"Idolspize": When jealousy and envy aren't enough

Admire her so much that you can barely stand the thought of her!

Published February 23, 2006 1:38AM (EST)

The idea that women often compete with one another -- whether it's for a romantic interest or an important promotion at work -- isn't new. But now we have a new term to describe the phenomenon: "idolspize."

In a Washington Post article, Ann Hornaday details her realization that a troubling new emotion has emerged in modern life, one that lies somewhere between envy and idolatry. This realization came after she stumbled upon a magazine article about New Yorker writer Susan Orlean. She's intelligent, successful and happily married, has a beautiful house, and is photogenic to boot. But worst of all, Orlean is a better version of herself -- everything that Hornaday imagines that she could have been.

She writes that these objects of our confused envy/idolatry "seem to have sprung fully formed from our ugliest competitive streaks, our egos at their most fragile, our deepest self-loathing. They are our own squandered potential, fully realized." Rather than disturbingly perfect, untouchable celebrities, these are the real-life women you grew up with, went to school with or live down the street from, and you aren't sure whether you admire them or want to see them fail (or both).

I'm not exactly convinced that the terms "jealousy" and "envy" were so awfully insufficient to begin with, but Hornaday raises an interesting question: Do men idolspize? "Or do they have more psychologically healthy means of competing, like sports, boardroom coups, barroom brawls? Is idolspizolatry women's response to the have-it-all myths of post-feminist culture?"

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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