“Why do you and Chad need separate computers?” my friend asked me the other day. “We wouldn’t be together without them,” I glibly replied. “But why?” Why indeed. The first thing that came to mind was competition. We are very, very competitive sometimes. This is also my answer to other questions, such as: “Why don’t you two play cards against each other?” and the like. We get along quite well, but there has always been an element of competition in our relationship, and frankly, I like it.
I compete with other people in my own mind, as well. I seem to be constantly striving towards “most interesting person so-and-so knows,” now that I don’t care to be the best dressed or the cutest. I don’t know if I would be crushed to find out that I am not the most interesting person someone knows; I’d probably (egocentrically) consider it a clerical error in the great ledger of the universe, and move on. I don’t compete to be the best darn liberry grrl at work anymore; I think my work ethic has gone on sabbatical. I don’t have many, if any, competitive feelings within my family; my parents always instilled in me a sense of uniqueness and importance, and they always seem to be proud of me no matter what I do.
I’ll be driving along, pretending to be a spy (as I’ve done since childhood) and peering at all the unsuspecting humans, and I don’t need to compete with them, either. I know I’m human, so that’s not it. So why Chad, my best friend, husband, and all-around companion and confidante? I think it has to do with admiration. I really admire many things about Chad: his charisma, his sense of humour, his talent, his way of dealing with random salespeople without going freakin’ nanners like I do. So many things. Things that I want to work on in myself.
Then there’s Kite. I compete with her regularly, although I pretend not to. When I first read her poetry, I was blown away. I read a lot of poetry, some published and some not, and most of it doesn’t do much for me. But hers – and her prose, as well – I was shaken after I read it. We had some friends in common when we first started talking regularly, and I sometimes had pangs of jealousy: did they think she was cooler, more interesting, funnier than I was? For a while I was angry. I didn’t want to hang out with those friends anymore, since they liked her too; I didn’t understand how they could like both of us at the same time, since I had made it into a “one or the other” issue in my own mind. I’m not sure when I realized that we were different people, with different strengths, different styles of poetry, and we didn’t have to compete. Maybe it was when she told me she thought I was a good writer. That also floored me. Anyway, something changed between us, and now the only competition left behind is the good kind, the kind I like in my relationship with Chad, the you-challenge-me-and-I-like-that kind. I’m often self-conscious about writing alongside her in this journal because her depth of emotion and experience seem so far beyond mine. So that, I compete with, and I know it makes me a better person.
And then, perhaps competition to me has to do with “not knowing where I stand” with someone. I had no idea where I stood with Kite for a long, long time, and it bothered me. We seemed to like each other in tides: one day, we were almost friends, and the next, we were cool and indifferent towards each other. I always wanted to ask her what she thought of me; instead of doing that, I hung out and did the best I could to “keep up” as I saw it. I have to compete with my friends so they’ll show me where I am on their personal coolness scale. Good, then it’s all tied up with self-affirmation and ego and all these things I already know about myself.
But maybe it’s not. Maybe I’m competing with other people, people I like a lot, so I really will try and be better than they are at something. I mean, if it’s something I absolutely cannot do, like swim, then I’m not going to try to be an Olympic swimmer. I don’t even feel bad when someone’s a good swimmer. But if it’s something that I can somewhat do, like write, then I’m in automatic competitive mode (at least with the writers I respect).
And being a woman – heh. I compete with just about every woman I know. I don’t mean competing with glossy airbrushed pictures in a magazine; I mean real women. And that’s not bad, either. It encourages self-examination, and pride. I don’t mean competing so far as attractiveness, either. The older I get, the less I worry about that. No time. No, competing with other women has to do with who’s more down-to-earth, or fun, or intelligent. Back to the traits I admire thing again. Well, this all makes sense. I’m glad.
I was beginning to think I was less rational than – er. Nevermind.