So yesterday while I’m visiting, my wife tells me that she’s spent a lot of time lately talking to T—.
I know that T— is just a friend, but of course it gets me all tied up in knots and feeling hurt and jealous, mostly because at certain times over the last few months, she hasn’t been willing to spend as much time talking to me as I wanted, particularly at times when I thought I desperately wanted and needed it (for myself, at least). She was, perhaps rightly, put off by the responsibility and expectations, not to mention by recent history.
My feelings yesterday were terribly unfair and ridiculous, since over the years I have, for example, spent a lot of time talking to L— and H—, and particularly over the last few months.
And it’s rather clear to me that I absolutely love my wife and have no particular interest in L— and H— as anything other than friends with whom I share unique relationships that enable, at times, pleasant and supportive conversations.
So how is it that even as I live something rather simple and innocent inside my own skin, I have to struggle to empathize with her doing the very same thing inside her skin?
— § —
I once thought that adulthood would be the state in which I would no longer feel these sorts of things. I would know that I’m grown up when I stopped, for example, feeling threatened and made insecure by what are (theoretically, but not really) potential rivals. And the same would be true for the other “adults” in my life.
Our popular culture makes a rather good show of promoting this sort of perspective—that “mature” people simply aren’t ever threatened by things.
I rather think that this is bullshit and nonsense. In fact, it’s human nature to be envious of things that others have and that you want, and to be insecure about people that command the attention of the people whose attention you rely on.
What separates the adults from the children is that the adults manage to not act on these feelings, even in conversation. Once again, it comes down to the notion that it is okay to feel, but the responsibility of an adult is to avoid acting on every last feeling that one may have, no matter how intense or tinged with indignation.
— § —
At some level, we remain always a collection of silly monkeys. The old adage that civilization is a thin and fragile veneer of repression shielding us from an ocean of savage impulses is very true.
This is why children and child-rearing are so important. With each generation, we have precious few months to recreate ourselves as a species that is somehow different from the monkeys. We do this by repressing everything in sight. We bristle at the repression, and at times it creates problems of its own, but the alternative is bleak indeed.