I’m curious about envy between friends.
Most articles I’ve stumbled across (and by “stumbled across,” I mean obsessively researched) call out the envious friend as toxic, deranged, insecure, incomplete, etc. Okay, Internet Articles, I hear you loud and clear: envy isn’t exactly the healthiest emotion, and it should signal you to look inside and find the real source of pain.
The quintessential Jayne Mansfield photo, with Sophia Loren looking on
Is it always one hundred percent the fault of the envious friend?
Alice and Mitzy have been friends for as long as they can remember – hell, even before they can remember! Sadly, for almost as long, Alice can remember feeling envious of Mitzy’s life. Mitzy always had nice, stylish clothes; Alice had baggy, ragged hand-me-downs. Mitzy’s house was clean and stocked with awesome snacks; Alice had a dirty house with empty cupboards. Mitzy’s parents were nice and loving; Alice’s parents left a lot to be desired and weren’t around that much.
As they got older, it only got worse. Mitzy was so skinny; Alice always had a soft marshmallow tummy and really big arms. Mitzy was super popular; Alice was plagued by social anxiety and was a complete outcast. Mitzy had fun, good-looking boyfriends; Alice dated embarrassing doofuses. Mitzy went to parties and did fun things with friends; Alice didn’t get invited out and sat in her room every night.
Like friends often do, they drifted apart for a little while before reconnecting again as adults, after college. Alice found that the envy game was still strong in her head, but the energy had refocused onto other people, so Mitzy was safe again from her laser beam.
Until one day.
The two women were visiting, and Alice had turned her laser-focus onto her latest obsession: acquiring a puppy. Month after month, she perused shelters and even Craigslist ads, but nothing had panned out. Alice was upset and feeling desperate, and monopolized the visit by talking incessantly about adopting a puppy. She was about to give up hope. You can see where this is going: just as she was about to give up, the perfect puppy appeared at the shelter, and she was able to scoop her up! Life is amazing that way.
Anyway, it appeared that something Alice had talked about triggered a response in Mitzy: just as Alice excitedly told her friend that she had finally found a puppy, Mitzy announced that she had found one too! On the first try! Isn’t that great?!
Alice rolled her eyes a little bit, but she was so excited about her new puppy that it was hard to be too upset about her friend having it so easy.
Now that they were both dog owners, the playing field should have felt level, but it still felt off to Alice. Whenever Alice would reach out to Mitzy with questions about her dog’s behavior, Mitzy made it sound like her dog never acted up. If Alice’s dog pooped on the floor, Mitzy’s dog had never ever done anything like that. If Alice’s dog whimpered all night, Mitzy’s dog never made a peep. If Alice’s dog was learning sit and stay, Mitzy’s dog had already learned sit, stay, shake, and roll over.
About a year after Alice adopted her dog, she decided she was going to become serious about a new career path and train to be a medical assistant. Something inside her cautioned her not to tell Mitzy until studying and exams were well under way. Alice knew she was probably being paranoid, but it felt like the right decision at the time.
One day, she and Mitzy were texting and Alice let it slip that she had been working to become a medical assistant. Mitzy immediately replied that she had always thought about doing that too.
Here is where I start to question the one hundred percent blame model. Is it unreasonable to think that if someone feels like they have the upper hand over a person their entire life, they would be unwilling to relinquish that role? Is it illogical to think that Mitzy is so used to having Alice’s envy that she has to jump in and be better than her at everything? That she needs to acquire whatever it is that Alice wants, even if the thought had never entered her mind before?
Or is Alice just paranoid?
What do you think?