One time, my college roommate, Whitney, and I, decided to sing “Hey, Jealousy” at Willies in Stillwater. Let me give you some advice: If you are considering performing that song at karaoke, I will warn you that you probably don’t know the words as well as you think you do. In fact, if you are like us, you may really only know the words, “Hey, Jealousy” and for the length of the song and years after, you WILL feel like a total idiot.
Anyhow, this post is not actually about that song but the emotion instead. I read this section in Willa Cather’s “Mr. Alexander” and it made me think. Here is the passage (I know it’s long, but I wanted you to have the context) and my thoughts below.
“…He had last written to her from Canada, after he first met Winifred, telling her that everything was changed with him–that he had met a woman whom he would marry if he could; if he could not, then all the more was everything changed for him. Hilda had never replied to his letter. He felt guilty and unhappy about her for a time, but after Winifred promised to marry him he really forgot Hilda altogether. When he wrote her that everything was changed for him, he was telling the truth. After he met Winifred Pemberton he seemed to himself like a different man. One night when he and Winifred were sitting together on the bridge, he told her that things had happened while he was studying abroad that he was sorry for,–one thing in particular,–and he asked her whether she thought she ought to know about them. She considered a moment and then said “No, I think not, though I am glad you ask me. You see, one can’t be jealous about things in general; but about particular, definite, personal things,”–here she had thrown her hands up to his shoulders with a quick, impulsive gesture–“oh, about those I should be very jealous. I should torture myself–I couldn’t help it.”
I guess I have always been a little jealous in my romantic relationships and readily admit that I definitely am now. I don’t hide it because it’s just the truth. I blame it mostly on my life experiences with men but to some extent, also my inherent need to be the best and have attention. I don’t like wondering how I compare to other people. And I’m not the only one. I have had this conversation with lots of girlfriends.
It’s embarrassing to be jealous. It makes you seem insecure and you WILL get called crazy. I don’t think it’s crazy. I think it’s realistic. In a world where people are growing up and getting older, it’s very likely that the one you love has felt feelings for and been in relationships with other people. And it’s also very likely that you will look up those other people on the internet. And, as Winifred freely admitted above, you torture yourself-you can’t help it.
It’s difficult to deal with because you have to help it. You have to find a way to live with it. And, like Winifred said, it’s hard when you know the specifics. But don’t feel bad for feeling it. How could you not?