Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Out of my mind

By J.P. Bowie

Jealousy: This is sort of a difficult subject for me—not that I want to give myself a pat on the back—but I’m really not the jealous type, at least not in a “frothing at the mouth, have to get even with you if it’s the last thing I do” kind of way.

The dictionary describes jealousy as a negative emotion stemming from insecurity, fear, or anxiety of losing something of value, especially if that something is a someone. What’s interesting is that envy is often lumped in with jealousy, meaning the same thing. But to be envious is different from being jealous. Apparently,there is such a thing as benign envy, for instance, people living under a dictatorship might envy other people’s freedom, but there doesn’t seem to be such a thing as benign jealousy.

The very word has a strong, visceral connotation and stirs up visions of the ‘green-eyed monster’ as Shakespeare called it. Someone standing in the shadows, fists clenched, anger simmering below the surface, ready to explode, ready to do anything to hurt or destroy whomever she/he considers responsible for their emotional distress.

The greatest dramas in literature are generally full of this stuff. Othello was filled with murderous rage when he thought poor Desdemona was bed hopping—she wasn’t. Cain murdered Abel because he thought Adam and Eve liked Abel more—they didn’t. Jezebel’s husband had her put to death because he was told she was screwing anything on two legs—she was. Menelaus had to prove he was better and bigger than Paris by launching a thousand ships to get Helen back. Now that’s some kind of jealousy!

It might be a negative emotion, but it’s a powerful one. An emotion that can scorch the pages of a book, create fantastic, scathing dialogue and gripping, spellbinding plots of murder and intrigue. So when I say I’m not the jealous type, I’m actually jealous that I’m not. What’s the point of being controlled and indifferent emotionally? No one’s going to write an epic about someone like that. Let’s face it, even Darcy and Rochester, the masters of haughty reserve, succumbed to it in the end.

I guess they finally realized that in order to get laid, they had to show some kind of emotion—that stiff upper lip of indifference didn’t quite work with the feisty young ladies they’d set their sights on. They say there’s nothing like a hint of jealousy to stir interest in the hardest of men.

Hopefully, it’ll make them even harder.


  1. an excellent post, JP. & with a few of the literary references i was also going to make. now i have to start again :)

  2. Hi, J.P.,

    Welcome to the Grip!

    I'm actually not a jealous person either. Believe it or not...!

    You're definitely right, though. Jealousy can be a fabulous engine to propel a story.

  3. Great post, J.P. I agree with most of what you say (& like your references to UNFOUNDED jealousy as being especially tragic.) However, I'm not convinced that Jezebel was a slut from hell. As the foreign (non-Hebrew) wife of King Ahab, she was controversial for worshipping "false gods" (i.e. not the one God Jehovah). Women who do anything not considered "normal" are likely to be suspected of being "promiscuous" (vague, subjective term).

  4. I agree, Jezebel probably got a bad rap - but a lot of the old testament generally did - do you agree?

  5. Oops, I meant a lot of women in the old testament - proofreader anyone?

  6. It's interesting when you think about it, jealousy is such a fundamental emotion, its so immediate and graspable that it knocks us off the rails. But as you say, the ladies want to see something from your vcharacters besides stoicism.


  7. As someone who came up in the 'open relationships' era, (now polyamory), jealousy occupies an ambiguous place in my heart. It sure is a great vehicle for drama in our writing, though.

    Welcome to the Grip, JP- Cool post

  8. Your mention of Othello made me reflect on what a handy tool jealousy is for manipulation of someone who's susceptible to it. Othello was a sitting duck because of being such an outsider. Those of us who are not particularly prone to jealousy can at least be glad we can't easily be goaded to it.

  9. JP, I agree that many women in the Old Testament get a bad rap. Sacchi & fellow-Grippers, I feel as if I lived through a real-life 2-year performance of Othello, except my jealous husband was a Nigerian, not a "Moor." Good inspiration for fiction, crazy-making at the time. (I seriously wondered if I had multiple personalities, & one of them was a barfly who picked up men every night. Other ex-partners of jealous people have told me the same thing.)


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