Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Monster Among Us


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.

13 comments:

  1. I can't speak to the professional jealousy....haven't really had issues there. I have seen it play out with others and yes it is not pretty.

    I, however, would like to present the OTHER side of the pantyhose/tights equation. My mom made me wear pantyhose and I LONGED to wear tights...all the cool/families-with-money girls wore them. No amount of begging would help.

    The grass is always greener....

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  2. Wow, Vanessa, really? I never would have guessed that while I was lamenting my lack of pantyhose, there was another little girl who gladly would have swapped with me! We always want what we can't have. :)

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  3. Yup, I wanted tights. :) That is one of the reasons why I absolutely despise wearing pantyhose....and polyester pants (really popular in the '70s *shudder*).

    On the professional side...it just struck me that there seems to always be a possibility for jealousy. Even historically, there has been struggles. The whole Mozart/Salieri scenario/legend comes to mind. It seems to be more of a self-confidence "thing".

    Even though I write a mean Haiku (traditional and non-traditional), I promise to never be jealous WHEN your first book is published (and any subsequent!).

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  4. I always hated tights and pantyhose, so I guess I can't relate to that aspect of jealousy, but certainly when I was in school I wanted to be popular, wanted to have more friends and be more like everyone else.

    I have never really had too much of an issue with jealousy myself, except when it comes to financial success. I want to be more financially abundant (not stable, abundant- gotta make that distinction or we could be stuck for a long time where we currently are!) I dont have a hard time wishing others monetarily well at all, but it does pain me to see such greed, waste and materialism from people who do have financial abundance. I have a hard time dealing with high-falutin' snootiness and overall greed in others. I think I need to recognize that some of that may be jealousy. Ok, maybe more than I would like to admit.

    Jealousy among writers has never really been a problem for me, at least not yet, but I do experience something else...
    Instead of feeling jealous or catty I get all goofy and fan-like inside! Most of the time I can hold it together and manage polite conversation, but sometimes I get all silly and verklempt!
    I just cant believe I am now facebook friends with actual authors who I admire so much I get to talk about my craft with "PROFESSIONALS" who actually got published, and some have bestsellers and a couple even have movie deals! EEeek and gasp! I am giddy for all my author pals, including YOU. Thanks for the blog.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this Holli, as always your writing gives some food for thought, some laughs and a bit of insight into your world.

    I think creatively I've run across more jealousy than I have professionally, although once I did have someone call me to tell me they were going after my job. I talked to my boss, and he told me, "yeah tell them good luck with that."...

    For me creative jealousy is the personal worst because creative things, to me, are something to share, to grow and learn. I learn from other writers, scrapbookers, photographers and artists. Do I wish I could paint like Batman or take photos like John Fujimagari? Sure! Am I jealous? Nah...it would be a waste of time and energy.

    Jealousy makes me sad though, because it does take so much joy away from life, so much energy away from us doing what we love...keep on writing, keep on creating. Those who are truly friends won't ditch you and those who weren't aren't going to be worth missing!

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  6. Yes this is all true and you may recall I addressed this with a slightly different angle in my own blog but I enjoyed your take on it immensly as well as the take in the essay.

    As for men, men who are jealous of each other just go and play racquet ball and beat the crap out of each other and then it is done (or in the case of men I know, just sprint down the highway on a bike).

    Men who are jealous of women whow they believe outdo them, now that is another topic. And I could write about that one as I am sure could you.

    Professional jealousy when you are new to a job and it is coming from someone more experienced is a pretty self esteem damaging thing. Even if YOU rationally know you are doing an OK job, it is hard not to take what your colleage says, to heart. I also had it suggested to me to sit down and talk to the nurse who I mention in my blog ( http://spo-r-tinglife.blogspot.com/2010_04_01_archive.html ). I agreed. She refused. Which said a lot to me and to my unit manager about what was REALLY going on.

    Like all bullies, the second you stand up for yourself the show themselves to be more scared of you than you are of them.

    BTW I am anxiously and (mostly) unjealously awaiting what will come of your latest drive with present novel. My jealousy right now would be self rightous as I haven't put a stitch of work into my writing to have earned anything that is about to come your way.... I'm rooting for you!

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  7. Thanks for the comments, my lovely ladies! I really appreciate everyone's thoughts and take on this, and I don't worry at ALL about any of you being anything but happy for me when one of my books is FINALLY in print. I guess the guys are too shy to comment on this one...

    @ Vanessa - feel free to post a Haiku on this blog! That would certainly add some spice to the comments section.

    @ Diane - I completely get where you're coming from. At this conference I used to attend, there was an invisible line between the Great Unpublished and the Published/Agented authors and agents. The last year I attended, I had an agent, so I was actually welcomed into the fold, and it was heaven. I'm always in awe when I hear from a writer I love, and I will keep that copied Facebook message from Stephen King until the day I die. For people who love books as much as we do, writers are the real celebrities.

    @ MM, what a beautiful post. Thanks for your kind words. I agree so much with what you have to say. Jealousy is such a nasty habit, and it can make a person bitter and old before her time. That's why I loved what Crusie had to say on the subject so much--she tells you how to get rid of it, and why you NEED to get rid of it. Keep making the world a better place by being you, okay?

    @ Kim - I've come across jealousy in men, but only those I've dated. The ones who tell me they're so happy to meet a strong, independent, brilliant, talented woman...and then do their best to control/hinder/smother those qualities. I do think that men are able to neatly sidestep a lot of the turmoil women put each other through, but I'm willing to be convinced otherwise, should a guy want to tell his story.

    Thanks for the kind words, and for telling your own story about jealousy. It's nice to know others have been there, even as we wish we could have spared them.

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  8. Yes, jealousy from men towards women ONLY comes from the ones that are supposed to love, care and be proud of the things that make you strong and independent. And YES, those qualities are ironically (or paradoxically) the things that attracted them to you to begin with. They are feeding off your strength because they have no self esteem of their own. Hence why they leave feeling so sucked dry and exhausted.

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  9. I did have one male friend (but he wanted to date me, so maybe that was the problem) who was quite jealous over my success as a writer. He wanted to be a writer, too, but seemed unable to actually sit down and write anything. He was capable of cutting, cruel comments, but he also had no problem being extremely generous in his praise. It was an odd relationship, to say the least.

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  10. You girls are crazy! I miss the days when girls always wore leg wear with their skirts/dresses.
    Bare legs are boring and clammy looking.
    You're very fickle creatures. Hopefully this bare legged trend won't last too long.

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  11. Haha, Anonymous! I still wear tights with dresses and skirts, but only in the fall/winter. And if you think bare legs are boring, you're looking at the wrong legs. ;)

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  12. I was the kid who got good grades, so usually I was on the target end of jealousy. Same in high school when I tried out for drama and got the roles everyone wanted. At least in adulthood we don't have our pushy stage moms trying to show us off...that's your agent's job! ;) I hope this kind of thing doesn't happen to you when you publish your book. If being successful means you lose your "friends," think of it as a litmus test for who your true friends really are.

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  13. Hello Anonymous,

    Thank you for your comments. I'm sorry for your experiences with being the target of jealousy...that is never fun.

    You're so right about finding out who your true friends are, but it always hurts a bit to lose a friend, even if, deep down, you always knew that they weren't a very good friend. You know the saying...'breaking up is hard to do'. That goes for friends as well.

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