December 18, 2016 (Sunday)

by Yule Heibel on December 17, 2017

I didn’t get to it in yesterday’s pages, but another mordant insight from McBride’s book is that the narcissistic mother is envious of the daughter. This certainly applied in myriad ways at home, and might actually explain why my mother actively thwarted any attempts on my part to have my life be enriched in any way, whether through extracurricular lessons or public (free) education. Regarding the former, one of my early memories: me telling her I’d like to learn ballet, and her telling me no, because I would just lose interest after a while – i.e., belittling my desire as mere “whim” – and that therefore it would be useless to start, and that we couldn’t afford to give me lessons. I could grasp the latter (we were poor), but this message (you’ll lose interest – you’re a “loser” – so what’s the point?) was beyond reasonable, albeit drilled in repeatedly, topped with the inspiring mantra of “Don’t try too hard, you’ll only be disappointed.” I get that she was probably talking about herself, but why program a child so perniciously? Regarding the latter (free education which cost her nothing): she avoided showing any interest, not even coming to special ceremonies where I received school-wide academic awards, never mind blowing off PTA meetings on principle. By the time I reached high school I was really in trouble, with skipping out and getting high being my double major. But when I brought home a report card with something less than an A for the first time, my father upbraided me. Not that previously straight A reports earned any approbation, but w/e. Dysfunctional, mixed message household.

Then there was her fury – completely inexplicable to me at the time – over W. I was visiting them in Vancouver, and W. was visiting Canada, culminating in meeting me in Vancouver. He stayed at a hotel and I stayed with them in their apartment. My mother nearly had a fit because he dropped by “unexpectedly” one mid-morning (he failed to schedule an appointment, how dare he!), and she showed other signs of fury throughout, too. On a walk with my father, I – with quite a bit of pain – puzzled aloud over this and asked why she was acting this way. His response, somewhat sheepish, and also delicately put, was, “She’s jealous.” Now, at the time I interpreted it to mean jealous of W. because he would take me from her, which even at that time made little sense since she didn’t exactly show any maternal interest in my overall welfare anyway. Now I see it as narcissistic envy – and I’m reminded that years earlier, when she was younger, she got quite excited by my sister’s Mexican macho beau, X. – a real man’s man, she seemed to think. There, too, this narcissistic desire to appropriate the daughter’s boyfriend… With W., that urge, as a sexual expression, was diminished. But not the envy. I also see my father as a 150% enabler of her pathologies. I say “pathologies” because, like afflictions, these traits aren’t fateful in the sense of being inevitable, and they don’t, I suppose, fundamentally alter the underlying goodness-es of a person. If the ability to empathize has gone AWOL, it’s not that it was never there. The person has made conscious and unconscious decisions to extirpate it, and these decisions have their reasons. Still, though, the “collateral” damage on children is enormous.

In other news: we went to Z. and R.’s Open House / Christmas / Holiday Party yesterday. It was sweet. A. and C. had a chance to talk; I chatted at length with a woman named J. who moved here from Port Townsend WA; met Z.’s new neighbors; and Z. and S. sang while R., another guy, and S. also played guitar, and we all sang together, too. It was fun. And, curious coincidence because McBride had asked, “What did you love doing as a child,” a question I hate because I can literally never think of anything. But then I remembered singing and how good I was at it, how I enjoyed it …and my mother discouraged it, but I sang in the truck driving to work on construction sites with my father.

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