#07. “Never be jealous.” – Miyamoto, Musashi (Book of Five Rings)
At the first sign of envy, my mother sternly said to me, “Don’t be jealous!” To this day, she still pronounces it “gel-ASS” but like her “strage” for storage and “turn reft at the right and make light at the corner,” it’s the message that counts – not a Shakespearean delivery.
At the time, it seemed unfair to expect a five-year old not to be jealous of her cute baby sister. Now, I see why. Jealousy and envy breed uncontrollably – like cockroaches – it infests and causes nuisance and at it’s best, Stephen King stories. You have to squash it immediately.
With my mother, it was a constant reprimand, “Don be gel-ASS! Don be gel-ASS!” She was too busy looking after my baby sister to bother with my antics. “I’m not jealous,” I’d say, “my belly hurts,” or “I didn’t know it was aspirin,” or “I was just trying to make Flambe.”
She’d just give me that look of disgust, which I too mastered and put to full use during the years I managed a hair salon. It’s a look that says, “Don’t try to play me without serving cocktails first.”
Scares the shit out of people. Especially minors.
While it’s simple to demand, it’s not so easy to turn a jealous cheek. My two boys show me that all the time. Should I offer any kind of praise to their friends or classmates, my sons will whine, “You love him more than me!”
I feel like saying, “Don be gel-ASS!” but boys don’t respond to commands. You yell, “STOP,” and they’ll look back at you while they continue running forward and smack into a mailbox.
Unlike girls, boys not only have a hard time registering their feelings – they don’t want to talk about it either. Almost every time I ask a boy if they want to talk about what’s bothering them, they’ll respond, “No. I just wanna blow something up.” So you see why Minecraft is so popular.
Boys can’t see that praise and kindness given to other people doesn’t lessen the amount given to them. They think of affection like a pizza pie. You give a high five to a buddy and a thumbs up to a classmate and there goes two-eighths of his hugs! It might be a Common Core thing. But there’s a security thing, too. When you point out another child’s merit, you are unwittingly pointing out the shortcomings of your own.
So now, when I pay some kid a compliment, I’ll search my brain for a compliment to give my guy as well. It could go like, “Katie, congratulations on your perfect score. And Zuki – you remembered to bring home your lunch box everyday this week. That’s outstanding!”
Although my mother’s upbringing of not giving into jealousy got me over my jealousy of my sister – and of ex-girlfriends – and of people who have summer beach homes, I fear one day it’ll rear it’s ugly head again when my boys grow up and start dating sluts. Ooh, did I say that out loud?
Hopefully, my mother will still be around to slap some sense into me when the time comes. Though from experience, I’ve noticed that grandmothers are far more picky over their grandson’s partner than anyone else.
Perhaps it’ll be my turn to tell her not to be gel-ASS.