Please pray for Our Sister of Quiet Desperation, Jana Duggar. The tragic figure and Duggar Family "Baby-Whisperer" is 28, living with her parents, and still under the oppressive rule of beautiful-but-cruel Jessa. Yes, still. We all know the stories of how a disobedient Jessa terrorized Jana ("She’d be like, 'We’re going to do this,' and I’d be like, ‘No we’re not") and the low-key shade Jana has thrown her younger sisters ("I'm not just out to get married to the first one that comes along"). But there aren't any purse-bashing and "You're being seriously f–king rude" shouting matches on Counting On. Duggar women are not allowed to shout. But through nuance and coded language, it really seems like Jana can't stand the bossy and arrogant Jessa to this day. And to be honest, it's for good reason.
The Jewelry Box Story
The heart of the Jana-Jessa dynamic can really be boiled down to the jewelry box story, and I'm going to tackle it from two angles. Let's all turn to page 60 of Growing Up Duggar and gaze upon the passage, "A Memorable Lesson." Jana recounts how when she was eight and Jessa was six, Jessa would kick her bunk bed in the middle of the night. "That bother you up there, Jana?" she would say with a giggle, the little monster. Jana insists that Jim Bob and Michelle were tirelessly consistent about scolding Jessa, but Jessa was also "tirelessly consistent with her aggravating ways." Tastes like sour grapes to me.
Tiny Jana prays a lot for help and gets stressed when it's insinuated that the number of times you're supposed to forgive your sibling is 70 times 7, which really means infinity (if it was really 490, Jana "probably could've stopped forgiving Jessa right then.") She goes to her mom for help but Michelle, void of any real parenting skills it seems, throws another Bible passage at her and says Jana should turn the other cheek and give Jessa something nice. Jana decides to give Baby Monster Jessa her most prized possession (not her virginity): a pink jewelry box filled with treats. You know, even though she "didn't want to" and "definitely didn't feel like doing it."
That's one retelling, and it's stoically written with blink-and-you'll-miss it digs. However, there's a more heart-breaking rendition of the tale that appeared on 19 Kids and Counting so infamous that I wasted good Starbucks money watching it on YouTube, needing to see it for myself.
In "Grand Ole Duggars" Jill, Jana, Jessa and Jinger go to an ATI conference to talk about relationships, and when discussing relationships between siblings, Jana brings up the jewelry box story. Things are going well, she mentions that Jessa was an awful child and she struggled with making her sister stop. "How I can I work this out, I don't want to go through my entire life having this bad relationship, it's not like you can avoid your siblings," she recounts. Then, the cracks begin to show when she mentions giving up something that was precious and treasured to her. "It wasn't Jessa's birthday, it wasn't…anything, it was a random day, and I was just saying, you know…" Jana trails off, the tears beginning to well. Finally, brave-faced and crying, she says, "There are people that may hurt us, there are people that may have done things to us, and that…it is our responsibility to forgive."
Even if you don't care at all about the Duggars and want to fling your Mac Book across the room whenever their name is uttered, you can't deny how heartbreaking that is. While the Growing Up Duggar version shows snippets of Jana's resentment, this recounting shows her frustration, and sadness. If you want to take a step further, it feels like I'm reading a bit of Josh into the last statement. But fans — I'm not going to take credit for this observation, although I strongly agree — have said it seems like the moment when Jana realized her life was a series of sacrifices and servitude. And it all starts with one tiny Duggar kicking on her bedframe.
The Cinderella Duggar
Jana, tirelessly toiling in the Duggar compound as an ersatz nanny to the little kids, often gets pegged being a Fundie Cinderella. Honestly? Re-examine the Jessa and Jana dynamic and it feels more like a Snow White/Evil Queen vibe. Jessa is royalty in the House of Seewald and her beauty makes her stand out amongst her sisters. And even after leaving the house, she makes Jana wait on her hand and foot. When little Spurgeon was born, Jana came over to watch over the baby while Jessa got her beauty rest. Jessa later made it sound like she was taking care of the baby 24/7. Oh, and at Jessa's second baby shower, Jana was stuck heading decoration duty and shared subtle annoyance with Jackson. When asked how many baby showers he's helped with, Jackson stutters until Jana interrupts with, "Too many to count." Yikes.
Plus, let's not forget when Jessa recruited Jana to help out with home improvements. Because what's funnier than making Jana do some manual labor while Jessa coos at her baby all like, "I made this"?
Jessa aggravates Jana's constant conflict. As the eldest daughter, Jana spent most of her life raising mom and pop's excessive offspring. And now she has to help out with all the Next Gen Michelles? No thank you.
The Wedding Bragger
When Jessa, on the tails of Jill, got married it was a classic 27 Dresses situation for Jana. We cringed with her when she had to try on those heinous coral-colored bridesmaids dresses and refuse to come out. We know how painful it is to be stuck in a wedding while you're single, we know how it sucks standing next to your younger relative while she looks like a princess and you're forced to look like an piece of salmon. It must have hurt Jana tremendously to help Jessa out with that wedding. Unfortunately, it's a pain she may not ever escape because it's four years later and Jessa still can't stop bringing up her wedding day.
And wait, there's more! What ultimately set me off was this video of the girls planning a "Sibling Present For Joy." In the clip, Jessa invites herself to the Duggar compound, shoves a baby in Jana's hands because lol that's her job, and brings up their 19-year-old sister's upcoming nuptials. Please watch Jana's face while Jessa is talking:
Wow, just wow.
It is insane to me that Jessa had the nerve to go to Jana of all people about planning a wedding basket for Joy, like Jana doesn't have enough on her plate, like Jana even gives a f–k about a Duggar family celebration anymore. Seriously, she knows Josie's going to get married before her at this point, and when she suggests "construction hats" as the something new, it betrays her lack of caring. But she also looks visibly crushed during this conversation, and when she says "Yeah," in the video (which really needs to be witnessed) her voice cracks. She's on the verge of tears.
So what's more disturbing here — the idea that Jessa is ignorant to the fact that this would upset Jana? Or the sheer fact that she can joke about not cooking "a whole lot" to a woman who only leaves the kitchen for church? Like really, we couldn't make this a John David project?
When people talk about the Jana and Jessa "feud" it really seems like most of the attacks are one-sided, with Jessa softly twisting a knife and Jana using her sorrowful eyes to scream at the camera. And it feels upsetting that I, someone who doesn't think about the family once I leave my office, have more respect and empathy for Jana than her own sister. It's really hard to like Jessa because of that.
And because she's basically smug and two-faced. Hey, just because Jana can't shout doesn't mean I won't.