Four ways of looking at jealousy (apologies to Wallace Stevens)

I’ve written about jealousy before, and I fear I have little new to add on the subject, but it’s feeling salient, so I guess I’ll do one of my periodic revisitations of the subject.

Here is how I experience jealousy:

I.  Jealousy I feel

It’s a hot, urgent, tight feeling in my chest.  It’s a sort of amalgam of fear and anger, usually with a healthy dollop of envy.  If I’m honest, it boils down to a bodily experience of the fear that I ain’t shit, that I don’t matter (to someone female), that I don’t exist.  Somehow (I’ve written a bit on this elsewhere), I came to hand over to women (to Woman) the ability to conjure me into existence, and, conversely, to render me non-existent/annihilated.  This is an unfortunate way to be, and one that, when I’m consciously capable, I do my best to escape/avoid.

But when I feel this feeling – when my chest tightens, my breath quickens, my shoulders hunch forward as if trying to meet in front of me, when it’s all I can do to straighten my neck and hold up my head – I start to feel as if I’m disappearing, as if a woman holds in her hand the ability to crush me – not just physically, or emotionally, but in my entire essence.  As if, with just a minimum of effort, she can cause me to cease existing.  And conversely, I feel as if my release, my return to the land of the comfortable, is entirely at her discretion.  I feel impotent, helpless, and small.  And occasionally, there’s rage – rage directed, usually, at the guy who’s successfully attracting her attention away from me.  He’s a brute, a boor, a pig.  Simple, gross, not good enough for her, whatever.  Usually, it’s a transparent projection of my own doubts and fears about myself.

Then, to make it worse, I feel envy.  It took me a long time to figure this out, and Nancy Friday’s Jealousy.  Which is too long by a factor of three, but a great, worthwhile read.  I feel envy for my object’s having what she seemingly wants.  It makes me crazy not just that she wants him instead of me; it makes me crazy that she wants him and can have him and I want her, and can’t have her.  Nancy Friday says if you’re angry at your beloved, chances are, you’re envious, not jealous; jealousy tends to manifest in anger at the third party, not at the beloved.  I don’t need to agree or disagree with this point of view:  it’s enough for me to say that it’s interesting to ponder, and helped me see envy where previously I had seen none.

So anyway, then it’s like a wave.  A big, long, crashing wave.  It lifts me high, high in the air, and I fear for the crash.  I fear desperately – I’m going to die, be crushed against the sand, smashed, harmed irreparably.  That’s the fear, and it’s the meat of the experience of jealousy.  More than any bad feeling itself, it’s the feeling of fear, fear of annihilation.

But then, you know what?  I’m not annihilated.  What happens is the opposite.  The wave doesn’t crash, I don’t get destroyed.  It’s all anticlimax.  What happens, instead, is that gradually, slowly, the sentiment recedes, grows smaller, until it’s gone, and I realize I’m still there, bobbing, in the water.

II.  Jealousy I cause

Some women – not many – are invested in receiving my attention, my desire.  They wince when they see me flirt with others, when they learn of something – anything – that has happened between me and another woman.  Invariably, I react with something akin to confusion.  Because I see clearly just how special each woman in my life is to me, how irreplaceable, unique, she is.  I can have the insanely hot thing I have with P, and it has nothing to do with my relationship (or past relationship) with L, or anyone else, for that matter.  And because I’m a narcissist, it’s important to me that a woman who’s feeling jealousy at my hand STOP – that she see that she’s WRONG – that there’s no threat posed by the other, whoever she may be.

This, of course, is silly.  Jealousy isn’t rational, and it can’t be reasoned with.  In my better moments, I transcend this, and am able simply to be simultaneously flattered and saddened by the fact that I’ve provided someone with the opportunity to have this experience.

III.  Jealousy I observe

Sometimes, I am privy to jealousy felt by a friend, but not implicating me.  Here, I’m at my best.  I mean, shit, I practically have a PhD in the subject.  I can be empathetic, sympathetic, and thoughtful, perceptive and smart, all in the first thirty seconds.  And, because I’m genuinely interested in jealousy, I love to learn more about it.  (An aside:  a friend of mine dates a guy who’s into being cuckolded.  I don’t know him, alas, and for complicated reasons, never will.  Which is too bad, because I would love to just sit and interview him, to understand the parameters of his desire, which is so opposite to mine.)

IV.  Jealousy of which I am oblivious

Yeah, I got nothing to say here.


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