I read a quote of Marilyn Monroe’s once that really struck a chord with me. She said that being famous is experiencing “Life as an Object”. And it struck me as so true. There are of course benefits to being famous, if you’re successful, can support your family, people give you good service in restaurants and allegedly treat you well. There are undeniable advantages, but also downsides that people don’t think about, everything from kidnapping threats, to hate mail, and random insults from strangers, who are inexplicably angry that you’re famous. People take advantage of you, lie about you, try to use you in subtle or obvious ways. I find that if you’re famous, you have to work ten times as hard, proving that you’re a nice person and a real one, because people automatically assume that you’re not a nice person if you’re famous, how could you be? Well, you can be. Nice people get famous too. It happens. You don’t necessarily become famous by being a monster, usually you become famous by being competent at what you do. Why would that make you a bad person? One of my best friends admits that before she met me, she thought she would hate me, and was surprised when she didn’t. Another friend says much the same thing. Why is the presumption that one will be hateful or worth hating, if one is famous? That’s a tough assumption to make about someone, and really not fair.
Beyond that, we are all targets for jealousy among those we know. It is stunning to realize how many jealous people there are in the world. We are all vulnerable to other people’s jealousy, because of how we look, or what we have, who we are related to, who our children are, the size of our house, or even for things we can’t imagine. Somewhere out there among those we know, or those we don’t, are people envious of what we have and angry that we have it. In the recent embezzlement I experienced, the embezzler told the court that she had done it out of jealousy, purely that. She envied what I have, so she decided to just take it, and cited jealousy as the reason. It’s pretty scary to think that anyone could be that jealous of us. And I’m sure there are people who are jealous of you too. And jealous people don’t want to just take things, they want to take our happiness, our peace of mind, our good reputations. I find that kind of unseen and unsuspected jealousy focused on me profoundly upsetting. Even if all someone is jealous of is the handbag you’re wearing, or the vacation you’re about to take, I find it a very scary thing. None of us want that kind of negative attention focused on us. Sometimes even the people we love are jealous of us. And unhappy people don’t want others to be happy, they are not happy about your good relationship or your happy marriage, they are jealous of it and wish you didn’t have it. That is just plain scary!!! And the more you have, emotionally or materially, the bigger target you are for other people’s jealousy.
As a woman, it complicates things even further. It’s okay for a man to be successful, but for most people, and most men, it is not okay for a woman to be successful. A man is presumed to be a hero if he’s successful, and others flock around him, women want to be with him, and men want to be his friend, hoping that some of that good fortune will rub off. If a woman is successful, it is instantly assumed that she must be tough as nails, probably a bitch (sorry to be so blunt), or even surely a bitch (even if she clearly isn’t), and men are terrified of her. In thinking about it, I have never been involved with a single man, married to one or otherwise, who wasn’t jealous and angry about my success, overtly or covertly. Some are actually brave enough to say it, and have, others take it out on you and punish you subtly and not so subtly. I have never known a single man who could tolerate my success, without punishing me for it. And most men wouldn’t come near a woman who is successful. Success is almost a guarantee of solitude for a woman, or a beacon to people who want to take advantage of it. It makes one’s seat at the top of the mountain a lonely place, unnecessarily so. There are plenty of successful women who are nice people, but few men who are willing to believe that, can tolerate it, or want to give her a chance. And there is a definite double standard for men and women. Most men are suspicious of successful women. But they admire a successful man.
I hate to admit, but I think Marilyn was right. Fame really can lead to people treating you like an object. And beyond that, jealousy is such a dangerous thing. It leads people to do terrible things to other people. I have spent an entire lifetime downplaying my success, in the world, and with those close to me, trying to live quietly, and living ‘below the radar’, without offending anyone, but in spite of that there will always be people who dismiss you, or want to hurt you for being successful. It really is a shame. I think jealousy is one of the most destructive forces in the world. And jealous people are good to stay away from, if we are aware that they are. And you don’t have to be famous to be a target for jealousy, all you have to have is something that someone else wants. Let’s all hope that we stay away from the jealous people in our lives!!! They’re good people to stay away from!!!