Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Jealous Girl

There we were back in '87. So much simpler then. 
Growing up in my family always felt like a competition. In order to get attention, you had to be the best, the smartest, the prettiest and any signs of weakness were unacceptable. Character flaws were attacked, ridiculed and flaunted by siblings (and sometimes, parents) with ruthless abandon.

My sister and I were always at each other's throats. It seemed that she could do no wrong. While we both exceled in school, she did particularly well in the subjects that "mattered" to our father. While I was great at reading, writing and history, my sister adored math and science. In the few times that I was able to pull out a higher grade than my sister in one of these particular subjects, I made sure to tear down my sister's work so that I would cast myself in that much of a greater light.

Remarks about how she would one day be the doctor that would take care of our parents, while I would be the daughter that struggled to keep her head above water, were constant (and perhaps self-fulfilling). She was the golden child with her long, straight, blond hair, lean and tall frame and perfectionist tendencies. Anything she had going on - be it homework, extracurricular activities, or social life - outranked anything that may have been happening in our home and took precedence over all (even to our parents). And as she was cast in this light, I, too was cast into a very different light.

I was the plain one. Unruly, mousy brown hair, stockier than my sister, and a tendency to rush through things based on a lack of patience, I was the household disappointment. It was more important for me to learn to cook, keep house, and raise children than to focus on extracurricular activities, friends or even school work.

I learned to seek out my sister's flaws, bring them to light, exaggerate them to cast myself in a better light. Where my sister could be rather bossy and comandeering to her friends, I learned to be the nice one, the understanding ear, the person that they could trust. I learned to steal her friends and turn them to me, to cause her jealousy to seep out and poison the friend's opinion of her.

We fought constantly (it's something of a legend among our brothers), but it all came down to who was the best, the brightest, the smartest, the most-talented. There was only the best - and the loser.

As my sister and I have grown up and gone our separate ways, it's no longer important or necessary to seek out ways to hurt her. It is no longer necessary to cast myself in this great light of important or best at her expense. I am content in my own life, in my own family, in my own world.

However, in my professional and personal life there have been women that I felt were a threat to me, my job or my family. I have attacked those women with the same manipulation that I had honed over the19 year history with my sister. Like a sharpened dagger, my jealousy of their obvious talents, knowledge, skill or beauty would attack, stabbing holes into their facades so that I may be exalted from the shadows of their now exposed shame. Malicious gossip, snide remarks and pettiness would tear down my "opponents" leaving them confused and in the dust.

In addition, my perception of myself is so skewed, so distorted that I have also attacked girls that embody the characteristics of my own self distortion. I see myself as an unattractive short, round, glasses-wearing, know-it-all with frizzy, untamed brown hair. Should I meet a girl that has these characteristics that shows me any signs of weakness, I would attack her, I would tear her down, I would slay her, as if in someway attacking her has conquered those images, those feelings about myself. The delight that I would feel in my "victory" was abhorrable, reprehensible, and disgusting. And the guilt that I would feel later only added to the destruction.

I fight against these tendencies every single day, because I know that they are just as destructive to me as they are to the people that I attack.

We, as women, should not have to attack one another to feel better about ourselves. I think somehow in our male dictated society we have learned that that is acceptable behavior - but it is so not. My realtionship with my sister is as close to irrepairable as it can be because of the words and actions of a childish me, I have missed out on truly knowing awesome people because of my own self-hatred,  and this is not acceptable to me.

I hope that I can teach Z that jealousy is useless. That it gets you nowhere in life. That it leads to other destructive behaviors. That is distorts trust, faith, hope and beauty.

My one wish is that she grows up to be content in her own skin - frizzy brown hair and all.

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