One day soon into the fall semester of second grade, in the backseat of her mother’s car on the way home from school, Tory told me that she was going to have my cousin Denise over to her house. Something clicked inside of me and I quietly seethed in rage with jealousy.
I was jealous of Denise. I was jealous of Tory. I barely knew these girls at this point. My mother had transferred me from Welty to Lincoln that year. She’d put me in Welty, even though it was farther away, so I could be in Mrs. Barnett’s class. She was supposed to be the best first grade teacher in town. And I did really well there. I even had a friend. A friend. Dino.
But now I was at Lincoln, where everyone already had a year of elementary school together and most of them had attended pre-school together at Patty Hoeffer’s house. The kids had formed a clique and I didn’t understand the dynamics by a long shot.
Tory telling me she was going to have Denise over confirmed that people did, in fact, have friendships. It felt like she was flaunting it in front of me when, really, she was just stating facts. But that same ambitious mother who’d wanted me ahead of the pack in academics had also been telling me how important it was to be popular. Not well-liked, but popular. And it felt like I’d already failed. I’d never failed at anything. I felt bathed in shame.
I picked a fight with Tory the next day. It went on for a week. I ostracized myself from the cool kids. Second grade did not go well. Hell, my whole life in Nogales didn’t go well after that.
Was it jealousy or was it rejection? Either way, it didn’t feel good. I grew up in a house where rejection was so common place, I just assumed that everything I did was wrong and I was an unloveable loser.
For the record, I am not an unloveable loser. But I felt that way for the better part of four decades. And I was super awful to friends because of it.
When D left, all I wanted to do was win him back. Things were so shitty at that point but there wasn’t anywhere I would have rather have been than in a shitty marriage because I’d been told so regularly that I couldn’t do better.
Therapy, hypnotherapy and regular old counseling, changed everything for me. Without talking about it in name, my therapist started talking to me about polyamory and compersion…in Tucson, where only the grossest of gross dudes subscribed to the idea of free love. I don’t know how or why, but it worked. And by “it worked,” I mean that I didn’t care anymore if I wasn’t invited to the cool kid parties or if people were spending time with each other without me. I could be happy for them without feeling I’d lost anything.
And those are very real feelings.
Mindy Kaling has a whole book of memoirs called, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” Rachel Bloom just published a book entitled, “I Want To Be Where The Normal People Are.” Lots of women feel left out. I can say, with complete honesty, that I don’t anymore. More often than not I am included now but, even if I weren’t, I wouldn’t take it personally.
The fact of it is, you should make yourself scarce sometimes. You should want people to feel the absence of your presence. And the real secret is that, when you’re not around, you give everyone permission to talk about you fondly and bond over how much they love you. And then you get to hear about it the next day. It’s a very warm and cozy feeling to be loved.
So when it comes to jealousy, I thought I’d done all the work. It wasn’t until 2018 that I first started coming into contact with a former (and future…another story for another time) lover and friend’s other women. My “Eskimo Sisters,” if you will, though I think I’m going to purge that phrase from my vernacular. At first it was a little intimidating. And then, surprise of surprises, I loved most of these girls. I even became friends with some of them. And really close friends with one of them in particular. Samy’s got good taste in women. I approve of mostly all of them. They’re boss ass bitches.
But then this Sunday morning I woke up from a nightmare feeling especially gross…a feeling I hadn’t felt in a very long time. In my dream, I was sitting by the pool at La Paloma in Tucson. I was hanging out with Steven, who seemed altogether too giddy to show me pictures he’d found online…of Matty Healy (The 1975) in flagrante delicto with my freshman roommate. I was so horrified by what I’d seen in the dream that the feeling of grossness lingered even after I showered. I mean, the feeling was so bad I took an actual shower to get the ick off of me.
Standing there in the hallway, in a towel, I told Gian about my dream. He brushed his teeth as I recounted what I remembered and how shook I felt. I knew it was a dream about something I’m not yet feeling in real life, but I’m anticipating it occurring. And it’s about someone I know…Matty Healy was a stand-in for someone.
Suds at the corners of his mouth, Gian said a single name, “V,” and I nodded. Bingo. He knew.
It’s complicated. We’re not in love and that’s not even on the table. But we have this incredibly intimate relationship that I don’t usually have with friends. Maybe he does. And we’re definitely not lovers. We tried it and it just felt weeeeeeeeeeeeeird. Sweet but nevertheless weird. There’s love. But of the kind that doesn’t even have a name, let alone dare speak it.
And it isn’t as if I haven’t met other people he’s slept with before. I met one on the street a couple weeks ago, and she was so cool I invited her back to my place to hang out.
Side note: It feels like fucking forever ago. Time is elastic this year. I should be in traction for this temporal whiplash I keep experiencing.
Maddie and I have talked about this feeling in depth. Not about V, but about the guys we date. We have no interest in being monogamous, but we don’t want to hear about the other current women in these guys’ lives. They have to keep that to themselves. On the other hand, with every guy I’ve had ongoing relationships with, I’ve talked openly about what’s going on. It wasn’t deliberate. I just can’t compartmentalize my life. I want them to know what’s going on in my life so they understand me as best they can. I’ve never had a guy tell me not to say anything. And I’m very kind and compassionate in the way that I do discuss them. Currently it’s not an issue because I’m not dating a person, let alone many people that would necessitate this sort of politicking.
But V is dating, and I might be too. And the neighborhood we run in is very, very small. I don’t want to meet any of the girls he’s dating. Not because I’d be jealous or feel rejected. Not in the slightest. But because, if I didn’t approve of them, I think my heart would sink and I’d feel a little grossed out.
So, while I want him to have all the things, all the girls, all the experiences, I don’t want to know the girl or girls unless I can be assured that they’re people I would want to know apart and separate from V. I don’t want to feel the ick.
It’s inevitable. We’re not going to stop being friends anytime soon (knock on wood). But I possess his heart. Not really. I just care about him so much. And I’m not ready to give any part of it up to someone who isn’t worthy. Being replaced by someone who isn’t worthy is what I felt when I was going through a divorce. It would take years to realize she was exactly worthy of him and he of her. But this is different.
This is different from anything I’ve ever known, really. I’ve nothing to compare it to, and nothing to steel my heart against. What I do know, and it’s something he knows too, is that subsequent girlfriends of previous friend/lover type dudes I’ve had in my life have resented me. And not for anything I’d done, but just for existing in the mind of the guy and my name slipping out one too many times out of their mouths.
Lord of light, give me strength, for the night is dark and full of terrors. And sometimes Sunday mornings are, too. For my sake, let her be grand. Let her be everything I would want for a friend so dear.