I’m writing this during the Days of Awe, the period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur when Jews take stock of ourselves and apologise to people we’ve wronged, in preparation for the big day of repentance on Yom Kippur. Throughout the day, we recite a laundry list of sins know as ‘Al Chet’, that begins ‘al cheit shechatanu le’fanecha….’ (for the sin we have committed before You…) and ends with ‘ve’al kulam, Eloah selichot, selach lanu, mechal lanu, kaper lanu’ (for all of these, L-rd our G-d, forgive us, pardon us, grant us atonement). There’s too many sins to mention, and even if I personally have not committed the ones on the list, I say Al Chet anyway, often having to bite my lip. It’s a very raw and painful festival to go through. All that self-examination gets you after a while, especially when you take things so literally and personally.
When I think of the seven deadly sins, I wonder what my trademark sin would be. Surprisingly, it’s not gluttony, wrath or sloth; it’s envy, or rather, jealousy. Pure, white-hot, unadulterated jealousy.
It all started when I was an infant and my mum brought my new baby brother home from the hospital. I reacted to this unwanted alien by scratching her face, and thus began nineteen or so years of sibling rivalry. Jack was and had everything I wanted to be and have. He had loads of friends. He was outgoing and happy and patient and, in retrospect, a lot nicer and less abrasive than me. When Mum and I argued, it would be a screaming match. When Mum and Jack argued, he’d sit back and take it. He was always going to parties, started drinking and doing drugs before I did, and had a constant stream of friends over, whereas I only had one or two close friends at a time, and spent most evenings at home alone. He also had a long-term girlfriend, back when I was doing my A-Levels, and I didn’t handle this well; I couldn’t bear the thought of my little brother growing up before me, having sex all the time while I was practically a virgin, being able to bring his girlfriend to family parties (including my eighteenth birthday, even though I wanted it to be family only but had to have her there anyway, something for which I resented him and my mother like hell) and being, well, normal. I had always been bullied for not having a sex life or a boyfriend, even back in year seven, and seeing Jack’s little unit only reinforced that he was the antithesis of me. It didn’t stop me wanting to hurt his girlfriend when she dumped him, however. The big sister instinct was always there, deep down.
In high school, I remember being jealous of all the girls who played lots of instruments, all of them well, and were always being invited to play in school concerts, and my mate Paul for being more intelligent than me. It didn’t help that I was compared to him by teachers, and that I had a huge crush on him and didn’t know how to deal with it, and when he got a girlfriend, I was jealous of her too. The poor guy wasn’t even aware I considered him to be my academic rival. One of the reasons why I cried upon only getting three As and one B at A-Level was that he had gotten four As. I was also jealous of my old friend from primary school, even though, looking back, I know she was going through a bad time back then and was having a lot of problems with her stepmum. I wished I led the exotic life she did, with all the fetish clubs and drinking and wild nights on the beach and boyfriends and drugs. I was jealous of the girls who got into clubs, despite being underage, and would come in with stories of their nights out at various shitty clubs – although once I started going clubbing myself when I was sixteen, that all changed.
When I went to university, I did a burlesque class, and I was jealous of other girls there who got gigs and got invited to perform at our teacher’s new club night, whereas I never got a slot. I was especially jealous of the ones who went professional and did photo shoots and performances all over the country. I was jealous of the girlfriend of the man I was obsessed with – who I will call Itachi – and jealous of him too, because he seemed to have it made, being popular and together and intelligent and knowing so much about politics and Judaism and Israel.
Even now, the green eyed monster is still there, although thankfully, I’m not jealous of Jack anymore (in fact, I really like his girlfriend).
I’m jealous of another mental health blogger, who I know in real life and who I won’t name, because she has more readers and support in the mental health blogging world, is more involved in her synagogue than I am with mine, got to play at fucking Limmud and apparently is a singer-songwriter, and does much more with her life than I do, while I barely have the spoons to even make synagogue services. It’s gotten so bad that I want to join the synagogue’s musical group just to compete with her.
I’m jealous of a female friend of mine because she’s fucked more girls than I have, and I don’t feel like a proper bisexual because I’ve never had sex with a woman (although I did have a relationship with one).
I’m jealous of other friends of mine who have better sex lives than me.
I’m jealous of my cousin for being thinner and prettier and more popular than me than I was at her age (though it helps that she has good genes).
It pains me to say this – and luckily, at the time, I realised this was going way, way too far and told myself to stop being so bloody stupid – but I was even jealous when I saw my mum hugging one of her boyfriend’s kids, because she was crying about her grandad, who had recently died.
The worst part of it is that most of these people don’t even deserve it, and aren’t aware of it. Jealousy, as one rabbi said, only hurts the jealous person. Linda Goodman talked of the scorpion stinging himself (and I have a Scorpio ascendant and a couple of planets in the sign!) and that’s me. I am the scorpion trying to sting others, yet I only sting myself.
According to one counsellor, Maxine Easton, who’s worked with families on the spectrum, some people with Aspergers tend to value what others DO, rather than what they ARE. They notice the achievements, but not the person who’s achieving them. For instance, Jack might have had a better life than me when we were teens, but he wasn’t and isn’t perfect, and he wasn’t happy all the time, and had a much worse relationship with my stepdad than I did. Jilly and Paula, Paul and Itachi’s girlfriends, were nice people and did not deserve being on the receiving end of jealousy (though I made damn sure I hid it around them). The grass is not always greener on the other side. Sometimes it has broken glass or snakes in it – and some of the people I was jealous of had a lot of snakes hiding in their grass.
I wish to G-d I could stop being jealous. I am getting better, but it is trying sometimes.