A New Dress Isn’t Enough

the dreaded senior photo
the dreaded senior photo

“I’ll tell M. you want to jump his bones if you don’t call. You know I will,” R. said. I didn’t know, but I needed to threat to go through with it.

M. answered his phone and my voice rose to amazing heights. “Hi!” We were friends and I’d called him plenty of times. He’d bring movies over to my house sometimes, and when we’d go out to McDonald’s, he’d fake a British accent to hit on the prettiest girl behind the counter. He always came away with a phone number. There was no way he wanted me to ask him out.

“I’m sorry to bother you, M. Really, but I’ve got this really stupid favor to ask, if you don’t mind. I mean, I wouldn’t ask but…” I was running out of breath.

“What is it, Squig?” he said. That nickname burned right through me. No girl with a name like that is attractive. If I could accept this fact, I’d be happier. When I hang up, I will never speak to him again.

“Well, you know I’ve got that banquet on Friday, and it is going to be really boring and I just wanted a friend to go with me and keep me company. You know, just as a friend. That’s it. If you can. As my friend. Not a date, okay?”

“Sure,” he said.

I bought a new dress and earrings. He picked me up on time.

We sat down at the banquet table across from a guy from my class and his date, a pretty blonde named J. J. smiled at M. “Hi!”

M. smiled back. “Hey!”

J. looked at her date and me. “M and I used to date.” M. said something then that made her laugh but I didn’t hear it.

Another classmate, L., sat to my left. L. always sat next to me class and stopped me the hall to say hi. He said things like, “You didn’t know [clever fact here]? I knew that.”

L. leaned back in his chair to get a better look at M, who was making J. laugh again. “Is he your brother?” L asked.

Showing my work is like sitting next to the prettiest girl at the table. No matter how well-dressed the work, she is going to get all the attention. It is difficult to shake that feeling that if only I could make the work prettier…

Do you get jealous of other writers? Does someone else’s success inspire you or shut you down?

6 thoughts on “A New Dress Isn’t Enough

  1. So many variables factor into somebody’s success that I can’t stay jealous for long. This gets into the gray area between jealousy and envy, where the former is more of a demotivator — like mutter, mutter… THEM… mutter… WHY? — and the latter a, well, spur to action.

    I keep coming back to the idea of comfort zones. The people who succeed at X (whatever X is) by constantly striving, schmoozing, squeaky-wheeling and so on — nothing to envy about them, no matter how successful they become at X. Their success just pisses me off. But the people who are so comfortable in their own skins that outward success and failure just roll off them, equally — now, there’s something to envy and yeah, admire. If I’m honest with myself, I know that’s what I really want: to be so good at something, and so happy doing it, that I’m successful on my own terms.

    Which sounds, on re-reading, hopelessly naive. Of course (?) I want to be outwardly successful too. And I want to work hard enough to KNOW what I’m talking about. But if success comes to me, I really want it to follow on the heels of confidence that I’m doing it right.

    (That prettiest girl at the table is often also the one most fraught with insecurity, neurosis, outright craziness. When life has finally knocked the stuffing out of her, decades later — I bet that’s when she moves from prettiness to beauty, from somebody to be jealous of to someone to envy. And she’ll find lots of women who got there way ahead of her, who were NOT the prettiest ones at the table.)

  2. Jealousy is my knee-jerk reaction anytime I hear of someone’s success if it’s a field I have any connection to at all. Not just success, but also talent. I want to be the best, that’s it, even in areas I barely touch. Silly, I know. I’m getting really good at reminding myself to be happy for the person, that there’s enough success to go around, that the person’s path to success is not my path and that’s ok. If I practice maybe one day jealousy won’t be my knee-jerk reaction.

    And in case you’re wondering, yes, I was a little jealous of you.

    There is a famous actress with whom I went to college. She was two years ahead of me, and was so obviously talented and such a wonderful person that I couldn’t hope to match her success. By the time she graduated I had gotten the idea that I had nothing to offer, because she got all the parts and I stayed in the chorus. Why bother trying out? My final two years of college were spent drifting around and I eventually dropped out. Took me a long time to get over that, and I still get a twinge when I see her on tv, but I wish I had realized at the time that my talent was no less than hers, just different. Even if it was less, it was still worth developing. And btw, she didn’t do anything to cause this, it was all in my own head. She never knew I felt this way, probably doesn’t even remember me, as she was an upperclassman.

  3. I’m not even sure about how to answer this. I know I sometimes feel a twinge of jealousy. More often it is a feeling of wanting to be like someone else. Someone who’s managed to do the things that I want to do, who came from obscure or ordinary backgrounds, who just had what I think I lack. Sometimes I get a little jealous that some people are going in a direction I wish I could go, but feel I can’t.

    Sometimes those feelings make me feel like I CAN’T do it. Sometimes, if I can see how they got from ordinary to where I want to go, then it inspires me to think I can do it.

    I think I have to remember that the world has room for many talented people and for many beautiful things and for many ways of being, including that wonderful person and including me. If I think their success means mine is unachievable then I get that sinking feeling. But if I think, hey I can do that or hey, that’s gorgeous, but I’m different, then I am at peace.

    I think I’m babbling a bit, but I have to say that you are one of the writers I have felt like that about. I wish I could make you have faith in your work. It really is outstanding. I know it’s hard to show to people, but it’s so good.

  4. JES, when does a person feel confident in success? Then you’ve got to worry about keeping it… I mean, it seems that I hear people who I think of as successful worrying about how unsuccessful they are or are looking over their shoulder at the next big thing.

    Sherri, well, I’m glad that you used the past tense. If I wanted to be neurotic about it, I’d think it was because you saw what a mess my novel was.

    rowena, your work is gorgeous and real. I don’t know how to have faith in my work. Doubt is an infestation that is hard to root out.

    Squirrel, I think feeling jealous is a normal emotion–it’s what you do with it that matters. I feel jealous, but once I say those words out loud, the power of it goes away and I go on with my own stuff–even if I still think my stuff doesn’t measure up. What does it take to feel that is does?

  5. Pingback: Experienced Enough for This « writing in the water

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