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Boy, Uninterrupted | 2010 | Of Purgatory and Blessings

11.19.10 9:00 a.m.

Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy - in fact, they're almost incompatible; one emotion hardly leaves room for the other. Both at once can produce unbearable turmoil...  

-Robert Heinlein


Hey Jealousy

Melanie and allergens  

I understand the drive to jealousy, much as it seems to represent the relationship killer of our age. At its core, jealousy derives from a primal fear that one's best toy will decide it wants to be played with by someone else. Jealousy is built into our genes, as it was the jealous caveman who warded off rivals long enough to provide his squirt of DNA (if you can forgive the scientific phrasing). Jealous served a valuable evolutionary purpose then, but now leads otherwise reasonable human beings to react like senseless animals. Much as it will be a bit of psychological bloatware in our genetic code well into the future - it is not genetically maladaptive quite yet - jealousy is not an emotion for our age.

I remember the jealousy of previous relationships, from high school rivals refusing to back off to college girlfriends leaning toward chemical abandon to ease the pain of a Catholic upbringing. Perhaps I was right then to feel jealous that another sought to usurp the love of the person I was kissing (in that said rival did conspire to end my relationship and said girlfriend did for a time opt for independent partying over continued commitment to me), but my reaction to the jealousy was unforgivable. It made me want to control another person, as though I had the moral imperative when it truly came down to nothing more than anxiety that I would lose the affection of my girlfriend. Funny thing, women seem not to like being told what to do by their partner and I've no doubt my reactions sped the breakups. If the energy I wasted trying to squeeze them tightly or shove them into a mold was redirected to loving and accepting them as they were, it is possible the result would have been no different but at least I would not have lingering guilt at my adolescent boorishness.

With Emily, my most recent ex, I did my best not to be jealous (it would be satisfying here to say she gave me no cause to be jealous, but I think jealousy is unavoidable in any relationship where one's partner leaves their attic - unless the attic is wired for internet). Even when I was jealous, I believed it better to trust her and let her lead her own life. I assumed I was much more a threat to our relationship than she ever would be, so as long as I remained with her I felt subconsciously assured there would to no solid cause for jealousy.

The only thing in her life that seemed remotely a threat was her Tae Kwon Do, with which she spent more waking hours a week than with me even at our best. Tae Kwon Do seemed to be her life, and everything else existed to foster her martial art. At times, I could see that I was part of this support structure. But punching and kicking was very much a part of who she was and attempting to control her because I would rather she spend that time with me would have resulted in my losing her. So I never asked her to slow down and I never had a need to. Why would I want to abridge this aspect of her when I wanted to love the whole person?

Of course, she did leave me for someone else with whom she practiced Tae Kwon Do (her now husband with whom she has a beautiful daughter), so this may seem an imperfect lesson, a "damned if you do, damned if you don't". It isn't.

I don't regret not being jealous, even though it is plain to see in hindsight I had cause to. Acting in jealousy then would not have kept the relationship alive, it only would have made me ashamed of my actions after things fell apart. More or less, I am proud of how I behaved in the aftermath of that relationship because I resisted the comfort and anger that dwelt in consorting with jealousy.

It seems the only reliable antidote for jealousy is trust. If you cannot trust the person you are with, it seems masochistic to remain with them. Even if they are behaving spotlessly, the mistrust will make you see threats in every shadow.
Melanie and zombies  
How dare you carry on your affairs in public!

As far as I can tell, Melanie has never been jealous in reference to me (aside from once, when I became infatuated with a musician's catalog). Even when I confessed a perfectly stupid crush on a new friend because of a flaring of abandonment issues, even when some drunken tart slobbered on my cheek when I went out dancing, Melanie did not flinch for a moment. Though I admit to having glared at a few people who were unambiguous as to their intentions on her, much as I know which college friend of hers desires more than her chaste company, I have had faith that Melanie valued our relationship infinitely more than their convenience/XX-chromosomes.

It is her work that would provoke my jealousy, because to it, I feel I am the mistress despite my longevity in her life. I exist as the illicit lover on the side, to whom she escapes when Science turns its back for a few minutes. It isn't that she loves it more than she does me, but she has admitted in her darker moment that it is the only thing to which she can be emotionally faithful right now. She has a lot of devotion to make up to it for an adolescence of attention deficit disorder. I have to take a backseat on occasion, at least until graduation.

When I tell Melanie this, she says that Science is not her wife because she could never be unfaithful to it. As such, I am not her mistresses but her hideaway. I ask if I might not be promoted and she says with a smirk that she will consider it.

However, I cannot be so jealous even of Science because I have my passion for writing. I think I could survive if not thrive without kisses - I would prefer not to find out for certain - but I become unbalanced if my fingers do not click over keys a few times a week, preferably more. No girlfriend of whom I am aware felt anything like jealousy toward my writing, as I tended to keep my lover and my passion separate enough. I will write about the object of my affection, of course. I recall Emily politely requesting that I not write while she was driving - we drove a lot to Tae Kwon Do related events - as it made me feel far away. And, for several years, I had to resist the pull to writing that occurred after sex, as it obliterated writer's block like nothing else.

It would not behoove anyone to be jealous of my writing, because I simply cannot give it up. Writing is part of my homeostasis, is what relieves the pressure in my head. I need to describe the world as I see it and, when that isn't sufficient, made up parallel worlds and populate them with threads of my personality in a dozen bodies. I have been accused of writing new women to love, that all of my female characters are simply sex surrogates (which I hope is not the case, given the sadist I would thereafter be for torturing them to show their strength). I have never bought this and the challenge was not laid against me by anyone who was in contention for a place next to me on my bed, so I think it can be dismissed.

Writing, much as I may try to deny it at other moments, persists in being my filter. Having my passion so portable prevents my lovers from being mistresses. It also means that I am willing to give my lovers space in my presence, as I have typing that needs to be done if I am to keep sane. My writing quashes my jealousy because it allows me a vent and allows my lovers room in which to further bloom.

However, I also recall my parents' bafflement years ago given that I whetted my talent by purging my idle crushes on friends while I loved Emily. The writing wasn't the subject, simply a means of conveyance and, much as I do have chagrin at how I acted and processed then, I don't think my awkwardness ought to be held against my writing.

I cannot imagine Melanie ever expressing jealousy against anything, frankly, but especially not my writing (Which, if anything, would be used to further glorify her). Yes, the writing has me, it precedes her. If she left me tomorrow - and I would vociferously vote against that - the writing would be there to comfort me. I am married to it as much as nuns are to Christ and, in that way, it is chaste. I love my writing, but my love of it improves everything else, especially my love of others.

It isn't that I have ceased to be aware of the word "callipygian" and its exemplars. Women are still attractive and I cannot lessen bloodflow to certain regions short of imagining puppies frolicking with sloths (my unerotic image may not match your own), but I know that my fidelity to Melanie is beyond reproach. I shall not give her cause to be jealous as there is no point to it in a civilized relationship. I can discuss with her if I feel I am getting inadequate cuddles rather than flirting with drunken strangers so her competitive lust flares. She isn't competing for my affections. I awarded them all to her years ago, in perpetuity.

Soon in Xenology: Maybe a job, families.

last watched: Glee
reading: Stranger in a Strange Land
listening: Dresden Dolls

Boy, Uninterrupted | 2010 | Of Purgatory and Blessings

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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