Why Aren’t People Talking About Me Behind My Back?

Posted on September 30, 2013

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talking behind back

They say “success breeds envy,” and I spend a lot of time wondering: If I’m as successful as I think, why aren’t more people envious of me? And when I say ‘why aren’t more people envious of me?’ I could just as easily write, ‘why aren’t any people envious of me?’

And why aren’t more people talking trash about me behind my back? After thirty-five years of major successes, the only person I’m certain talks behind my back is my mom. And I’m not even sure I can count my mom’s criticism as taking place behind my back since it usually starts to my face, and she just keeps talking as I walk away.

You know that awkward feeling you get when you approach a group of people and they suddenly stop talking and everyone wears an awkward expression, and you realize they had just been talking about you?

I don’t. And I would give anything to experience that feeling. When I approach a group at a cocktail party, nobody looks up with an awkward expression. As a matter of fact, most of the time, nobody even looks up.

You know that feeling you get when you tell someone about a recent success and she says she’s happy for you, but you can tell she’s lying and deep down she’s insanely jealous?

Not me. I would give anything for that feeling. Mostly it seems people are genuinely happy for me. Or indifferent. Or confused: “I’m sorry, but who are you again?”

You know that feeling you get when your son returns from a friend’s house, and you ask whether his friend’s dad had mentioned you or asked how much you could bench press, and your son always says no, and you ask what he heard while listening at the parents’ door, and he says he doesn’t listen at the parents’ door and acts offended like he’s your moral superior, and this goes on for years and years, and then one day he says ‘Yes, his dad mentioned you and seemed really jealous,’ but he can’t look you in the eye, and you realize your son is taking pity on you?

I do.

I can’t help but wax existential. What does it all mean? How can life have meaning if nobody sees your life, weighs it against his own and wants to trade? How can I have reached this stage of my life without accumulating any enemies besides printers? (See You in Hell, Printer) (CNET) And Vin Diesel. Also a lot of husbands. Also all those people who consider it a personal affront that I never got past the first episodes of Mad Men, Breaking Bad, or The Wire.

If I can’t make others envious, what else makes life worth living?

And please don’t say charity work.

Posted in: Columns