Monday, 19 March 2012

Not to be confused with Envy

It’s spring in Europe and the flowers are poking their technicolour heads out of the sweet smelling grass. The sparrows are going at it and lady birds are terrorizing the neighbourhood. The girls think that just because it’s slightly over ten degrees they can start stripping down to the legal minimum. Through the sounds of birds chirping and the farmers on their tractors in the distance, a young man and woman walk hand in hand, gazing at each other like the couples on karaoke videos. He kisses her as she admires the purple tulips basking in the sun and whispers something private in her ear. Suddenly, a pretty young thing with flat abs and a naughty walk glides by. The man’s eyes instinctively follow her gait and he gets clobbered by his girlfriend’s GGL handbag (you know, the one with the LARGE buckle on the front). I laugh, he pleads innocence and his girlfriend leaves in a huff.

Ah, jealousy, you “green-eyed monster”! Writers and movie makers all over the world pounce on human jealousy, making them the main themes in their films and books. Fatal attraction, Unfaithful, Indecent Proposal, Snow White, Cinderella, My best-friend’s Wedding….all stories during which we clench our hands in anticipation, totally feeling the protagonist pain. I admit that I am one of these writers who use humanity’s weaknesses (and strengths, so please don’t shove me off your reading list just yet!) to tell a good story. Jealous tension is something I love to include in my novels; that familiar feeling of your tummy turning into a churning pit of snakes always adds a little something to the plot. Whether outright infidelity, a harmless flirt or the best friend meeting up with someone else for coffee, jealousy is everywhere and we as readers can relate to what the characters of the story are going through.
But why? What makes jealousy one of the leading contributors to a psychiatrist’s bank account?

“… Cultural psychologists tend to believe that humans are inherently jealous, simply because our jobs, relationships and material goods mean a lot to us, and we don't want to lose them.”—Alia Hoyt, “How Jealousy Works”,

Uh-oh! And now the next question: Where do we get the audacity to treat our loved ones as possessions? The experts say jealousy mostly manifests itself in those with low-self esteem or shaky relationships. I wonder if our club-wielding, boulder-rolling ancestors would agree. Whatever the reason or cause, we all react differently to the signals of betrayal coursing through our systems. I personally am extremely jealous when it comes to my husband (another baddie of mine that I’m working on). I once followed a woman into the ladies (after she had smiled at my man while I was sitting next to him at a restaurant) and lectured her on her unhealthy attraction to married men. I spewed out theories which included confidence issues and her not getting enough attention from her father while she was growing up. She looked at me like I had just escaped from a nearby mental institute (the confused glare did not impress me, mind you, since I’ve gotten my share of those!) and politely informed me that she had known my husband in high school. As you can imagine, I walked out of the ladies room an embarrassed, self-loathing human being, swearing never to let one of the seven deadly sins get the better of me ever again.

I’m still trying, and have managed to stop harassing random women who happen to be looking in our direction and smiling at the same time, but I don’t really want to forget how it feels to love something so much that the thought of losing it simply makes me want to kick something. I think to be a good writer, it’s important to feel and know the wonders of life but also the buried stuff that people don’t normally want to talk about. And I have made it my life’s goal to be a good writer, so I’m not going to turn into a saint anytime soon. I’ll just keep on soaking up the world and adding to that list of self-improvement possibilities (I said possibilities, not facts…she winks).