and respect rather than self-deprecation.
I loathe that which walks taller, bares thinner and sleeps better. I give up when I realize I’ve been replaced. I put my camisoles back on their hangers and reach for a sweater. I punish myself for not being enough. I put jealousy in the drawer and find an excuse – like a nap. Or a headache. Sometimes I even report hours of homework and accomplish something in the process of unveiling my jealousy over tea and a paper that’s due months ahead. I stare at my desktop for hours until my posture is hunched and my eyes beg me to close them. Then I am truly exhausted. And I dream about nothing. I’ve learned to prefer this. Dreams are too real, and reality is too much work. I’d much rather float on a cloud and drink teal and carnation pink margaritas than chase people around hoping they’ll see me. Help me. Love me. Give me back what’s mine.
I hide it well. My jealousy. I hide it the way an anorexic hides inside an old sweatshirt and learns to pull long sleeves over her gaping wrist bones. I am so good at lying about how I feel. It’s a craft. The second I think I might be discovered, I swallow it and pull a classic excuse, emotion, rationale out of the archives. But I’ve run out of excuses and reasons. I’m resorting to old tactics that worked back in high school. Unconvincing tactics that resound the hundredth “No thanks, I’m just not hungry.” My reserves are empty. I might have to come clean. I’d rather turn myself in and get a lesser sentence.
Even though being jealous publicly feels twice as bad as it does in private. Public jealousy is dramatic, overbearing, and irrational. It causes irresolvable conflict. I’d stomp home far too often in post-defeat. I’d much rather come home early because of a headache. Then they’d think I didn’t feel well and console me the next morning rather than whisper about my problem. Because people can’t relate to jealousy, even though they all feel it. People refuse to understand that another is not objectively happy for their success and achievement. It’s not that I’m so unhappy for another. I’m just unhappy that it is not me. I suppose it would be fair to say that I don’t loathe the receiver of good things. I despise my lack of right place right time-ness. I hate to work for it.
Those who fall under my envious scope are always the closest to me. They obtain what I will never have and show me what it means to be the kind of person I will never be. They work harder, do laundry more often, and have parents celebrating silver anniversaries. They are trained in dance, enjoy running for hours and draw straighter lines. They impress me in their ease of being themselves. The way I am sure people appreciate how I do so well being me. It’s great to be surrounded by whole persons. People with talents, skills, and convictions about the world. People who are better looking and better tempered. People that walk with me and compliment my me-ness as I clench my jaw envying their them-ness. I am the ultimate in wanting what cannot be had. Jealousy is a coping strategy for wanting the most unhavable item out there: another’s identity. Hence, I’m a good expert at it. So expert in fact, that no one would even notice I’m experiencing it.
Until now. I’m slowly learning to be jealous freely. To seethe without the door shut so others can see that they affect me. Perhaps all this jealousy is a product of realizing that I am not the moon, sun, stars and universe. A surplus of air was blown up my ass as a kid – a Mommy whose heart wrapped itself around my every fear and insecurity, teachers with too few students to commend, easily entertained twentysomethings laughing in unison while I pretended to be a grown-up at the table. I learned early to talk the talk. Eventually, I started running into people who walked the walk I was talking so eloquently. Other kids started to raise their hands more, get compliments for their manners more and win awards more. By high school, I wasn’t number one anymore.
And that was the beginning. I started harboring abusive friendships that forced me to see what I wasn’t. Girls with gleaming white teeth, perfectly aligned. Mathmeticians. State qualifying artists. Grand pianists. Uber-Christians. I was best friends with the presidents of clubs and the captains of teams. I watched them date the boys I wanted to date and drive the cars I wanted to drive. I kept pulling the band-aid up more slowly so I could feel the pain of being myself. I let it consume me. I’d cry after dances and parties, wishing I was someone else. I’d stay home from school to avoid seeing them. I was overzealous in my friendships to avoid being caught stirring up my little stew of envy.
With time, I settled into myself with chagrin. Of course I never told them how vexed I was by their dainty little noses and volleyball player thighs. Rather, I grew to be a complimentary addition to any scene. I learned to be honest about beauty in public. I learned that being her would never happen, so I might as well let everyone else, including her, know how great she is. Because I see how normal it is to size up. I don’t want other people to feel the way I feel, so I want them to know how beautiful, tall, talented, athletic, brave, intelligent, fashionable they are. Especially if they’re recognizable traits are those I seek to collect. Especially because it feels good to do a little bit of penance. To pay for the jaw-clenching, tooth-grinding frustration I endure.
And now, here I am. Fresh out of compliments. Clean out of excuses. Fed up with myself. I want to look every person in the face and tell them that even though I love the way they are, I really wish I could push them down whenever they make me look mediocre in comparison. I want that freedom, and I hate the way I’m imprisoned by this desperate need. This need to be someone else, to be more. Is it possible that all this jealousy, all this intentional exposure to the elite of every realm I’ve entered, is because I refuse to settle for anything less? Is it possible that all this sense of failure and underdevelopment is a payment of homage to those who I dedicate hours of admiration to?
I want to figure this out. Desperately. So I can pull the sweatshirt up off my wrists and be me. Because there's so much more here that isn't within someone else. I want to find the thing that's my blue ribbon, my high honor, my SI swimsuit edition cover. And I guess that's what's got me here. Confessing a problem that tricks me into thinking it's a solution. While keeping me from the papers that must be written so I can be the best student, from the treadmill that will make me more fit and from the friends who can hug me when I'm down.
I'm going to start a Jealous Types Anonymous. So we can all get it out and eventually get to ourselves. So I can start to just be myself. The self that I've never been. Because I've been too consumed in being someone else. I am excited about this little club. And I already have a prayer to get things rolling...
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."