February 23, 2006

Jealousy

With writer's group looming tonight, I look at all the raw material I have in my files. As usual, every single thing I've ever written sucks. If it doesn't suck, I've already read it aloud in group and received the usual critiques ("less dialogue, please" "is that really autobiographical? You're a fucking freak, aren't you?" "Your fiction has too many characters in it, and I can't keep 'em straight." "Do you ever think of anything other than sex?" [Answers: fuck off, yes, fuck off, no]).

I should read from my Big-Ass Crime Novel, but that sucks more than usual this week. In desperation, I turn to an embryonic piece I've had on the back burner for a while about triangle relationships in my teenage years. I start to flesh it out, and end up with something I'm (just barely) willing to read tonight. Presumably that will end up being part of my looming semi-autobiographical flim-flam.

But at least I'm not writing poetry any more, which is a step up. I think.

When all else fails, I metaphorically take off my clothes: the story begins with my feelings about jealousy, and a few snapshots from times I felt it very strongly. I'm not discussing envy, here: I'm talking about jealousy, when you desire attention from someone who's enraptured by another person. It's an amazing feeling, because it's so purely an expression of id. And it's the most bald-faced liar of any emotion: what else can make you murderous at the same time you feel disempowered and insignificant?

When I shut off the computer in relief to make myself my eighteenth cup of tea for the day, I think about the songs I've heard that have tried to capture not just the pain of jealousy, but its ugliness as well. How do you write about an experience so universal, so painful, and so prone to transform the sufferer into a complete monster?

The partial green-eyed discography:

• "Jealous Again," The Black Crowes
• "Alison," Elvis Costello
• "Jealousy," by the Gin Blossoms, which conveys the energy, but not necessarily the excruciating pain of the experience.
• "Is She Really Going Out with Him?" Joe Jackson
• that Marianne Faithfull song "Why D'ya Do It?" which documents the ugliness of jealousy, but fails IMHO because it becomes ugly itself.
• "Jealous Again," Black Flag
• the Alannis Morissette song "You Oughta Know." This might be the best effort: it's got plenty of energy, which—say what you migh—jealousy will give you, though I don't mean that in a good way. ("Will she go down on you in a theater?" "And every time I run my fingers down his back, I hope you feel it—yeah, do you feel it?")
• The Pursuit of Happiness' "It's Hard to Laugh" ("You have to laugh to prevent yourself from cryin'").
• "Jealousy" by Queen; one of the reflective, mournful takes.
• "I Want You," by Elvis Costello, which is quiet and reflective, but no less intense than tunes with lots of drums and bass. It tears my heart out every time I hear it. ("I want to hear the things you do that we did, too . . . were you fool enough to love it when you heard him say, 'I want you'?")

Did your id ever lie to you more than when you were jealous? And how did you come to terms with the situation?

Do you know anyone who escaped this?—and did they really, or did they just learn to lie and pretend they were above it?

How ugly did you get when you were jealous? What's the worst thing you've ever done under its influence? (No criminal confessions, please. Don't make me call the cops or anything like that.)

Posted by Attila Girl at February 23, 2006 02:29 PM | TrackBack
Comments

Nothing worse than a little stake-out surveillance action on my part a few years ago and a thorough search of her palm pilot.

As for the id's lying, it does not strike me as incongruous for feelings of impotence, insignificance, and disempowerment to lead to murderous rage on the part of some people. In fact it seems entirely understandable--how enraging to have oneself accounted as nothing. So I'm not sure what you mean by the id lying to you, you know?

Posted by: Stuart Fullerton at February 23, 2006 04:57 PM


But you aren't nothing. And I'm not, either. Yet in our jealous moments, we get attached to the rather odd notion that who we are has to do with how much attention so-and-so is paying to us. (And never mind the fact that so-and-so is often a bad match for us.)

That is a lie. We are who we are, and we're precious and valuable. That's entirely independent of what so-and-so thinks or feels.

We, the jealous, are universally feared for our unpredictability and volatility. That's why the cops come looking for us when they find dead bodies.

In an not-unrelated issue, that's also why we get locked up a lot.

Posted by: Attila Girl at February 23, 2006 05:30 PM


I've seen jealousy swirl and surge around me. I can't say that I've experienced it that much.

The worst was when Daisycat was *trying* to make me jealous the summer we met, by wanting to spend some time with this loser geek she was playing against me.

But I knew it for what it was, let her play her little game, and called her bluff. In the end I got the girl, 'cause I knew the geek just didn't stack up in any way to me.

(*strut, strut, strut*)

Posted by: Desert Cat at February 23, 2006 07:38 PM


OK, I get it.

I agree that to have one's sense of well-being riding entirely on the estimation of others is to live a lie. But I can think of an example just as bad as jealousy: pride. There the id is lying about how great one is, right?

Posted by: Stuart Fullerton at February 23, 2006 09:13 PM


Sure (though actually, it's probably the ego telling the lie). However, pride is a much more civilized emotion: jealousy is very primal. Very basic and childlike.

I just have the sense that pride tends to be more complex.

Posted by: Attila Girl at February 23, 2006 11:10 PM


You have to get hit with jealousy to know what it is. I'm not talking about the few seconds everyone feels now and again, I mean the type that hits like a disease and stays around for years--three, in my case. The type where emotions are kept alive as if the "trigger" had just happened, with the same physiological reactions/responses. I was thirty when I got my "education" and thought myself immune, having experienced breakups before. Twenty-one years have passed and I still don't want to think about it for fear that it could all start all over again. Feelings? Absolute powerlessness, hopelessness, and unfairness. It may take two to make a relationship work, but it only takes one to walk away and blow it all to Hell. With no recourse. Friends are useless, and most don't even want to hear the first exposition, much less the constant rehashing. You are totally alone. You realize that everything you do, everything you think of doing, will only make matters worse and leave you looking like more of a fool. And yet you still consider them. You start to think that maybe those that murder their lovers are really the compassionate ones--if she really loved me she would have just given me a triple tap to the head and moved along. I won't be pressing charges.

Posted by: Darrell at February 24, 2006 10:20 AM


The devastation of a breakup can be overpowering. Mine haven't had a lot of jealousy in them: mostly the jealousy has been in cases of unrequited love, open relationships. That kind of thing.

The worst breakups I ever had led me to 1) stop eating more than a little for some months. (My weight dropped to about 97 pounds from its healthy 115-120 average at that time.) And: 2) wear nothing but shades of gray and black. (Although I still had to actually break up with that person myself; he'd moved on, though, and I knew it.)

Posted by: Attila Girl at February 24, 2006 12:42 PM




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