TheFrisky has a great essay up right now about a woman who continually compared herself to her ex. She notes “he had just written a bestselling novel, was living with his girlfriend, and bought a house.” Meanwhile, she was hanging out in a 250 sq. foot apartment and struggling as a writer. And she was spending a lot of her free time twitter stalking him.
Is this something we all do? Not the twitter stalking – I just assume we’re all doing that – but the constant life comparisons? And if we do, to what extent?
I don’t compare myself to my exes from a career standpoint, not because I wouldn’t, just because 95% of the time I can’t. As a general rule I don’t date people who work in media. That’s because they’re all losers. No! It’s just because the social circles are small, and I think it’s risky to date anyone you’ll be seeing at a party once a month for the next ten years. AND because I don’t want to constantly be comparing myself to them. So from a work standpoint, my ex’s goals and mine aren’t generally (ever) comparable. Normally, when I get updates from the exes, my thought process runs along the lines of, “my ex took his company public? Wow! Rad! His company… it was… green energy related? Maybe he sold trees? I have no idea. I’ll send him a book with a tree on the cover! No! I’ll send him a tiny Christmas tree in March! He’ll totally get it!” Not being envious of their professional success makes it a lot easier to go chop down a tree in Central Park be happy for them.
If I was in the same position as the article writer, I’d want to challenge my ex to a duel to the death. Which I’d lose. Because wow, he sounds super awesome. I bet he’s great at duelling.
But even without the career stuff, I still have moments, especially after a bad break-up, where I envision myself cruising down the street in a Jaguar Roadster 10 years in the future. I catch sight of my (shabbily dressed) ex just as it starts to rain and he desperately tries to cover his head with a newspaper – to no avail! And then I politely offer him a ride, which he takes, shamefaced, because I guess he’s real inept, now, huh? Didn’t even bring an umbrella!
I have had this fantasy multiple times, and I realize that it is really, really stupid, and seems to indicate that my only qualification for success is someone always remembering an umbrella. But I like it all the same.
But really, that fantasy is less about wanting to surpass my ex as it is about getting to imagine myself in a position where I have the power. It reminds me of Albert Brooks’s line in the end of Broadcast News - which is really one of the most withering responses to a break-up ever – “Six years from now, I’ll be back here with my wife and two kids. And I’ll see you, and one of my kids will say, “Daddy, who is that?” And I’ll say “no, no, it’s not nice to point at single, fat women.”"
Wow, Albert Brooks is just cold in that scene, isn’t he?
But maybe we’re all a little Albert Brooks-ish from time to time. Or maybe some of us are incredibly healthy and well adjusted and don’t go around fantasizing about beating their ex at this whimsical game called life. If so, you’re sort of a jerk and I’m not going to send you a Christmas Tree when your company takes off.