“'Cause all I really want is to be with you, feeling like I matter too.” Hey Jealousy, Gin Blossoms, 1992
I blame Instagram. It’s probably the whole internet, but Instagram seems like a good app to pin it on. Before we gave everyone a platform to publicly display their lives, I only ever knew about the engagements, marriages, pregnancies, or accomplishments of people I was actually close to. There was no digital feeding tube making me feel somehow behind in life because I wasn’t doing what “everyone else” was doing. I was blissfully oblivious and texting via T-9 Word. Without the internet, I’d know nothing about the joys experienced by other people. But an isolated life is no longer a life I, or anyone, leads. I have a computer in my pocket FFS.
Jealousy is a valid feeling. I want to be very clear that there’s no shame in the jealousy that single women feel. It’s pretty natural given our societal programming to want all the things people are so happy to show off. I also want to be clear that I was a jealous person. The jealous-est. I was steeped in pot of jealousy for the better part of a decade, and the tea was bitter.
I got Instagram and became very active online through my work in my late 20s, the eye of the coupledom storm. Sometimes it seemed like the jealousy fodder was posted hourly. Really, another engagement? Really, another baby shower? Really, another date night with “hubby” while some asshole from Bumble is negging every word I say over $7 beers? Before I learned the value of a good digital detox, I was bathing myself in jealousy like it was a new deeply scented product from Lush.
Why them, and not me? I want that, why don’t I have that? Why do they have that and I don’t? Oh, and them too. And those guys. And them over there. Is it everyone? Is it everyone but me? Why does everyone but me have what I want? This is everyone, this is constant. Why can they have it, and I can’t? What’s wrong with me? Everyone has an awesome life, I want that life, I always try to get that life, but I can never get it, I can’t ever have it. What’s wrong with me?
And so on until my self worth was roughly the size of the period at the end of this sentence. When I first became single, I figured it would last six months, a year tops. Adorable. Sometimes I wonder what me back then would think if she knew what was coming. If she knew how hard things would be, how strong she’d have to become, and how much she’d learn. Six months worth of jealousy is nothing. I can get over that with a guided meditation and a sheet mask. But a decade’s worth, that took some effort.
The toy soldier-like march down the linear life path from dating to engaged to married to baby to home ownership to retirement to death, was so baked into what I thought I was “supposed” to be doing.
As with many niceties of being a single woman over 30, I had to get really sick of, and really angry about, the day-to-day. The toy soldier-like march down the linear life path from dating to engaged to married to baby to home ownership to retirement to death, was so baked into what I thought I was “supposed” to be doing, it really took a significant amount of emotional exhaustion to rock me out of it.
I got sick of jealousy the way you get sick of eating the same thing for lunch every day. I got tired of getting angry about this thing I couldn’t “fix” no matter how hard I tried, while simultaneously watching everyone around me partner up and seemingly find the mythical, magical perfect happiness I thought came along with that. The anger was overwhelming, and it didn’t feel good. But more than anything, I finally started asking myself if this was really the way I was supposed to live.
Even in a place of low self worth, it didn’t make sense. I didn’t believe that the only reason I was put on earth was to try and try and try to find someone and never find someone all while watching other people find someone. I was in a really low point, but that story didn’t track. I knew there had to be a reason for everything I was living, and my anger, frustration, and disappointment were turned up so high that I knew the reason wasn’t for me alone. There was too much pain to keep inside of me. So I let it out. On the very thing that gave birth to it in the first place: the internet.
I stopped being jealous of other people when I chose to view them as examples of what’s possible.
My coping skill is writing. Podcasting is also proving useful but writing will always be my drug of choice. And the more I write about this life, the life blocked from the linear path like two magnets turned around backwards, the more I’m able to see that the other side of jealousy is possibility.
I stopped being jealous of other people when I chose to view them as examples of what’s possible. They met on a bus? I can too. They got engaged on a trip to Cambodia? I can too. They’re happy? I can be, too. All of these things happened to human beings, and they’re therefore possible for me too because I’m also a human being. All of these examples of what’s possible suddenly appearing in front of me. Instead of the whole world never being something I could partake in, I chose to make every single couple on earth my own private proof that good things exist. It’s mine. It’s all mine.
And it’s not just relationships! I think everyone feels jealousy, regardless of who you are or what your partnership status is, there will always be things other people have that you don’t. I’ve heard married friends get excited over sleeping alone in a bed for a night because their partner is out of town. I haven’t slept next to a man in a decade. Isn’t perspective the tits?
I don’t know when all my little happiness examples are going to translate into me getting to experience the partnership I want, but instead of operating from a place of jealousy, I now operate from a place of possibility. There are so many different ways to be happy. Isn’t it exciting to wonder what’s coming for me?
We’re not here on earth to be perpetually jealous, or to view what other people have solely as reminders of what we don’t have. We’re worth so much more than that.
We’re not here on earth to be perpetually jealous, or to view what other people have solely as reminders of what we don’t have. We’re worth so much more than that. But I get it — I get the jealousy. I used to live there. And a reframing of the way we see all the photos and stories and announcements of others can help — a lot. They’re not what we don’t have. They’re what’s possible. It’s right there in front of us as proof. It’s hard to be jealous when you’re looking forward to something. And I believe that something wonderful is coming for all of us. Get excited.