Broke With Envy

On Real Clear Books today, I linked to Jessa Crispin’s latest literary advice column, on the subject of envy. Jessa counsels the married friend of a jealous single woman that being there for her will be “like trying to hug a crocodile: It might need the affection, and even be desperate for it, but it’s gonna take a chunk out of you if you try.”

The advice seeker professes not to “understand it” that her friend’s still single: “she’s beautiful and smart and so funny.” I do understand it, because I have dated That Girl, and she’s ugly. Oh, sure, she might be hot but envy is just about the least attractive personality trait a girl can have. It drapes everything in very unflattering shadows.

The envious girl can’t ever enjoy herself because every experience is reduced to a vicious Darwinian struggle for status. When she doesn’t have a boyfriend, she wants other women’s husbands. When she does have a boyfriend, she wants a better one. None of this can ever make her happy because she is essentially an emotional (and, for the purposes of long term relationships, guys, financial) black hole.

To be fair, I have also counseled That Guy. In fact, I have run into him a lot in Washington DC. He usually takes the form of a writer for me, because that’s the business I’m in. He may be funny and smart and, for all I know, good looking, but he’s constantly sabotaging himself.

The man sick with envy can never enjoy his successes because of the successes of others. He takes every business decision that doesn’t go his way as a personal affront. He blows perfectly good opportunities because he wants better ones. When he gets those better opportunities, he quickly manufactures reasons why they aren’t good enough. One struggles to communicate the point to him, and then finally gives up, that envy is awful for business.

I have often heard it said that envy is the one deadly sin from which we do not derive a lick of pleasure. That’s true enough, but more needs to be said. Envy renders people beyond pleasure. It’s like perpetual starvation not because you lack food but because you are unable to derive any sustenance from your food.

Officer, I’d Like to Report a… Bookjacking

Let me preface this story by saying it has a happy but puzzling ending.

I got bookjacked last night. It was about 9 o’clock in the parking lot of Bellis Fair Mall. The book was Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory. I had just bought it at the local Barnes & Noble along with another Fussell book, then stopped into the mall to get the food court Indian restaurant’s spinach dish.

The Great War

The book was with me because I usually bring a book when I dine alone. After, when I got out to the mall parking lot, it seemed a good idea to walk around a bit before going home. A corner of the parking lot was hosting one of those movable mini fairs. This particular mini fair had a booth featuring the quarter/token game, where you aim the coin down a long chute and try to place it expertly enough to push the mass of coins and prizes toward you and over the edge when the sweeper comes forward.

One pair of fuzzy handcuffs was precariously perched, so I got $5 in tokens and circled the games to see if that was the best bet. I was half-way around the booth when someone snatched the book out of my hand and took off running.

Now, take a moment to savor my utter confusion here. Some guy had just stolen a book, from my hand, and taken off with it.

My first thought was, roughly, “Did that just happen?” Then: “I can’t believe that just happened!” Then: “Is this part of some elaborate scheme to steal something other than my book, because… who does that?” Then: “How would I feel about a society in which people cared enough about books that they went around snatching them out of people’s hands?” Then: “I just bought that book! He’s not making off with $20.”

All of these notions flashed before my mind in less than a second. I yelled “Give it back!” and started to make chase. He doubled back toward me and it was at the point, when the normal fight-or-flight reaction was about to kick in, that I recognized the thief — and his wife.

It was my friend, the very mischievous local radio station manager and talk show host Dillon Honcoop and his wife Tiffany. She had been standing next to me the whole time but my attention was diverted. Dillon told me he had seen some guy walking around a fair with a book on World War I in his hand, saw that it was me, and just couldn’t resist. Tiffany told me I should have seen the shocked/puzzled/angry look on my own face when he made off with it. I’ll bet.

Oh, and I did win that pair of fuzzy handcuffs.

Fuzzy handcuffs