Malignant Jealousy and Other Follies


Jealousy is something that we all deal with and experience. It is, as Shakespeare said, the green eye’d monster. Stemming from a discussion this morning, I think that there are two kinds of jealous: one banal and one that is very malignant.

 Banal Jealousy:

Someone gets a [new tv, car, pair of shoes, boyfriend/girlfriend, job, or promotion]. You are happy for them and their successes, but you have a pang – something that says, “Man, I wish that were me.” But you do not begin plotting their doom. You do not let it consume you. You do not start hunting around for the Aunts from Practical Magic to curse the person. (Not that they’d do that, mind you.)

 Malignant Jealousy:

Same scenario as list above, except that the event makes you FERAL. You resent this person for their happiness or achievement. You begin to mutter about how they don’t deserve it – how it should have been you. Then you credit the event to one of two things: connections or looks. So, it’s all because the person knows the right people and/or has a nice ass. (Yeah, I said it.)

Here’s the thing: I understand Banal Jealousy. I do not understand Malignant Jealousy. For one thing, the person it affects the most? The person who is jealous. It is, as Carrie Fisher said, like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. (Great phrasing.) It doesn’t serve a purpose. Instead, it steals from you. It steals hope. It is an excuse to stop trying.

This morning, someone attributed success to beauty. Not a combination of things, mind you – beauty alone. Not hard work, talent, perseverance, strength of will, or anything else. Just beauty. And, quite frankly, it made me angry.

You can be the prettiest person in the world, but still be dumb as a post. You cannot invalidate, or remove, someone’s hard work – simply based on looks. That’s absurd. And it reeks of the kind of envy that cripples, because it shows a lack of humanity. In its place, there is a rabid form of resentment and disgust – it is a mantra of, “Why me? If I were [taller, prettier, blonder etc], it would have been ME!”

Let me tell you a story, ok? When I was in high school, a friend’s family had a friend visiting from Australia. I cannot remember his name at the moment, so we’ll just call him Dave. Dave had the benefit of being hot. He had a stellar accent. He was absolutely lovely to look at. At first, I had a crush on him. I mean, who wouldn’t? But then…an hour into hanging out at my friend’s house, and I quickly realized…he was flaming asshole. Conceited, arrogant, and pretty much a jerk – it was very disappointing. I spent two days at their house, and that was enough time to realize that he may be pretty, but he was lacking in substance.

Here’s a confession: I don’t think of myself as pretty. It’s not who I am. Right now, I could pick at least a dozen things I don’t like about myself. I can tell you about how I was chunky in high school, how I had buck teeth as a kid (and was made fun of), and I can tell you how someone I had a crush on my sophomore year told me that I was fat. Worse, that he would date me…if I were thinner. That really messed me up for a while.

But I can’t tell you how many times someone has dismissed me because they think I’m attractive. For a job, I walked into a meeting with a man (who I knew, previously) who was showing me around. We ran into someone we mutually knew, who quipped, “Gee, I didn’t know I was supposed to bring a date.” I was later told that I got the job, because I was pretty – and not because I’d approached the person in charge with a proposal and a business plan.

The truth is…it’s frustrating to be dismissed or overlooked for ANY reason. It sucks. It hurts. But it happens. You walk it off, because you don’t win by giving up and blaming the world. It doesn’t serve you. It is like chaining yourself to a refrigerator, jumping in the ocean – and blaming the ocean for drowning you.

I’ve been jealous of people, relationships, promotions, and other writers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a sentence and said, “Damn, I wish I wrote that.” But it’s not murderous, rabid, bunny-boiling jealousy. It’s a fleeting thing. A pang.

  1. January 30, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Preach it, sister. 😉

  2. January 30, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    This really got me thinking about my own jealous reactions

    • January 30, 2012 at 12:32 pm

      Sorry, I hit publish before I was done! I’ve seen other people gossiping about how they thought a woman got a promotion due to her looks, and you’re right. It is a feral reaction. And it doesn’t do anybody any good.

      • January 31, 2012 at 1:22 pm

        No worries, Adrienne! I’ve heard that same kind of discussion, too. It’s craziness!

  3. January 30, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Beautifully written (as always, you Word Diva). At my very ripe old age, I have seen too many examples of people being rewarded/punished for their looks, as well as people living their lives in abject jealousy of others.

    My grandmother told me a rather horrid story of her own jealousy. She was very VERY poor as a child, and had exactly two outfits – a pair of overalls in the summer and a black wool dress for the winter. (You have to consider this is around 1920 in southern Missouri.) There was a girl in town who was quite well off, and kind of knew it. One day, my grandmother was passing by and this girl was on her porch with a beautiful new dress on. The girl stuck her tongue out at my grandmother, who was so consumed by jealousy and anger, she picked up a rock and threw it. It hit the girl right between the eyes and nearly killed her. Fortunately, she survived, or I don’t know what would have happened to my grandmother, legally or emotionally.

    Of course, I don’t know if it stopped her from throwing rocks.

    • January 31, 2012 at 1:24 pm

      *blushes* Thank you for the compliments, Gayle! And you so, so much for sharing that story about your grandma. That was really, really powerful. That was terrible — both what the girl did to her and how it affected your grandma.

  4. January 31, 2012 at 9:44 am

    I ❤ you, Ali! Bravo!! Personally, I no longer engage with people like that… because I have realized through many years of trying that it is just pointless. However, let me say this, I am so proud of you for trying to help someone find their humanity… I believe somewhere along the line she lost it, and that is truly very sad! What she fails to see and what you do is that… Every story has so many many shades of gray, therefore, just for that reason alone it make it impossible for us to ever judge someone by beauty, riches, parents, etc… alone.

    Hope this makes sense!


    • January 31, 2012 at 1:27 pm

      Right back at you, Ana! ❤ A lot of the time, I refuse to engage with people like that, too. There are definitely times I make an exception. Thank you for being proud of me — and for your observations. I agree with you. It's so sad when someone loses their humanity like that. Everything is a world of grey; no one is one thing, no matter how it may seem. Your comment made perfect sense!! Thank you for it. 🙂

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