Green Eyed Monster Seeing Pink – I

October 23, 2007 at 9:43 pm (Uncategorized)

(For some reason – probably my extreme wordiness – Chronic Town’s server is insisting I split this entry into the following four installments. Please forgive whatever choppiness this causes. I will try to repost it as a single entry later.)

The other evening, I had a chat with my almost four-year-old son, Andrew, about jealousy and greed. Jay and I have started giving him fifty cents every week to deposit in his piggy bank. But, since he owns at least one version of every book, toy, or game known to mankind, we (meaning Andrew’s parents) decided that the proceeds from the piggy bank should be used in some charitable way. “You can buy a toy for another boy or girl at Christmas,” we said, our voices ringing with righteous enthusiasm. “Or, you can collect the money and then give it to a shelter for families who don’t have a house to live in like us. Or you can send it to a museum to help them study dinosaurs.” We paused, and were met only with a stony silence from our son. “The only rule is that you can’t use the money on yourself,” we concluded. Andrew did not like this idea at all. “But, there are so many toys that I need,” he said, without guile and with much emphasis.

Thus began the Great Sharing Campaign of 2007. Unlike presidential campaigns, ours was quick (thank God) — but fierce nonetheless. Several times a day, I lectured, cajoled, and wheedled Andrew on the topic of sharing. As an only child, this skill does not come to him naturally. The other day, we babysat a one-year-old boy, and Andrew looked genuinely distressed every time poor Peter touched one of Andrew’s many possessions. “I need that,” Andrew would say, relieving the baby of any truck, stuffed animal, or trinket his hands (or eyes) happened to graze. “That is mine,” he said, at least six hundred times in the hour Peter spent with us. Peter’s visit coincided with the Great Sharing Campaign, so it gave me extra ammunition to discuss the concept of ownership. Since most of Andrew’s favorite toys are hand-me-downs from older friends and relatives, I asked him how he would have felt if Nate or Anna or Paul or Laura had refused to let go of their things and give them to him. How would Andrew feel if Mommy and Daddy didn’t have enough money to buy him a Christmas present? If we couldn’t get him a Christmas present, would he like it if another little boy saved money in his piggy bank to choose a brand-new Thomas the Tank Engine train for Andrew? Of course he would! And, anyway, since everything comes from the earth and we all live on the earth, isn’t it sort of silly to think about owning something just for yourself? Don’t we all in a sense share everything? Of course we do! My son continued to look unimpressed with this line of reasoning, so I was shocked to realize we had indeed won the Campaign. A few days ago, Andrew proudly showed his babysitter, Andrea, his piggy back and told her that he was saving up to buy another boy a train. He looked downright proud to be carrying out such an important task. “Alleluia,” I thought to myself. And then I went and engaged in some hypocrisy.

It didn’t start off that way. Really, it was just a trip to the grocery store, and was not intended to be a jaunt into Circle Eight of Dante’s Inferno. Our local Safeway is currently in the midst of a fundraising drive for breast cancer research. Every time you check out, the clerk very nicely asks you if you’d like to contribute a dollar or more to the cause. If you do make a donation, you have the option to fill out a little card on which you can write your name and the person’s name for whom you are donating and then hang the card on a wire near the cash register. Elsewhere in the store, you can buy dozens of items — most of them pink — the proceeds of which go to benefit breast cancer research.

Rationally, I know that fundraising efforts such as this one are a wonderful thing. Millions of women (one of whom regularly contributes insightful and supportive comments to this blog) are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. It is a terrible disease, and the treatment for it, from my understanding, isn’t much better. In no way would I ever want to deprive breast cancer researchers of a single dollar to figure out how to better detect and treat this disease. Rationally, I am expansive. But, in my lizard brain (that part of me loosely identified as the id by Freud, that aspect of me that cares not for other beings) I, like my three-year-old son, am jealous and I don’t want to share. When the kindly cashier asks me to make a donation, I want to shriek back, “What about my disease? Why is no one raising money for my disease? Look at my cast on my foot. That’s from my disease. My disease is called SARCOIDOSIS. Have you ever heard of it? Of course not. No one’s heard of because you’re all too busy drinking out of pink water bottles and listening to Melissa Etheridge songs to worry about sarcoidosis or any other disease not on the pink palette. What about me?” After having these thoughts for several consecutive shopping trips to Safeway, I was so horrified by my lizard brain and its jeering (and thankfully silent) diatribes that I donated five dollars for breast cancer research at the cash register.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so astounded by myself. I am a jealous and self-centered person by nature. I am jealous of writers who are more successful than me. I hate opening up a brand-new critically-acclaimed best-selling novel and learning that the author is some twenty-four year old whiz kid. It makes me feel old and untalented. I even got jealous when my own husband (my own husband!) had an excellent essay published in the Los Angeles Times. “Damn,” I thought. “I wish I had something accepted there.” When I was a competitive cyclist, I constantly compared myself to my rivals and did not take pleasure in their successes. I was insanely jealous when I was not selected to be a member of one of the elite racing teams the year before I quit, and even now, years later, I take a perverse pleasure in knowing that not one woman appointed to that team ever did anything remarkable in her bike racing career. I get jealous about sports these days too, watching young women zooming around our city’s streets on bicycles. I want to do that. And I’m jealous I can’t. I’m jealous of friends who have more than one child. Of course, I’m also happy for my Mom friends with many babies, and, after an hour of watching Andrew’s behavior devolve around Baby Peter, I think I should be relieved my doctors are currently forcing me not to have another child. Still, it makes me jealous not to be able to.

1 Comment

  1. Kendra said,

    For the record, I don’t blame you one bit.

    While I don’t jump for joy and celebrate the ‘pink month’ with my pink socks, pink hat, pink coffee, and pink aspirin bottles (still trying to figure out the aftermath of BC, and what it means to me, quite frankly)…

    I sure as hell am grateful – every time I see pink – that I got the ‘high visibility’ disease, and not the one that people cannot pronounce. Truly.

    (Love the sharing / charity lessons you’re doing with Andrew… I may take a page from your book 😉

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