I’ve said a lot of negative things about my mother, but I don’t hate her. Today I was thinking about how she got to be the way she is. While most narcissistic psychopaths are probably genetically predisposed to this condition and are missing the part of the brain that causes them to have empathy and compassion for others (actually it’s just not functioning properly), in most cases there are also psychological factors. Many psychopaths and narcissists were abused or neglected children, whose own parents failed to mirror them adequately as young children. So as unpleasant as they may be, their condition is not their fault. It was done to them.
I’ve already described my mother as a vain, self-centered, image conscious woman who almost always put her own needs ahead of those of her children and husbands, and chose me (as the youngest) to be her scapegoat. At times I was also her golden child, especially prior to my teen years when I started to rebel, and she loved to make me in her own image, dressing me up like I was a little doll. She expected me to act like one too, and flew into a rage if I ever had an opinion of my own or dared to challenge her.
The story I’m going to tell is gleaned from the scant bits and pieces I heard over the years, most of it described by people other than my mother. Like most narcissists, my mother is stunningly lacking in introspection. She almost never talked about her past or her childhood, and the few times she did, it was negative. Most of her anger seemed to be directed toward her mother, who she spoke of with contempt the few times she did mention her.
Ginny was a beautiful child with big blue eyes and light red hair. Somewhere in my mother’s home there’s a photo of her at about age two, and she is dressed in a pink and white dress with a Peter Pan collar, her bright hair is done in a 1930s bob, and she’s sitting in an oversized chair holding a large teddy bear on her lap. On her feet are brown high top shoes, and her little feet are sticking straight out toward the camera. Ginny’s expression is solemn, almost sad. In fact, she looks close to tears. I will probably never see that photo again, as I am not in contact with my mother and she’s in her 80s and probably won’t be here too much longer, even though she’s in good health for her age and still looks younger than her years. I wonder if at the time that photo was taken, Ginny’s narcissism was already ingrained, or if she could have still become a normal, loving woman had her circumstances been different. The sadness in her face tells me she was hurting. It’s the most vulnerable I’ve ever seen my mother.
Ginny was the fourth and youngest child born to a naval academy officer and second generation Irishwoman. The family was middle class, lived in a nice house in a safe neighborhood outside Annapolis, Maryland, and raised all their children as Roman Catholics. Because Ginny’s father was in the military, when the Depression hit, the family didn’t suffer too much financial hardship and his job remained secure. But Theodore (her father) was a heavy drinker, probably an alcoholic, and started drinking almost the moment he got home from work. Anna Marie (Ginny’s mother) suffered from melancholia (what we now know as major depression) and after Ginny was born, took to her bed and stayed there for most of her childhood and teen years. She may have been suffering from postpartum depression, but in those days, no one knew about such a thing. Anna Marie started to neglect her duties as a housewife and mother, saying she was “too sick” and had to lie down.
Ginny was the most attractive of the four children, and the only one with blue eyes. She was obviously Theodore’s favorite child, and he constantly told her how beautiful and special she was. Anna Marie began to resent all the attention he showered on his favorite child, and became even more depressed (she may have been a narcissist herself). Theodore was a faithful husband (from all accounts) but his wife’s demands were wearing him down and he began to drink even more. Sometimes he came home from work already drunk and often he would pass out after eating dinner, so that no one was running the household but the children.
By this time Ginny was about six, and her older sisters (who were in their teens) and brother (who was about 11) weren’t interested in keeping the house clean or taking care of their exhausted, drunk father and depressed, ill mother. Ginny hated dirt and disorder, and took it upon herself to keep the house clean and cook the family meals (Anna Marie was a bad cook). Her sisters were always out at parties or on dates and of course her brother was a boy so he wasn’t interested in keeping up the home or taking care of the family. Soon Ginny was the sole caretaker and became her father’s young surrogate wife. (I don’t know whether or not she was sexually abused, but it would not surprise me and I assume she probably was). Anna Marie developed a hatred for Ginny, who seemed to be everything she was not and also got all her husband’s attention. Theodore’s adoration of Ginny increased, and he began to depend on her for everything, including confiding his problems in his marriage. Ginny seemed sympathetic, but was already plotting to leave the home.
At age 15, Ginny had become a drop dead gorgeous young woman. She left her family and dropped out of high school to marry a young man from the naval academy who was studying to be a Methodist minister. She took a job modeling for the local newspaper to help makes ends meet. By 18 she was pregnant and gave birth to her first daughter, and a few years later she had her second child, also a girl. But Ginny was tired of the church dinners and the drudgery of family life. She was bored and longed for excitement that her two young daughters and minister husband couldn’t provide. So when her daughters were just 7 and 2, she left them to marry my father. It was the late 1950s, and a woman leaving her husband and children just wasn’t done, but she did it without a second thought.
Although her older daughter had abandonment issues and hated Ginny for years for leaving, today my mother lives in her home and my sister’s become Ginny’s most loyal flying monkey. I barely ever knew my sister, but I was told several years ago that I was not welcome in her home because my sister didn’t want me there. Either my mother didn’t want me there and blamed it on my sister, or my sister is a sheep who believed all Ginny’s lies about me. Ironically, my sisters were much better off than if she hadn’t left them because the woman who married her jilted husband and raised them was a kind, nurturing woman, almost the polar opposite of my mother.
Another irony is that even though my mother, as a malignant narcissist, is completely lacking in compassion, both her father and my father were taken in by Ginny’s fake “sympathy.” Ginny listened to her dad talk about his marital problems when she was a teenager and offered him kind words and a ready ear; and recently my son told me how my father fell in love with Ginny (my father never told me this story but he told him): my father’s 3 year old son from his first marriage had been hit by a train and died, and my mother offered him a shoulder to cry on and a sympathetic ear and soon he was madly in love with her.
I clearly remember when my grandmother suffered a major stroke at age 57 when I was only 7, my mother’s comments after seeing her in the hospital. All she could talk about was how helpless and disgusting she was (the stroke had left her paralyzed from the waist down and incontinent) and how she couldn’t wait to get out of there. Even at that young age, I was horrified by my mother’s callous remarks about her own mother.
Even though I don’t use my real name or their real names, sometimes I think it’s just a matter of time until she discovers this blog. I had to go inactive on Facebook because of her extended family all finding me there.