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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Taboos

WARNING: very long post; time required: 15 minutes

I have been thinking a lot about jealousy lately and wanted to see what sort of input you all had. The following post may seem very judgmental, and I really don’t mean it to be so. I am having some personal struggles and know that you smart ladies will have some perspective on this topic and I need to voice my doubts to see if I can make sense of my discomfort and guilt regarding jealousy.

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In general, of course, we are taught that jealousy is bad. We are taught not to give-in to jealousy and envy nor to express it. It’s a hallmark of weak character and misplaced values, breeding dissatisfaction and resentment when one should more appropriately express gratitude for what she does have. Hence, all of the hair pulling we do in these IF blogs about feeling like horrible monsters for the intense animosity we feel towards pregnant women.

Despite the guilt – or maybe because of it - we all seem to dive headlong into the cathartic release of our pent-up resentments. We seem to revel in it, in fact; not just engage in it. It’s an orgy of frustration, characterized by its intensity as we all FINALLY feel safe to express taboo thoughts and feelings. It’s a wonderful supportive safe place that allows us to express with very little reservation emotions that may otherwise eat us up from the inside out.

But here’s what I am wondering …. while I desperately want to continue engaging in self-righteous and indignant rants against the injustice of IF in general and I’d love to tell you all about the affront of my inconsiderate pregnant friend in particular, I feel unsettled about it. It’s not that I’m afraid that anyone is judging me, because I know you all feel the same way I do and none of my IRL friends know about my blog. So there is no fear of being caught or being judged. But I still don’t feel right about it.

Why?

Why do I feel uncomfortable with it? In the first place, it makes me feel bad about myself. I will admt to you that I am an unbelievably jealous person, I’m not just jealous about fertility. I constantly compare myself and my life those of others I admire, though it usually isn’t expressed through anger so much as self-flagelation. "She has such a beautiful house and beautiful kids and smart husband. She’s so accomplished and popular. What happened that I’m not more like her?" I’m jealous of what "she" has, and I blame myself for not having it. So that’s the first thing, being resentful of someone else’s talents or good fortune ends up actually damaging me because I feel that I am either incompetent (I control my destiny) or unworthy (the Universe/God controls my destiny). Either way, I am “less than.”

Secondly, as I gorge myself on indignation and self-righteousness and am supported in these feelings in the blogospere , I feel distance growing between me and people I used to feel more connected to. I also judge them very harshly for … whatever. I am very easily offended by lack of attention or “incorrect” attention. The “us and them” divide is growing and I find myself becoming one of those tiresome people who is always expecting others (in my head at least) to be totally PC about infertility and not offend me in any way shape or form.

And then I wanted to ask – does jealousy have a positive function at all? Anger definitely does; even though anger is arguably something that must be carefully managed, we still recognize it has a valid place within the constellation of expressable emotions. But jelousy is usually completely off the table. There is just no context in which it is OK to express it? Why?

Just so that you know I am not “above” basking in indignation, I will unload what I've been holding in until now about my horrible awful friend.

My Horrible Awful No-Account Friend

So this friend of mine (I’ll call her Belle) - she was the source of intense jealousy before she ever got pregnant. In the first place she is gorgeous. The effect she has on men AND women when she walks into a room is remarkable; I have honestly never seen anything like it. People offer their seats, buy her bottles of wine, remark on her beauty – they are enchanted by her. Even me. I can hardly look at her without constantly thinking how goddamn beautiful she is every single second. Really, to look at her is just distracting because all you can think about is her beauty.

But she’s not just beauty – she’s brains too. Big, double-wide brains, she’s eloquent and analytical and is on the cusp of earning her PhD in psychology.

She is also extremely personable and popular and friendly and she is one of those people who strangely doesn’t gossip about others. She talks about people, sure, but there is never that edge of maliciousness that I know sneaks into my tone of voice when I talk about some people. Her approach is if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.

And she is going to make an extremely comfortable living once she gets out of school. She is a very, very hard worker and has worked hard for everything she has, but I can’t help including in my list of complaints that she will soon make at least 4 times what I make.

There are aspects of Belle’s life and her personality that I find distasteful. For instance, she is inordinately focused on her looks in a way that reveals that much of her self-worth is wrapped up in it. She presents the conundrum of being very comfortable walking around with unwashed hair and jogging pants, but still self-conscious enough that she got liposuction in her fucking twenties (she’s not skinny, but she is certainly not overweight and didn’t need liposuction at all). For someone who could literally step out of bed and in front of a camera, her obsession with her looks is confounding. It’s also irritating because she knows she is beautiful and will use it to manipulate people.

And she talks a lot. She talks too much and it’s irritatingly self-promotional about 90% of the time. For someone who is going to get paid to listen to other people’s problems all day, she is awfully bad at it. She constantly monopolizes a conversation and interrupts you with ways in which she has experienced what you are talking about or things that she has done or accomplished that trump yours.

Plus, she places a lot of value on money and appearance and all of those surface things. I, while not beyond wishing I had more money or was more beautiful, obviously don’t care enough to seek a higher-paying job or put on makeup. So with respect to how we live our lives, we are very different and now live in 2 different cities and had generally begun to drift apart anyway. But she continued to be one of the few women in whom I confided because I could trust her, and she can be a very caring person with a great deal of compassion when you need her to be.

Cut to late May when I told Belle over the phone that I had just had a miscarriage and that it was my third one. She knew about the first one, but not the second. I generally glossed over the second one with everyone so it wasn’t weird that I hadn’t told her about it. We talked a little on the phone and I wasn’t very emotional about it at all. I was matter-of-fact and full of information, but didn’t really express my sadness. I’m not sure why, but that’s how it was. She told me that she and her husband were still trying (which I knew) and we talked a little more about being older and trying to get pregnant (she is 38 or 39) and that was that.

Then a month later, she wanted to arrange a dinner date with me and some of our mutual acquaintances (who have no idea about my RPL). This is something we do periodically and it wasn’t at all out of the ordinary, so you can imagine that I was not at all prepared when our mutual acquaintance showed up to dinner 20 weeks pregnant with her second child (she’s also 39) and then Belle promptly announced that she was 12 weeks pregnant.

I was reeling. Just spinning. I couldn’t believe that she had done that to me. I just couldn’t imagine how she could be so out of touch with the fact that that might be incredibly painful for me. She explained in the bathroom that she was afraid to tell me over the phone and wanted to do it in person. Really? In person? At a table with 2 other people, one of whom you knew was going to make a simultaneous announcement that she is 20 weeks pregnant? REALLY? You don’t think it would have more appropriately been a private conversation!!!???? I know she’s not stupid, so that leaves self-involved or so scared of my reaction that she PLANNED it that way - in public with 2 other people who had no idea about my RPL so that there was no way I could express my true feelings without revealing my losses to 2 people I had no desire of informing.

And then, of course, the ENTIRE dinner conversation revolved around pregnancy; and this was about a month and a half after I lost my third pregnancy in a row. If this is a reflection of how able she is to muster empathy for people, then she will SUCK as a psychologist. Clearly she is way more self-involved than I originally suspected.

Here’s something even more incredible. Her older sister went through YEARS of IF and Belle knew as much as anyone can know without actually having gone through it themselves the brand of pain that IF brings. Her sister and her husband tried for years to get pregnant via IVF – I don’t know how many failed attempts there were, but it was more than 2. They finally did get pregnant and lost the baby late in the pregnancy because the umbilical chord had wrapped around the baby’s neck and asphyxiated her. Following that loss, they decided to adopt and chose a mother who backed out at the last minute, AFTER they had paid for lots of medical bills. They did finally manage to adopt a beautiful little girl, but what went before was heart-wrenching. So to think that Belle was so selfish and clueless, having walked that road with her sister, just really confused me.

But there’s more. I apparently did such a good acting job at dinner (thanks to popping a Clo.nopin as soon as I could) that I convinced her I was emotionally resilient enough for her to email me GODDAMED ULTRASOUND PICS, gushing about how miraculous it was to see the baby moving etc etc. This was a 13 week ultrasound. The same week I miscarried. I did not respond to that email (which was addressed to several people) and have not talked or heard from her since.

God. After writing all of this, I really don’t know why I would ever consider continuing a friendship with her.

I feel complete after having told this story and slightly avenged; but I do not feel better.

12 comments:

gingerandlime said...

Thank you for posting this. I am reading this after having a painful experience that I may or may not blog about, followed by a very big glass of wine, so I apologize if my comment is incoherent.

I feel conflicted about using the blog to unload and gripe as well--but the fact is that we're walking around with open wounds, and most of the time we don't even get to acknowledge them. It's a pain of absence, not something that asserts itself to others, and so we just tuck it up inside like you did with your friend, but that doesn't mean it isn't there. So we come to our blogs and we let it all out and it feels better to get the support and everything, but at some point (at least for me) the blog starts to feel like this big poisonous repository of all that crappy stuff I don't get to express anywhere else. Like a biohazard bag or something.

I don't know if this is what you were getting at--but your post is really resonating.

Melanie said...

Yeah - EXACTLY. A biohazard bag.

I guess it's just a fine line one has to draw for oneself. Are you being over-indulgent, or is it an emotion that must be expressed somewhere before it eats you from the inside out? There really is a need for a safe place to release these feelings, but, for me, I don't think I can express every affront or I will end up damaging myself. The ones that really impact me, that I can't let go of, that I think of often with pain and confusion - those I need to express. For the more minor infractions, I will try to master my feelings.

I'm sad to hear that you're having a rough night. I advocate wine and think it should be offered at a discount for IFers. I hope you fall into a wine-induced coma tonight and find the pain less sharp in the morning.
xx

Misfits said...

I am making up a word for you. Pailosy or jein, which is the combo of hurt and jealousy. To call it envy is to take away some meaning. I find that it's not the ranting that made me feel bad, it's that I felt that way to begin with. I am really just appalled at how many people who surround us are complete shits. I have come a long way to that last line of yours as well. The quality of my friends has been a challenge.

Contact with the self absorbed brings all sorts of hateful feelings without rubbing your nose in their good fortune.

The person I was before all of this started was competitive, but at peace. "desire is the root of unhappiness" in a saying from Buddha, and the very fact that we want this goal met more than anything is a font of deep hurt.

I clearly have no idea where this is headed, but just wanted to add that I can see how these blogs of ours could devolve into snarky infertiles only clubs. But, I find that we are all so deeply bound by our common experience that these encounters help us feel less alone in our struggle. You friend is clueless and as much as she may care about you, it sounds like she cares about her more. You are blessed to know what to expect even if it's rotten.

sienna said...

holy cow, i'm pissed off on your behalf after reading this. what the hell is wrong with your friend??? it never would've occurred to me, but your theory that she was too scared to tell you she was pregnant on her own might just be right. in which case, knowing that there would be a 20 wks pregnant friend at dinner means that she is just an outright SELFISH person. i can't believe yous at through that dinner. i think i honestly would've told them all congrats, but given that you just had your 3rd miscarriage, you didn't think urself capable of sitting through a dinner and talking about pregnancy with them. PLEASE do that next time. you poor thing. that sounds like outright torture to me, and i want to give your friend a big asskicking. obviously, despite her good looks, your friend is suffering from self esteem issues. that's my take. and i'll be that she is envious of you in ways that you can't understand bc of your self flagellation, so perhaps she thinks this is one thing that she has over you?? regardless, she needs to stop sending u/s pics (can you tell her to STOP)? or you need to block her emails until after she gives birth. ugh, i'm reeling with how much i hate your friend.

sending you big big big hugs :o)

bunny said...

Wow, there's a lot to think about here. I know some people believe that expressing negative feelings results in a net negative, that you're just adding more bad stuff to the world. My view is you feel what you feel, and the only way to get through it is to think about it and talk about it. I'm also an envious person. I've had to work really hard for what I've achieved, and I tend to feel really bitter towards anyone whose life appears easier. My best friend and I have a constant undercurrent of envy and comparison. Maybe I should feel worse about that, but I guess I just try to be the best person I can be and not worry about it too much. I think I'm just encouraging you not to feel bad about experiencing a set of emotions (envy, anger, hurt) that are natural for humans, and particularly natural in this situation. You've been through complete and utter hell (I've read through your blog, and...wow...it's humbling). No-one is going to understand exactly, and very few people are going to understand at all. Seems like the inevitable result is a sense of isolation from your social circle.

As for your friend...Christ. I think it's especially awful when someone we confide in betrays us this way. And as you say, she's someone who might be expected to be extra sensitive. And that was a total ambush. I'm sure she's got her valuable qualities (as you say), but yeah, it might be time to kick her to the curb. And there's no harm in that. People change, and sometimes friendships need to end. (So says the girl with, like, five friends.) Anyway, I'm just very sorry for the additional pain this person caused you.

bunny said...

P.S. I was thinking you might have some helpful words for a blog friend of mine (maybe you already read her): http://plantingapumpkinpatch.wordpress.com/
Your stories are very different, but have a few shared threads.

Leslie said...

Envy is without a doubt one of the worst parts of this whole experience. It's funny, how utterly jealous I was of people I knew with kids-- I would read their baby blogs and just wish that I had what they had, and think that they were the luckiest people in the world.

Funny, now that I am apparently safely pregnant, that has all changed. It's gone back to where I think that their stories and lives are relatively boring and commonplace!!! Not only do I not envy them, I don't even think that they are worthy of being envied!

I am not sure why I am recounting this here, except that I really feel that our hormones are causing this envy. The desire to have a child is just so strong and biological, and it causes all of these bad feelings-- it's not caused by our basic personalities or any deficiencies of character. I think it's just part and parcel of baby lust. We all get it, as you point out, and I think most of my blog friends (or the friends of my former blog, I should say) have done a post or two trying to get to the bottom of this envy phenomenon. Myself included.

As for your particular friend, she does sound like she has issues, both with herself and with you (as Sienna insightfully pointed out). I also think that she deserves to be a clueless happy preggo, but you don't deserve to be a part of that! Her way of telling you was inexcusably tasteless (particularly the part about how she lied!), but maybe you can get to the bottom of it with her. Or just blow her off for awhile...

Glass Case of Emotion said...

I can relate. Glad you got it out. I worry about her psychology efforts, as a psychologist myself! And wow, that was insensitive about dinner. My friend (also a psychologist) did that to me too. How people can be so oblivious is and will always be beyond me.

Augusta said...

I really like the tough questions you ask in the first section of this post. I feel very conflicted about expressing my jealousy and indignant rage on the blog or in comments. When I do, it's usually a mixture of relief and guilt, an equation that typically comes out in the negatives. But sometimes, I don't know where else to put it. I mean, I'm not going to yell at anyone or tell anyone off. Sometimes, people do and say stupid things and telling them about our hurt feelings isn't the way to go. Sometimes it is. I've been able to process my hurt feelings with 2 friends over the last 6 months, and it's been to the benefit of both friendships. But there are other circumstances where that's not really desirable because the relationship isn't really worth it.

It sounds like that friend is out to lunch in terms of having the pulse on your feelings, and in terms of being sensitive. I'm sorry she did that to you and I apologize for my profession, since I'm where she's at. What a terrible way to tell you she was pregnant.

Thanks for writing your beautiful blog and for leaving me comments. I really appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Roccie said...

Cheese and rice. Are you kidding me.

When a similar thing happened to me, someone tried to excuse her behavior as she was blinded with joy. I dont know why, but that comment was the one that stuck with me. Whenever I see her and think I want to run the other way I think of it. She is just too stupid to know any better.

You think others hear your pain and can understand it, but at times it rocks me how little actually registers with them. I am stunned and angry for you.

All my heart is with you. This is going to be a long ride through her pregnancy.

Come here. Find us. Unload.

Your descriptions on gorging on indignation and self-righteousness are plucked from my own heart and head if I were elegant enough to put it just like that....

blue.bell.beat said...

I've thought long about what to say and I'm really lost for words... It's simply terrible. She's terrible - not what I would classify a friend and I'm sorry you had that experience with her. When you're dealing with fertility issues you're vulnerable, lonely, frustrated, jealous, devastated and more, and friends should be there to support you, not harm you.

I'm sure it wasn't easy for lots of reasons, so thanks for sharing your story and feelings xx

B said...

yeah, what the others said. this girl is no friend.

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