So, this happened the other day:
Super Kindergartener: Mom, please don't put cookies in my snack anymore.
Me: Ummmmm...who are you and what have you done with my son?
Super K.: I'm serious.
Me: OK, but why? Are cookies not allowed? Did the teacher say something? (I am really bad at reading school rules sometimes, but I know what has nuts in it. It isn't like I sent him in there with a Snickers Bar; these were Vanilla Wafers. Aren't those like the healthy cookies anyway?)
Super K.: Bossy K. says that cookies aren't good for snack and that they are bad for me. She says that they will make my teeth rot out of my head. I don't want to bring them anymore.
Me: (Well, Bossy K. should mind her own dang business.) I see.
So, I show up at school the next day with Super K. and a snack bag full of cherry tomatoes and carrot sticks. I happen to see his teacher and make casual reference to my snack debacle of yesterday.
Teacher: Oh, that. (Pause laced with tons of stuff that would be inappropriate to say about Bossy K.) Super K. is so sweet and sensitive, as you know.
Me: Yes. I know.
Teacher: I am pretty sure Bossy K. isn't allowed sugar and well, sometimes, they look at each other's snacks and well, I am afraid she might have been a little jealous and maybe said some things out of that. She leans in and whispers, let's be honest; to a child, cookies are much nicer looking than kale chips.
I am familiar with jealousy. He, and his twin, Envy (I have never been able to tell those two apart anyway) are in my top tier of super villains. I have spoken of him before. I have been foes with these two since my nemesis, Perfect Preteen, showed up at confirmation in a ruffled monstrosity, with perfect 80s hair, and mocked the pale pink, utterly beautiful, muumuu that my grandmother had brought back from Hawaii for me. Doesn't matter that, years later, I am aware that I looked much nicer and, dare I say, classier. Doesn't matter that I think I even knew this at the time. All I heard were the whispers of "Erin is wearing her pajamas. And her hair looks goofy." (My cow-lick has never behaved, even with 80s-level hair-spray, so she was right about that.) All I heard were those whispers and all I felt was less. If only I was wearing a poofy, ruffle-mess, then everything would be great. Then the popular girls would like me and let me sit at their lunch table. If only.
Envy starts young. We want what others have, we want to fit in. We want to be part of the group. There is a period around 13 where we don't want to fit in and be part of the group, but that is just another group we are trying to join anyway, so my point stands. I guess I just wasn't expecting this to be something my children were going to deal with in Kindergarten, but even that shouldn't surprise me. Perfect Preteen made fun of my First Communion outfit too. If she had been at my baptism, she probably would have had something nasty to say. Or she would have cried or spit-up on me or something, given that we were babies.
I think what surprised me was that Super K. was actually on the other end of things; envy was being directed towards him. He didn't know it; all he heard was Bossy K. freak him out about rotting teeth. Or maybe the child is far more emotionally intelligent than I give him credit for and actually knew that his cookies were somehow bothering Bossy K. and decided not to taunt her with them. Maybe. I am leaned toward teeth freaking. Either way, being on the receiving end of envy is not something I am familiar with. I am used to dishing it out.
I am jealous of other moms. Other wives. Other writers. Other bloggers who seem to write the same stuff I write and yet, "go viral." I have no idea how to "go viral," which sounds really gross when I put it like that. Maybe I am better off not being viral.... I am jealous of women who seem to dress stylish in an effortless way because I can't seem to find shirts that fit right and I have been wearing the same pair of jeans for 3 days. I am jealous of good cooks and people with spotless houses and people who say stuff like," Oh, I don't know, I just always wanted to play the guitar, so I learned. Music just comes easily to me, I guess." I am jealous of the graceful. I fell twice yesterday alone; once going to the garbage. That was disgusting, to say the least. I am jealous of women who love being pregnant; who have a glow and a perfect Hollywood bump and know how to do kegels. I am jealous of people who can spell and calculate the tip in their heads. I am really jealous of moms who were "just bored at home so I decided to write a book and, gosh darn it, Simon and Schuster just happened to pick it up. It's just my musings on motherhood. La de da." I am jealous of people who are full-fledged adults; who understand escrow and don't find coffee too bitter. I am jealous of women who know how to do their makeup. Seriously, I look like a clown when I do it; like that drunk clown who drives a mouse in Uncle Buck. I am jealous of people who understand Bergman films and wine and modern art. I am jealous a lot.
Don't get me wrong; my life is pretty great. Oh, sure. I would like to be a famous writer who drinks coffee without grimacing in a fancy hat and chic outfit while I am photographed in my spotless, enormous house, during my interview with Oprah. I mean, who wouldn't? However, that isn't likely to happen and it isn't happening today. Suppose I will have to settle for typing rapidly in-between episodes of Super Why, while I guzzle diet Pepsi greedily in my 3-day-old pants and husband's college sweatshirt, listening to squabbles over legos in our rental with the crack that runs from the front door to the kitchen. It's not a bad life.
I have once been on the receiving end of envy and it was a big one. Here's what happened: My husband is in medical residency and this means we often have to hang out with doctors. Some are regular people and some are the doctors that Hollywood tells you about. Well, about a year ago, one of these people gave a party. It was a lavish affair at her enormous house, down winding roads, with breathtaking views. When I wasn't standing there staring at million-feet tall ceilings and walls of windows, I was trying to keep my horde of children from touching anything. Eventually, we wound up in her front yard/enormous grounds. Her son was out there and the children all started playing. I sat there, in some lovely deck chair, and tried not to be uncomfortable next to this woman, who is like twice as tall as me and 900 times more beautiful, successful, and accomplished. She swooshed her camera-ready hair out of her pore-less face, sighed like the heroine in a period drama, and turned her enormous eyes to me. I pushed my glasses further up my nose and tried not to notice the smear on the left lens. When was this party going to be over? And what pearl of wisdom was she about to drop on me? I hope it isn't about her work. I can barely keep in my head what Awkward Dad does and the DSM keeps changing and ...
Perfect Doctor/Mom/Model: Erin, you are so lucky.
Me: ummmmm......excuse me?
Perfect Doctor/Mom/Model: (graceful arm sweep toward the children) You have it all. You know that, right? You have it all.
She sighed again and looked off. Her pain is her own and not mine to exploit here, but bottom line, I had what she wanted. I had something that someone wanted. Someone who appeared to have everything. Someone who I could be jealous of all year and back was jealous of me. Me. Lame old Erin who wore her pajamas to confirmation and sat alone at lunch for years and trips just taking out the garbage and can't seem to get it together most days and doesn't know how to go viral or get a publishing deal because I am bored. Me. Someone was jealous of me.
I'll be honest, it wasn't the greatest feeling in the world. It really wasn't. Like Super K.; I was more confused than anything else, but it planted a little seed in there. A little seed that has grown since it was planted a year ago. Maybe I'm not so bad. Maybe I don't have to spend so much time wishing I was someone else. Maybe. Not for sure yet; it's still just a little plant and I often forget to water it. But it hangs on. And I think, just maybe, one of these days it is going to bloom. It is gonna bloom into a lovely, unique flower. And on that day, I am having cookies for snack. You should join me; we'll have a party. Envy is NOT invited.
Seriously, Preteen Erin. Don't worry.
Someday you are gonna bloom like the flowers all over that fabulous muumuu.
Preteen Awkward Uncle, I love you, but
those pants are never gonna bloom or be fabulous.