Saturday, June 9, 2007

The P. Burke program for not being a bitch

Cassandra has an intriguing post about jealousy, sexual attraction, and the possible relationship between them. Most of Cassandra's readers have never felt bonecrushing jealousy toward other women. I have. As an adolescent, I discovered that many boys found looks more important than personality, and decided that to blame this on any woman with too high of a looks-to-personality ratio, as calculated by my pretty biased mind. Eventually, I grew up, got sick of being such a mocking, green-eyed monster, and decided to knock it off. So I retrained myself.

It's hard to retrain yourself on your own, but I had help from two people. One of them was Connie, a gorgeous, femme math major who lived in my dorm, and who, for some reason I couldn't fathom, liked me. Connie looked like the ideal of white beauty: long blonde hair, blue eyes, thin, delicate symmetrical features, short skirts, seamed stockings, fashionable boots. Hardly any amount of personality could have made up for that. But she was immediately friendly to me, and she was funny, and I discovered that she shared my interests in poetry and distance running. I found myself liking her so much that the usual resentment couldn't kick in. In fact, I found myself--my ostensibly heterosexual self--thinking about her frequently, gazing longingly into her eyes, and wondering what it would be like to kiss her. It's hard for that attitude to coexist with seething hatred. Connie, who is completely heterosexual, handled my crush beautifully; she told me she was happy being my friend, but was really only interested in romantic relationships with boys. I took the point and started looking elsewhere, but my friendship with Connie was great practice for not being a bitch.

I looked elsewhere and found Sam, who was wholesome, Catholic, and perfect for taking home to my parents. (Being a Catholic, he was also pleasantly quirky in bed, but that's a story for another day.) There was just one problem with Sam. Like all other heterosexual men, he failed to believe I was the only attractive woman on earth, and I did not react well to other actual or suspected objects of his attraction. He pointed out that his was kind of dumb, and I agreed.

My solution to this, which was bizarre but effective, was that we should check out girls together. I could either point out things that made them physically attractive to me, or I could say "not my type", but I wasn't allowed to make critical comments. This worked. When he wasn't around, I practiced it inside my head. Somehow the attraction and/or aesthetic sense and the jealousy had a hard time co-existing. I have no idea whether it would work for anyone else, but Cassandra's commentors are decent people for other reasons. In my case, it probably helped that I was simultaneously growing up and learning to be less insecure and needy.

Because I'm recalling it, here's the first stanza of a poem I wrote about Connie (I carried it around inside my head for a long time, but can't remember the rest anymore):

Plucking strings, her lovely guitar hands kiss a
fret or two, her larynx hums 'Sweet Melissa'.
Fingers, strong, impose on the half-note's border
musical order.

I didn't mention it to her, which was probably just as well, as it might have made for awkwardness.

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