Hello dear readers…I see there are some of you who haven’t disconnected your Inter-Web yet. That’s okay. You can use my ten step program to write that novel whenever you are ready.
Since I already wrote about Dr. Frankenstein this week, it seems fitting to write about another monster most of you are familiar with. The green-eyed one. You know, jealousy.
I recently discovered Jennifer Crusie’s blog through a post on Backspace, a writing forum I belong to (and am very proud to be a founding member of). Crusie writes romance novels, and since that’s not a genre I read, I probably wouldn’t have discovered her any other way. So I’m grateful for Backspace, because this woman has a fantastic blog. I haven’t read everything on it yet, but what I have read is both interesting and entertaining. Since it’s appropriate, I will admit to feeling a little jealous of her fantastic blog design–it’s so cool! But I’m happy for her. (You’ll get this once you read her essay.)
She wrote this thought-provoking essay on jealousy and how to deal with it from both sides–when you’re the jealous harpy, and when you’re friends with the jealous harpy. Yes, it’s primarily targeted at romance writers, but I think almost anyone could identify with it. Well…any woman, that is. I know that this blog has a high percentage of male readers, and I’d love to know if they get the same crap from their male friends that women do from their female ones. Do men make catty comments to each other? Feel threatened by each other’s success? Feel the need to “pop that bubble”? I would really like to know.
The first time I remember feeling jealous was in Grade One. There was a girl in my class named Bobbi-Jo. (I know, I know–of all the people to be jealous of, it has to be someone named Bobbi-Jo? Children are not rational creatures.) She was blond while I had what was kindly described as “mousy brown” hair. But that wasn’t why I was jealous of her. She was vivacious and popular, and her family seemed to have a lot of money. I wasn’t jealous of those things, either. But what did drive me crazy is that Bobbi-Jo got to wear nylons. Real, “flesh-colored” (if you happen to be Caucasian and walk around with a deep, skin-cancerous tan, that is) pantyhose.
Guys definitely won’t get this. And women from younger generations probably won’t, either. Today, you’d pretty much have to threaten me with severe bodily harm to get me to wear pantyhose (although I hear it’s great for keeping out ticks). This was back in the day when little girls wore tights with their dresses, back before tights were cool. And we didn’t have many options. We had red tights, white tights (the thought still makes me shudder), and navy blue tights. So, there I’d be, in my beautiful pale pink dress, with navy tights. And Bobbi-Jo would be resplendent with her pale pink dress and pantyhose, which seemed so grown-up and glamorous. Oh, how I wanted to be like Bobbi-Jo! (Or at least, have legs like hers’.) But whenever I asked my mother, the answer was always the same, “Not until you’re older. You’re too young to wear pantyhose.” And now that I’m older, I never wear it. I prefer tights. It figures.
I never thought anyone would be jealous of me. In my hometown, I was a tomboy–a lot of my best friends were guys. We grew up together, were like siblings. As a teenager, I spent a lot of time consoling these friends while they mourned over the lack of attention from other girls in my class. They were never mourning the lack of my attention. Which was fine, because I certainly didn’t want to date one of my brothers, which is what it would have felt like. No one was gushing over how beautiful I was, or how much they wanted to date me. My first serious boyfriend came along when I was sixteen (he was from another town, no surprise there), and I always thought I was sort of odd-looking.
One of my first encounters with jealousy happened when I got a job at an insurance company in the city. I’d left my full-time freelance business to work for The Man, for a multitude of reasons. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted the insurance job, but on my first day, everyone seemed so thrilled that I was there. Most of the people in my new department knew my name from my newspaper work. They sited articles I’d written and were very complimentary. It was nice, and very unexpected. I certainly didn’t expect anyone to have heard of me or to have remembered my name. This working for others thing wasn’t so bad. I felt like I’d just made a bunch of great new friends.
Except for one woman. She was on my communications team, and had the same title as me. She’d been working for the company for years. And she hated me on sight. She decided that this journalist was simply too big for her britches, and must be cut down to size. Obviously, I thought I was too good for the insurance company (which makes no sense–why would I have taken the job, then?), and therefore, better than her. So she set about trying to make my life miserable. She twisted everything I said, and then spread her version to our colleagues. She was mean and nasty to my face. She spent half her time trying to make me look bad, and the other half trying to make herself look better. Look how much work she was doing! So much more than Holli. Just look how much more valuable she was!
On the advice of the friendly neighborhood HR department, I decided to sit down with this girl and “discuss our differences” in a “calm, non-threatening fashion”. We would come to a “resolution” and “absolve our differences”, and thus, be “better colleagues in the future”. If you’ve ever tried to confront a woman about her behavior, you can probably guess how that went. Disaster. My problems with this girl didn’t end until she finally quit and went on to terrorize someone else.
I’ve had “friends” who spewed venom, claiming that they were being realistic or helpful. I had fellow writers (although not many, thank god) turn away from me when I got an agent, saying they had my best interests at heart because I was obviously at “a different level” now. I’ve had a co-worker sneer at an idea once she knew it was mine, and be openly delighted whenever I failed. I am all too familiar with a lot of the scenarios Crusie writes about.
A colleague once told me that when I published a novel, I would lose a lot of friends, especially the writers. I hope that’s not true, but from what Crusie says in her essay, it certainly happens to a lot of us. I actually want my writer friends to get published–and I am happy for them, and not just for altruistic reasons. There’s a lot of horror stories about the publishing industry. People would have you believe that you have a better chance of winning the lottery than publishing a novel these days. So, if one of my friends beat the odds, that means that I might, too. It would give me hope. But most of us are in the same boat, waiting for our ship to come in.
Have you experienced professional jealousy from either side? If so, how did you deal with it? Kudos to those who can admit to a time when they’ve been jealous. After all, we all have been–it’s human nature. And guys, do you ever deal with the same type of thing? I’d love to hear how green the grass is on your side of the fence.