Thursday, January 03, 2008

"Life is Like a Box of Chocolates"

I intended to take a nice little break from thinking about narcissism between Christmas and New Years Day. Instead, I ended up with one in my living room for three days.

How does this happen? eHarmony. I'm not blaming eHarmony; it isn't their fault. It serves as an explanation. My daughter met a young man who is her age, same religious background, same political views, similar hobbies and interests about six months ago. I could tell he wasn't lightin' her fire, but she was hanging in there because, on paper, it seemed like they should work. They exchanged emails for awhile, then they started talking on the phone once or twice a week. He leads his profile with the fact that he is an introvert. My daughter is a little introverted herself, so she didn't have a problem with that although, at first, the phone conversations were filled with many silences. It improved as he became more comfortable talking about what interested him. He never showed much interest in my daughter's state of mind or her inner life. An early sign of what was to come.

He told her right after Thanksgiving that he wanted to come visit her during his vacation between Christmas and New Years. She asked my husband and me if it was okay since it is our home. We agreed. This young man lives a few states away so he flew into town. He showed up at our door bright and early on Thursday morning, Dec. 27. His intention was to stay until his Sunday evening flight out. By the way, I stipulated that he get a motel room. It ended up being the only way to get him out of our house. He came and camped on our couch from morning 'til night and wouldn't leave until he was told we were going to bed.

I will not torture you as I was tortured with the interminable visit. My poor daughter confessed she knew he was not going to work out after the first hour of the visit. I have to say, I had my doubts within minutes of meeting him. Not knowing yet my daughter's reaction, I tried to stay optimistic. Optimism died and assumed room temperature before the second day was over.

What we ended up with was a covert narcissist. A cerebral covert narcissist. I haven't as much experience with that type of narcissist with the exception of my first husband, minus the cerebral part. A quote from my daughter, "They say that girls often marry someone like their father; well, if I married M, I would be marrying my biological father." My mouth fell open. I had seen that fact and had talked about it privately with my husband the night before. She obviously saw it too. The similarities were stunning. Guess I shouldn't have been surprised she saw the similarities, it is just that I hardly ever think about the man who occupied only a few years of my early adult life. He was in my daughter's life even less. Apparently, though, she spent enough time with her bio dad to get a real bead on his character.

Not all narcissistically driven people are charming or glib. It is possible for a narcissistic individual to be shy and lacking in social graces. They are shy when they are not in surroundings which cater to their grand sense of themselves. This young man flatters himself on being cerebral, but the evidence of three intensive days of contact revealed that he isn't nearly as smart as he thinks he is. He has very little sense of humor. No wit whatsoever. My daughter had noted his lack of humor very early on, but decided to overlook it. (She is quite a wit herself.) My husband is very well educated and holds degrees. This is what proves to this young man that someone may be smart. (Which leaves me and my daughter out!) Nevertheless, on the first day he treated both my husband and myself more like peers (we are only about five years younger than his parents) and was very competitive in the conversations. The old one-up kind of thing where no matter what you say, he can do you one better. We didn't play the game. It became apparent to this clod that my husband is very intelligent and so M stopped being competitive and was less condescending.

In the early part of the book, "The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists", the author talks about overt and covert narcissists. She states that no matter how they differ in presentation the basic dynamics of the disorder are identical. Time and a deepening of a relationship with a covert narcissist is what eventually reveals the pathology. Thankfully, this young man's narcissism was very apparent to us quite early on. The third day was when M started feeling much more comfortable in our home. The more he relaxed, the more we could see the pathology of his soul.

Eleanor Payson, the author of the above mentioned book, has a list in her chapter two summary. It is a list of the key characteristics of the narcissistic personality. Under the "Excessively" category she lists, "Demonstrates a grandiose sense of entitlement--a hallmark!" Emphasis hers. This, my friends, was the most early and obvious demonstration of the narcissism of this young man. I have never, and I mean never, had such a rude and ungrateful person in my home. Even my mother could simulate a veneer of gratitude from time to time. This young man could not thank anyone for anything...and didn't...not even once. He received our warm hospitality as if it was his due. As I brought him beverages or snacks he would avoid any eye contact and would act like I wasn't there.

He is vegetarian. He knows we are not. Yet I made a very nice vegetarian meal for him. (I used to be vegetarian so I am a good vegetarian cook.) Not one acknowledgment of my effort. Not one thank you. It was stunning. I was under no obligation to feed this guy or to entertain him. He was supposedly here to court my daughter. He sat like a lump and would not initiate anything. He made one decision during the whole visit. The rest of the time it was up to us to try to divine what to do to entertain him. It was apparent that he felt he did all the effort by getting on an airplane to come visit our daughter. Everything else was his due. Nothing we did was ever going to be more than what he did, in his thinking. To say his visit was exhausting for the three of us is an understatement. He drained us all dry.

Some of the biggest red flag behaviors were: Lack of gratitude. Inability to apologize (he did something to my daughter he should have apologized for when it became clear he had screwed up. Nothing. He acted like it didn't happen.) Impatient. (He became impatient with my daughter on the first day when she irritated him by asking him how he liked his sandwich made!! She was having a hard time divining his desires because he couldn't give her a direct, straight answer to her questions.) Passive, but only as a way to avoid any responsibility for the outcome. Juvenile behavior in his attempt to initiate physical contact with my daughter, i.e. poking her in the ribs or throwing decorative pillows at her face. Arrogance in his religiosity. He thinks himself to be spiritually superior to all of us (not eating meat is one area he feels makes him superior. Interesting, he is fat, we are not. Yet he is still superior to us in diet.) When it became apparent my husband and I know our Bible much better than he does, he became completely passive again during a conversation on religious topics. He started out feisty and challenging. Ended up sitting there like a lump when he realized he wasn't going to be able to force us to take his point of view since he couldn't Biblically prove his point of view.

My daughter put us all out of our misery on Sunday morning. That was going to be his last day of the visit. She couldn't endure another moment of him, so she called him at his motel room and told him that she appreciated that he made the effort to come see her because it has made many things clear...we are not a match. The visit is over. He was very passive, as he had been the whole visit, and simply said, "okay". He got to spend the day all by himself. And we reclaimed a day of our weekend. There was much jubilation. As far as internet dating goes, you can learn more in one hour face-to-face than in months of phone calls and emails. No gettin' around that fact.

I could sit here and outline the many other things he unknowingly revealed about his character while he was here, but I doubt it would be helpful for anyone. Every creep has his own unique mixture of qualities. So I won't bother to paint a full picture of his special blend of jerk, oaf and asshole characteristics. Besides that, he was overwhelmingly boring. There is no need to bore you the way we were forced to be bored for three full days. I will take mercy on my readers. This post is to serve as an explanation for my absence on my blog and an interesting little twist on how life can serve up a narcissist when you least expect one.

[Icon by scarymime]


Cassandra said...

Wow. Just. Wow.

I guess the good thing about this was that your daughter saw him for what he is. It could have been worse--she could have become enamored with him. *Shudder* Kudos to you for training your daughter well, and kudos to your daughter for seeing clearly. And more kudos to you for being patient until *she* told him not to come back.

So, what IS in a heart? said...

Honestly, the coverts are nearly always worse because oftentimes, you DON'T notice until too late. At least he wasn't as smart as he thought he was. Can you imagine if he WERE? Those are the scariest kinds of Narcs/abusers because in some cases, it can take a long time to detect them.

K said...

Thank God your daughter saw him for what he was, good for her and good for you for raising her so well.

Anonymous said...

Your box of chocolates reference reminds me of a skit by the Monty Python crowd. Here's a link.

Personally I think your weekend sounded a lot like the 'spring surprise'.

Hope your cheeks have recovered.

Oh, and Happy New Year (?).

Barbara said...

Oh dear

Tell your daughter she might be dating my STBX husband... and to RUN SCREAMING.

You just described him to a TEE.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much. I am realizing someone else in my life is a cerebral N- I was so trained by the somatic N- I feel for it.

But self-absorbed, boring, self-righteous and always having to be in control.....BINGO

Sorry you endured him- thank God daughter figured him out- small mercies!!!

Anonymous said...

Oh, what a great story! I'm so sorry you had to endure three full days with this "lump", but I'm sure your daughter learned something from this experience. One thing that stuck out for me is that she didn't trust her first impressions ("he wasn't lightin' her fire"). That's a big lesson for all of us to trust those first impressions we get -- gut instincts that something isn't right. I can't tell you how many times I didn't trust my gut and kept on going with a relationship that wasn't good for me. Kudos to your daughter for figuring it out all on her own -- a testament to her upbringing!

This "boyfriend" story reminds me of my ex-possible N-boyfriend story. The first time I talked with him on the phone (we weren't officially dating yet. Just getting to know each other over the phone), he asked me, "Do you know what the capital of Mongolia is?" Mind you, we weren't talking about geography or anything. He was still in high school and maybe he was learning about Mongolia in one of his classes. I don't know, but I still think it's strange that he would ask me this question. Who the heck really cares what the capital of Mongolia is!!! I certainly didn't and still don't!

Anyway, I told him that I didn't know and then he smugly gave me the answer. In case you care to know, it's Ulaanbaatar. And yes, I did have to go look up how to spell that.

So, the next day I talked with him on the phone. You know what he asked me AGAIN? You guessed it! I again didn't know the answer to his question as I didn't know I needed to study and remember the answer to the question. I swear he did this to me at least two more times. Obviously I can past the "test" now. This SHOULD have been a BIG, GIGANTIC RED FLAG, but it wasn't and I headed into almost four years of abuse by him. Yes, I'll call it abuse as he slowly and surely kept me down. And he made it known early on in our relationship that his family lineage was from Boston and that made him special for some reason. Now mind you, he was born and breed in the same small town that I grew up. But he held on tight to his thourghbreed degree!

I look at this incident and it was like he was making it clear that he was the "smart one" in the relationship. It's true, after those conversations I did feel like he "had one up" on me. I guess that's why I remember these conversations so well to this day and it's been 23 YEARS since we had these phone conversations.

And the really sad ending to this story (or maybe it's a good ending?) is that I contacted him a few years ago to see how he was doing. I CHOSE to forget all the bad stuff and decided let "bygones be bygones" Well, that was a BIG MISTAKE. The best thing we can do is to REMEMBER the bad stuff, too. The character flaws. The lies. All the bad and hurtful ways they treated us and the hurtful things they said.

I contacted him to see how he was doing (I was feeling nostalgic because my high school reunion had just passed). Well, he was doing just fine and dandy and honestly, I was very happy for him. I won't go into all the details as then I won't be anonymous anymore. But then one thing that stands out to me is that he couldn't be happy for me. NOT ONCE did he say anything positive to me (not that we had a million emails between us). It was still ALL ABOUT HIM. I won't go on anymore about this....

I guess I'm choosing to see this as a happy ending instead of thinking, "Why did you go back there and dredge up all that old hell craziness?!". The reason is that I can now see that's he's a part of this N thread that is a part of my life. I don't want to repeat the mistakes that I've made, so I needed to learn that I was truly in an unhealthy relationship right from the start.