Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Life Cycle of a Resentment

I’m not one to hold on to resentments. Thanks to Ebola, I've learned that my resentment cycle is similar to what the human body goes through when infected with a virus. I get actively angry for a few days (entry), storyboard elaborate revenge fantasies in my head involving the shaming and embarrassment of my resentee (replication/shredding), then let it all go, usually having done nothing (latency, "proliferation of the virus particles has ceased, however, the viral genome is not fully eradicated"). Probably the last real resentment I had was towards a friend’s wife, and while I’ve done things to her in my head, and to her image, via Photoshop, that I'm not proud of, I’m to that stage in my resentment cycle where she rents no space in my head, if I don’t go out of my way to think about her existing.

A few weeks ago I sent out a book review to a website. I’d originally sent it to another website, one that I read all the time, and have erotic fantasies about its editor- in- chief, but they messaged me back that they had commissioned a review of the same book to someone else, the week before. I didn’t really care either way about the website I send the review to next. I liked it well-enough, but really, I'd spent a bit of time on the review, and just wanted to see it up somewhere.

Let’s say the editor of the second website was named Jessa. Let's say that even though I got her name right in her email address, I didn’t get it right in the note I sent along with the review. Let's say I addressed my email message to Jessica not Jessa.

If you didn't know, my name is Fiona. My whole life people have gotten my name wrong. I've been called Frances. Something about a first name starting with the letter F that's not Frank or Fred throws people. I'd be an idiot if all these years into my life I still let it bother me. If the definition of "insanity" is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results, the sub- definition is still getting mad about something that you've had years to develop a thick skin about. (Obviously, this doesn't apply to violent assault, and the like.)

Five minutes after hitting send, an email appeared in my inbox. This was good, because usually if an editor replies fast, it means they like your work.

“Dear Fiona,” it began.

“Word of advice: if you don't want your writing to end up in an editor’s trash unread get their name right.”

No signature.

My first inclination was that she was right. Her response was very effective, because I was instantly in a state of deep mortification, and got on the phone to go and cry to a friend. But soon afterward, I started to get angry. From one often screwed up first named person to another, words (because more than one word is plural) of advice: Chill sister. Then it occurred to me, this person is making a lot of assumptions. This person doesn't know me. She doesn't know my circumstances. For all this person knows, I could have composed that email on shitty voice activated software after losing my arms in a fire. Maybe my hard of hearing home health care worker composed that email for me, absolving me of any responsibility and making me the improper beneficiary of her snooty words of advice. What did she know, maybe ableist.

So I composed this response:

Dear J,

Thank you so much for your timely response. F. who is lying here besides me, shivering in her bed sheets, yet somehow managing to look angelic, would want me to stress to you how grateful she is for this. Being that she is so vulnerable to infection, timely responses to her email inquiries, especially ones in regard to her writing, have taken on a great and dark importance. We are, after all, talking about her legacy. Death portends.

I have to make this fast. Because of the state war machine, budget cuts are again victimizing the most vulnerable among us, and my hours helping F. as her eyes, her ears, and-- I am woe to admit-- as her editor have been greatly reduced.

Your response shook me, J. If it can be any consolation to your delicate sensibilities, I want to come clean to you about something.

I see Jessicas.

That infamous Missouri outlaw shot down by a treacherous friend? Jessica James. That wrestler who held public office in Minnesota? Jessica Ventura. It's like tunnel vision. I can't explain it. Any name that begins with Je: Jessica Lopez. Jessica Aniston. I even hear names this way. Rick Springfield's song is an anthem of equality with gender neutral pronouns as he wishes he had Jessica's girl.

Do you remember that movie, with Bruce Willis, and that darling, cone headed boy, Haley Joel Osment? The name of the film escapes me, but there was that famous line of dialogue from the film that was everywhere for a moment: "I see dead people."

I see Jessicas.

I thought I had it under control; I reinvented myself as one of the people who refer to others by their last names. People assumed I was a gym teacher.

Do what you must J. Empty the email from the trash. Rid yourself of it for good; but please, do not hold my affliction against the poor, wounded girl who lies besides me.

I have told her and will tell her nothing of this exchange.

Love and other indoor sports,



It’s a few weeks later, and while I've yet to hear a response, I’m happy to report I am 100% resentment-free.

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