After years of me begging a colleague to also teach AP English, he finally said yes; by which I mean our principal asked him once and he agreed. This week, we met a few times to collaborate on projects and discuss goals for next year. My excitement about working with another teacher on AP for the first time in seven years kindled an unexpected jealousy in my mate.
Odie is not a jealous man. He is either realistic about the chances of a 42-year-old woman with two small children trading up in Los Angeles, or he just trusts me. Even if the latter were untrue, he could take great comfort in the former.
There must have been something in my tone when I declared it “amazing” to “finally have a partner in AP English.” Something a bit too rapturous in my excitement tripped Odie’s insecurity sensors. He said something about Alexie Vera being “a handsome man” and muttered something about a forced-to-go-gay scenario and where Alexie would end up in the rankings (very high, as it turns out – though I have serious doubts since I see them both as power bottoms). I was making dinner for the kids and only half listening, so I said something like, “Sure, I guess so.”
Okay, what I actually said was, “No shit.”
That was apparently the wrong thing to say.
And yet, oh, so right.
Since Wednesday, when Mr. Vera and I met for an hour to discuss an upcoming project, Odie has been peppering his conversation with such gems as, “I know I’m no Senor Perfecto, but can you grab me a Dr. Pepper while you’re up?” and turned “Collaborating with Mr. Vera” into code for adulterous shenanigans.
It led us to a philosophical conversation about the role of jealousy in our marriage. He’s never expressed an iota of jealousy toward me, not a single drop – something that has hurt my feelings just a little bit in the past. What is that about? I have all the proof in the world that Odie loves me. He married me, had two children with me, treats me lovingly, does laundry, puts up with my bullshit. He tells me he loves me every day. He takes point with the girls since I have so much more take-home work than he. He grab-asses me all over the house all the time. I have insecurities, though. Some are the same ones I’ve always had, others are new. I have a birthday coming up, and with every passing year I feel more invisible as I disappear into the high waistband of my Mom Jeans.
When Odie says, “I trust you,” I don’t know if he means “I trust you,” or “I trust you are undesirable to others.”
On the flip side, my jealousy makes him angry. It says “I don’t trust you,” which means “You are a liar, a cheater, and a scumbag.” He claims to have a “former life” in which he was all three, and he gets self-esteem and fulfillment from the fact that he has been a devoted and faithful partner to me. I can’t even playfully tell him that I’m coming home early, so tell his girlfriend to leave.
“I know you’d never have a girlfriend over while I’m at work, honey,” I assure him. He wouldn’t either. Our house is a disaster.
Today I complimented him on his new haircut.
“I know I’m no Mr. Vera,” he smirked, “but I’m not bad-looking for my age.”
“This is just too fun,” I said. And it is. Immature and petty it may be, yet I relish Odie thinking of my head being turned by another man. It’s novel since he’s never ever ever considered it before. (But has he ever considered it before? He has not.) My inner Oscar-clutching-Sally-Field crying “You like me! You really like me!” is gratified to the roots of her eighties perm.
No doubt someone will snidely say it’s a sign of his own wandering eye and not admiration for me that makes him project insecurity. Thanks a lot, you killjoy bastard. I know that my husband looks at other women. I’m fine with it. Monogamy is a fucking tragedy, but we make it work because the benefits outweigh the sacrifices. We talked about how I would much rather have a husband who doesn’t fear losing me than a possessive, accusatory, suspicious one. Jealousy isn’t a sign of love. It’s a sign that your wife is still hot.