Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Talk Thursday: Jealousy

This is Lyn's topic, and I'll get in big trouble with the grammarians of the world if I don't immediately point out that when most of us say "jealousy", what we really mean is "envy."  "Envy" means wanting something that someone else has, and being righteously p.o.ed when you don't get it.  Jealousy, on the other hand, means resenting someone else's success or advantages.  So unless Bob symbolizes success or advantage, you're not jealous of Susan for dating Bob. You're merely envious; you want to own Bob.  (I don't know if anyone's checked with Bob as to how he feels about this.  Bob?  Are you there, Bob?)  Still, the words get used interchangably enough to where if you say you're jealous of Mitt Romney because he's so open-minded, most of us will get that you're really envious (and slightly out of touch).  Most of us will probably also want to follow you around on Election Day, to see if you actually vote for the clown or get lost in a supermarket somewhere and end up spending the night in the produce section, engaging in constructive dialogue with a bunch of zucchini.

That said, however: My first experience with the-kind-of-jealousy-that-is-really-envy came about when I was a little tyke, and it worked like this:  If you had chocolate, I was jealous of you.  If you had more chocolate than I did, I was jealous of you.  That was pretty much it.  If you didn't want me to be jealous, you would hand over all of your chocolate immediately.  That rarely happened, however, and even when it did, the chocolate didn't survive long enough to make peace in our time, or even Mountain Standard Time.  Still, everyone has a price and it's good to know mine was, at least once, nice and low.

Fast-forwarding to adulthood, I was once in a band.  Actually I was once in several bands, but this particular band was in Arizona and the primary instrument was bagpipes.  One of the other bagpipers always made me feel a little funny when he was around.  He was an engineer--engineers always make me feel funny; it's probably the tinfoil hats--and he had a nice house outside of Gilbert, a pretty wife and two twin daughters that were, I think, about eight years old.  I think it was the daughters that got me.  If I were ever to have children, which I'm not because I haven't the slightest idea what I'd do with them and I have a sneaking suspicion it's too late now, twin girls would have been the way to go.  Get it it all done in one pregnancy, zip, zop, you're history.   Anyway, one day I finally figured out that I envied him his life.  Which was strange, because I actually didn't want it--I'd be a crummy engineer, and what would I do with a wife and twin daughters?--but I envied him for having it, if that makes any sense.

Well, you know this story's gonna have an O. Henry ending, and it does; the engineer and his wife split up, it turned out their home life was a disaster, they fought all the time, they spent their money as fast as they made it, the house had to be sold, they fought over custody of the girls for years and, well, it didn't end happily.  But from the outside it all looked so nice and, you know, Norman Rockwell.  You just don't know as much about people as you think you do.

People have asked me have I been jealous of other writers.  Answer:  Yes, on very rare occasions. Usually I'm only jealous of something somebody else is doing until I start doing it, too, and then I'm fine.  In the case of writing, that's just writing, not publishing.  Would I like to be the next Stephen King?  Sure, but I'm busy writing over here.  Yeah, he got the multi-bazillion dollar book contract and the high-powered agent and all that good stuff, but he got all that for two reasons.  One, he really is that good.  Two, he was really, really lucky.  I only have control over one of those factors.  Anyway, I'm busy writing over here.

But, again, there are exceptions.  Let's talk Hunger Games. Not only was that the first book in years that made me cry, it's the first book in years that I've put down and wished I'd written it.  I don't think that's happened since Very Far Away From Anywhere Else, and that was in high school, just to give you an idea of the time span.  Oh, sure, there's books I think I could have written better (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, for one; I'd have knocked out the first fifty or so pages, lost that chunk in the middle about the multibajillionaire, moved the stuff about Lisbeth's first guardian closer to the beginning--Jen rewrites Larssen) but that's different.  That's playing armchair editor, which is kind of like playing Monday-morning quarterback.

Hmm, maybe I missed my calling in life.  Maybe when I was a kid staring out the window at the distant stars, I should have said, "And when I grow up, I'll be an editor at Harper & Row" instead of "And when I grow up, I'll be a paralegal at Jackal and Jackal."

Actually, I said, "And when I grow up, I'll be a high-powered political assassin," but I don't think the stars ever took me seriously.  Which is too bad.  The health benefits aren't as good, but the pay scale rocks. Or so I hear.


Cele said...

I'm thinking you weren't jealous of his wife and his twins, nor his job (Gads who wants to be an engineer?) I think it is the settled, roots, and belonging you yearned for. And look now you have a wife, twin scratch that, multiple animals, and a place where your heart is...

Psamanthe said...

My mom beat me to it.
"Stability" is what I would have called it. And it's not a bad thing to envy. People say envy like it's a bad word, but isn't that what gives us goals and drives us to achieve them? Sure, maybe envy causes some to wallow in self-pity, but those ppl have bigger issues that just envy.

And who doesn't want all the chocolate in the world. That's by 3rd wish when I find that damn lamp. (Perhaps I'll word it different so I can even share some of it...Like Dear Mr Genie, Please give me ................ screw that, I'm going to wish for the Room of Requirement... then when I need chocolate it will just appear for me fully stocked... That might work the same for sex too! SCORE!I'm a freaking genius!! )

Jen said...

Stability, eh? Would I want stability more than chocolate? (thinking) That's a tough call. One of my multiple animals has fleas. Would that Room of Requirement cough up some Advantage?