In the summer I rescue bees from the pool and give them sugar water so they can get their strength up to fly again. I never buy bottled water. I once drove from Los Angeles to San Diego—a seven hour round trip—to drop off a friend at his house, because he couldn’t afford the train. I tell you these things so that you have a counterbalance for all the unflattering things I’m about to reveal.
I have never considered myself a jealous person. In fact, like many Americans, I've always fancied myself above jealousy. (No one on the Italian side of my family seems to have any desire to rid themselves of jealousy.) Somewhere along the way, we learned that possession was romantic, but not the accompanying jealousy, and we’ve been looking down on the feeling ever sense. I always assumed that when I did date someone monogamously, I would be a Chill Girl. Turns out I am not.
My boyfriend used to have a particularly close female friend. I’m going to lay out my charges “against” her not in order to paint her in a bad light—she wasn’t doing anything wrong—but merely to explain where I was coming from. She had a key to his place. She came over almost daily—certainly more than I did. Often, while my boyfriend and I were hanging out alone, he would look up from his phone and suddenly announce that she was coming by. They loved weed and Game of Thrones, both of which I was indifferent to, and too old to pretend to like for a guy. She left things at his place and he fawned over her cooking. Her art. Her family. No one will ever fawn over my family or my art. Maybe my cooking if I keep working at it. They would talk about group texts that I wasn’t a part of, and events I wasn’t invited to. Hanging out with them was agonizing.
I’m all for men having female friendships. In fact, my boyfriend had tons of other friends whom I had no problems with, but for some reason this girl, who once complain-bragged to me that she couldn’t gain weight, was a problem—a problem whom I frequently brought up while drunk. Before, my jealousy had only affected me, but soon it was affecting my relationship.
So I "unlearned" jealousy. At one point, while ugly-crying to my boyfriend about the situation—no, I don’t handle things well, thank you for asking—I asked him to consider how he would feel if I had a guy friend who took naps in my bed and left stuff on my bedside table. What would he think? What would he feel? He first told me, honestly, that he probably wouldn’t care (he really wouldn’t). And then he told me that just because you feel jealousy, doesn’t mean you have to act on it. He didn’t say it that eloquently—he’s not that great—but the advice stuck: So you can feel jealousy, but not ask someone to change their behavior? You can choose how to respond to your own jealousy? Such a revelation! Italian chef’s kiss!
I knew, on some level, that my boyfriend wasn’t cheating on me with his friend. If you really do think your partner is cheating on you, then you have a fidelity problem, not a jealousy problem. If you genuinely don’t trust your partner, get out. But if you simply feel pangs of jealousy when she raves over Milton’s seven layer dip at her office party, you’re normal. In my case, I still don’t think I was wrong to be jealous; my boyfriend and his friend did have boundaries that didn’t line up with what I was comfortable with. But I was also very wrong in how I handled it, if you can even call having monthly panics handling something.
I still credit watching Beyoncé’s Lemonade bi-weekly for getting me through this time with my boyfriend. If Beyoncé is not above jealousy, then neither are you. What you can do is channel the jealousy. Even in a relationship with a good partner, jealousy usually comes from feeling inadequate. So do whatever you have to do to feel adequate. If making a hit album is not an option for you, find something else. Do a couple extra crunches. Speak up a bit more at book club than you normally would. (Do men do book clubs? You should.) Finally learn how to actually do your hair, even if it’s pretty much exactly like that guy you saw your girlfriend check out at the gym one time a couple months back. Use the jealousy for good, don’t waste it worrying about your partner’s platonic coworker who just happens to have abs even while sitting down.
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