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Archive for the ‘jealousy’ Category

Nutmeg has been looking into the possibility of a new job at a publication I’ve yearned my whole life to write for, a publication I grew up revering.  I’ve written for a few prestigious magazines, but never for this one.  Nutmeg is working for one of those prestigious magazines already, but this new one is even better.  It is, as she put it, “the Harvard of magazines.”

She used the phrase in an email she sent to iDaddy and me after coming back from a one-hour interview with two people who would be her supervisors, including the head of the whole web site.  (The job is not for the print version of this “Harvard of magazines”; hey, this is 2010, and Nutmeg is a young journalist — of course the job is for the web site, just like Nutmeg’s current job is.)  She addressed the email to “Team Job,” a.k.a. her parents, the ever-present boosters in her never-ending career dramas, the people whose advice she still turns to because she knows we’re smart and thoughtful and informed and, unlike some of her friends and colleagues, have only her best interests at heart.  I read the Team Job email while I was out doing chores this afternoon, the first really nice day of spring, ever square inch of sidewalk and every patch of grass on the Columbia campus crammed with happy people. “for god’s sake,” Nutmeg wrote, at the top of her pros and cons list of whether this job would be better than the one she has (she doesn’t capitalize much in her emails), this job would be

“every granddaughter-of-a-bensonhurst-jew, daughter-of-a-queens intellectual’s dream.  so the idea that I could possibly work there is both incredibly flattering and incredibly exciting.”

Flattering and exciting — it sure as hell is.  Reading that sentence, standing there on Broadway as pedestrians scurried past, made my heart flutter and swell.  How far she’s come, the granddaughter of a Bensonhurst Jew, daughter of a Queens intellectual.   I got a little weepy thinking about this.  Ah, Nutmeg, you’ve made it, I thought.  I was so pleased.

But then, I have to admit, in not too long my thoughts started to drift over toward myself.  Ah, Momma, you’re so over — that’s kind of where my thoughts drifted.  I’ve always been braced for Nutmeg and Meta both to transcend me, but so soon?  And in an arena that I so desperately wanted for myself, and haven’t yet given up on, and could never quite conquer?

Give me a moment, please.  I’ll go back to being Nutmeg’s indefatigable booster in just a moment.  But first, I think I need to grieve just a little bit for my own fading career.  Then I’ll go back — soon, I promise — to giving my full attention to my amazing daughter.

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Years ago, I had plans to write a book about the science of happiness.  But in a very short time, I decided against it — and this decision took some doing, since I already had a signed contract with a book publisher and an advance that I had to give back.  I’m not sure why I soured on the idea exactly (it didn’t help that I heard rumors of several similar books in the works, books I was sure would out-sell my more measured, less famous-authory one).  But I think it had something to do with how annoying I found, and still find, happy people.

A NYT review by Neil Genzlinger of tonight’s first installment of a three-part PBS series, This Emotional Life, got me thinking about that old book idea.   There’s much to learn from scientists about what goes on in the brain when we feel happiness, and much to learn, too, about how we can construct our lives to feel it more.  Even more interesting, at least to me, is what happens in the brain when we feel negative emotions like fear, anxiety, depression, jealousy.  A psychologist I know told me recently that the book I should write next is one about, as she put it, “the ugly emotions,” and that idea appealed to me a lot more than a book about happiness.  (What does that say about ME, I wonder?)  Something to consider.

The thing that brings the TV show “This Emotional Life” all back to my main and heartfelt writing interest — writing about mothering grown-ups — was a short snippet from tonight’s, or maybe it’s tomorrow night’s, episode that features one of my favorite oddball comedians, Larry David.  His parents, he says, probably loved him, but he experienced them mostly as “two people that were older than me who gave me money and fed me.”  I realize that part of Larry David’s comic brilliance is his tendency to exaggerate — but part of it, too, is how he manages to reduce the unspeakable things we all feel to their essence, and then to speak them.  In a way, he’s right, isn’t he?  Hasn’t he put his finger on what what parents are, essentially: two people who are older than the kid who support the kid for a while?  How amazing, when you think of it that way, that so much lifelong emotional complexity is laid on top of that simple, immutable truth.

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Nutmeg was laid off on Monday, and by today, Friday, she’s already had about 3 or 4 interviews for possible new jobs.  She’s in the same business I’m in, journalism (as is Meta — very gratifying to have both my daughters do me the honor of entering the same profession as me), and 2009 isn’t such a great year for journalism.  But I think that Nutmeg will land on her feet, probably even in a better job than the one she left.

For the past few years, as I’ve felt the waning of my own powers in the field, I’ve had to deal with possible feelings of jealousy as I watch my kids come up behind me and then pass me by.  Journalism is a young person’s field these days — I don’t know much about the online world, and the long-form magazine writing and book writing I specialize in is positively antique.  So DO I feel jealous of Meta and Nutmeg?  Even in my harshest moments of brutal honesty, I think I’d still have to say no.  Mostly what I feel is delight when I watch my daughters do great things.

I remember reacting with some small bit of horror when a singer-songwriter I like, Loudon Wainwright III, complained in print when he felt that his son, the singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, had eclipsed him.  Loudon himself had been working hard to outdo his own father, Loudon Wainwright, Jr., who was a pretty famous writer for Life magazine.  The whole thing was so unseemly — and, I thought, maybe something unique to WASPs.  Jewish mothers like me — even if we feel twinges of envy when our young and beautiful daughters turn out to be not only younger and more beautiful than we are, but also smarter and more successful — don’t allow ourselves even to acknowledge these feelings, much less to articulate them.

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