As a kid I often felt inadequate, unable to communicate, inferior in some way to almost everyone I met. But I had never felt jealousy until I fell in love.
Jorge was not much taller than I was, and it was comforting to be on the same level, looking into his dark brown eyes. He was 19, a handsome Portuguese student at a business college in Leeds, Yorkshire, and I was a fifth former at a girls’ high school, and a Girl Guide lieutenant with promises to keep.
Jorge was something of an artist and he said my eyes were my best feature, and that men should praise a beautiful girl for her brains and a brainy girl for her beauty. Apparently I had neither, and so I fell hopelessly in love with him. That is such a cliché, but there was never any hope: our upbringing and requirements were continents apart. He invited me to a party and I learned from one of the students that we were celebrating Jorge’s engagement to a German lass. I downed an overfull glass of burgundy and went home weeping.
A newcomer to our class that year was a tall, well-built girl who put on lipstick in the school bus going home. She’d even had her ears pierced, a continental fashion disapproved of for English gels until at least university age. In the 1950s we risked being sent to the headmistress if we were seen without gloves and beret while in school uniform, even out of school. Helen had been to a co-ed school in another town, and I envied her nonchalance and implied experience. One day when I was goalie in a hockey match, Helen strolled over and told me she’d met my friend Jorge at the Domino, a milk bar-cum-coffee shop in the city. Milk bars and juke boxes were new arrivals, instantly overflowing with the bearded arty set and closely followed by the word ‘trendy’. Jorge was back and fancy free again, it seemed.
Before I could answer I felt an unfamiliar sensation –– a terrible anger mixed with humiliation, loss and a feeling of betrayal, all aimed at Jorge and his wanderlust, and Helen who wouldn’t play the game. She had become the enemy. I felt as if I could snarl back something rude and crude to this girl whom I hardly knew, and blot my copybook for ever. It was my first pang of jealousy. It was so frighteningly intense, so unwelcome and foreign to my nature, that my soul recoiled from it. It seemed like an evolutionary backward plunge, and in that instant I intuitively understood the Buddhist aversion to attachment and suffering. Then and there, I consciously annulled all possessiveness of Jorge, man, beast or thing, so that ever since, though sometimes misconstrued, I have tiptoed carefully past the sleeping dog of jealousy.