Graphic example of how Facebook feeds narcissism in young women.

Young girl using laptop on Facebook page

Okay, so my daughter isn’t exactly a kid anymore, since she’s 22, but she’s still young enough that she likes participating in those awful Facebook groups where random people rank your photo based on how attractive they think you are.

Her profile picture was ranked along with 3 other girls in this group.
Here she sums up what happened.


She got a lot of comments telling her not to be upset, or that people were just jealous of her good looks (she is very pretty, but I didn’t see the photos of the other girls). This morning she told me her feelings were still hurt today in spite of encouraging comments she got from her friends and boyfriend who kept telling her how beautiful she is.

This sort of thing isn’t unusual. It happens every day, all over social media. Not only can such online “contests” lead to bullying based on one’s appearance by total strangers, but they also feed a girl’s narcissistic supply or cause narcissistic injury, even in non-narcissists (my daughter does not have NPD, but can act very narcissistic). Let’s be honest here–we all have some need for narcissistic supply (positive feedback), especially when we’re still young and unsure of our place in the world.

The teenage and young adult women who participate in these contests learn to value surface attributes such as physical appearance or sexiness above anything else. I see it happening everywhere. Millennial girls seem more obsessed with how cute, sexy or pretty they are than any generation that came before them, and I think this is due to the plethora of reality shows, beauty contests and Facebook photo rankings they are inundated with, as well as the trend for taking as many Selfies or Youtube videos of yourself as you possibly can and posting them for the public to see and comment on. This seems to be a generation with more than its fair share of female somatic narcissists and girls with HPD (histrionic personality disorder).

I can’t keep my daughter from participating in these sort of activities since she’s an adult and she seems to enjoy them (and usually gets a lot of compliments about how pretty she is), but I worry about a “low ranking” (which really wasn’t that bad) like she got yesterday damaging her self esteem (which is shaky to start with) or teaching her to value physical appearance above other qualities like personality, intelligence, or kindness.

Are all vain people narcissists?


People who don’t know much about NPD confuse narcissism with physical vanity. If you say the word ‘narcissist’ to them, they visualize a glamorous woman preening in the mirror or trying on 10 different outfits and spending an hour on her makeup before she goes out. Or they picture a buff man with a well defined six pack, lifting weights in front of a mirrored wall.

The confusion is understandable. But not all people who seem to obsess over their appearance or fitness are narcissists. And of course, not all narcissists are physically vain. In fact, most cerebral narcissists care nothing about their appearance.

If a vain person is a narcissist, they are of the somatic subtype. My mother was this type of narcissist, and many of them do spend a lot of time looking at themselves in the mirror, working out at the gym, or constantly shopping for new clothes. But they are in the minority. Most narcissists, even somatic ones, don’t spend a lot of time doing these things. Their narcissism isn’t defined by how much time they spend preening before a mirror, but by their lack of empathy, self-centeredness, and their propensity to manipulate others to get what they want. Some of the most out of shape, slovenly looking people you could imagine are narcissists. And some of the most physically fit and well-dressed and groomed people are not.

A gorgeous woman who spends several hours a day trying to look perfect is not a narcissist if she also cares about the feelings of others and is making herself look good for her husband, boyfriend or herself. But if the same woman tries to look perfect because she wants to attract a man who is married to another woman–and feels no shame about this–then she is a narcissist.

There is nothing wrong with interest in one’s physical appearance. Most of us want to look attractive. For some people, it’s almost a hobby. An attractive man or woman usually knows they’re attractive, but that doesn’t automatically make them narcissists.

The only danger with having too much interest in your physical appearance is you may fail to develop other qualities that make you a more well-rounded, interesting person. Getting older will be tough for a person who has failed to develop their mind or their personality because their appearance was their first priority. A person only interested in how they look is also a very boring person. But they may not be narcissistic, just vain.

I used to know a beautiful woman who spent all her money on clothes and makeup, and worked out at the gym every day. People used to accuse her of being vain and narcissistic, but she was also one of the most sincere and sweet people you could ever hope to meet. Her vanity, in fact, was due to her anxiety that she didn’t look good enough for her overly critical, narcissistic husband. This woman was codependent and worked hard to please him, and that meant she had to look like a fashion model at all times–and it still was never good enough for him.

When her husband finally divorced her for a younger woman, she became depressed and let herself go. She gained about 50 pounds, stopped styling her hair, and stopped wearing makeup. It was hard to believe she was the same person. Eventually she recovered from her depression enough to start caring about her appearance again, but this time it wasn’t an obsession. She also began to develop her interest in art and signed up for art classes at the local community college. Today she looks attractive again, and has a fashion style all her own that reflects her artistic style.

Narcissists come in all shapes and sizes. Some are obsessed with their appearance, but the vast majority are not. Don’t dismiss someone as a narcissist just because they seem to spend too much time on their physical appearance. Like the woman I described above, they may not even be doing it for themselves.

Narcissist parents demonize their own children.


Most parents like to tell cute and funny stories about when their children were young, or brag about their school accomplishments or tell sweet stories that show their child in a flattering or loving light. They are also proud of their children when they’re kind and nice to others. That’s the way things should be.

Not for narcissistic parents though.

Narcissists who “erase” memories of their children.
Some narcissistic parents don’t like to talk about their children at all. It’s as if they erase any memories of their offspring’s childhoods and don’t want to be reminded of it. It’s weird. My malignant cerebral narcissist sperm donor used to get bored and annoyed if I talked about the children when they were young. Inexplicably, he couldn’t stand it and became annoyed when I wanted to put some of their baby and early school pictures around the house. (He didn’t like that I displayed our wedding photos either).

He isn’t interested in his son’s accomplishments, even though Ethan (not his real name) has recently been asked to join a semi-professional urban dance crew and has been told he is a shoo-in for the finals at the next dance competition he will be performing in next month. Ethan is seriously considering auditioning for the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance” in about a year or two, when he gets just a little better. He’s completely self taught and has never had a dance lesson and yet people are always impressed by his dancing skills.

I am so proud of my son but his father could care less. I thought maybe it was because he thought dancing was “too gay” (because my son is gay or possibly bisexual–he recently told me he may have some interest in women) but he acts the same way about all of Ethan’s other accomplishments too. It’s almost as if he wants to erase him from his mind, even though he insists he loves him.

And when they “brag” about you, watch out.


My mother, also a malignant narcissist (of the somatic rather than cerebral type), loves to talk about me as a child. But her “bragging” is never about the things a normal parents would brag to their friends and relatives about. It’s never about how smart I was or what a good student I was, or what a good painter or writer I was, or how kind and generous or big-hearted or animal loving I was. Instead, she tells stories that illustrate the many ways I was “too sensitive” or how much I cried as a little girl. When she talks about me, she always brings up the most embarrassing stories, like how afraid I was of thunderstorms and how I used to run into the closet in terror (I like thunderstorms now) or how “hysterical” (she loves to use that word about me as a child) I used to get when I was frustrated or scared of something (I was afraid of many things but loved a lot of things too).

Whenever she talks about me to people, she makes me sound like there was something wrong with me (there was–I was an Aspie child with attachment issues–but surely there were good things too she could choose to talk about instead of what a pitiful, awkward, oversensitive crybaby I was). She loves to tell everyone the still-embarrassing story of my first period and how happy I was when I shouted the big news from the bathroom, because I had always been “so hysterical” and panic stricken because I was slower to hit puberty than most other girls my age (I was 13 and really not far behind at all–and I never got “hysterical” or “panic stricken” the way she insists).

I no longer hear these stories because I no longer have much contact with her, but I’m sure she still tells her friends and extended family (who she has isolated from me and turned some of them into flying monkeys against me) and they still all have a good laugh about “poor, over-sensitive, ‘hysterical’ little Lauren.” I know they also laugh about what a “loser” I am today, because I’m not wealthy like most of the family is and don’t have a great number of impressive professional accomplishments. Of course, that’s all due to my “poor choices” and not to the fact my self esteem was all but obliterated during childhood and adolescence, not only by my family but also by the bullies I often had to deal with at school.

Fivehundredpoundpeep posted an article today about the way her psychopathic MN mother (who was much worse than mine if that can be believed) and the rest of the family gave her a poem for her college graduation. Instead of it being a sincere congratulations or about how loved she was and how proud of her they were, it was a “humorous” ode to how afraid of crickets she was as a little girl. Notwithstanding the fact this poem had absolutely nothing to do with Peep’s college graduation, its real intention was to embarrass her and make her feel self conscious. It was a poem that could have easily ruined an otherwise joyous occasion.

The navy blue dress.

What my mother saw whenever she looked at me. (Just for the record, I think this big lady is stunning.)

My mother always loved to point out my faults–even imaginary ones she had projected onto me–in public. I’ll never forget the birthday party I had one year as a teenager. My mother had invited several of her friends to the apartment and some of my friends were there too. When it came time to open the gifts, she made sure hers was the first one I opened.

In the fancily wrapped box was a rather conservative, navy blue sleeveless dress. It was a nice dress I suppose, had I been about 40. She made me go try it on and then have me come out into the living room where everyone was sitting to model it. I obeyed because what else could I do, and she scared the living shit out of me.

Now, I was not overweight. At 5’4″, 120-125 lbs was about the right weight for my frame. But my backside was a little on the big side (not Kim Kardashian big, but still pretty round) and my mother was constantly calling attention to it. It made me very self conscious and due to this (as well as my desire to rebel against the way she’d dressed me like a doll when I was younger), I had taken to wearing baggy, masculine clothes that hid my curves. She was convinced I was “fat” and was always threatening to send me away to weight loss camp. As a somatic narcissist, she was obsessed with her own weight, physical appearance, and health. She seemed to judge other people by the way they looked instead of their personal qualities. Almost every day she called attention to how much weight I was putting on, or reminding me not to have seconds because of my “weight issues.” I become incredibly self conscious about my body as a result. It’s a miracle I didn’t develop an eating disorder.


Getting back to the birthday party and my “modeling session” in front of all the guests, after I modeled it, she announced that the dress’s dark color and style was flattering for someone with “Lauren’s little weight problem.”

You could have heard a pin drop in that room. I think everyone was shocked at her callous and embarrassing remarks. As for myself, I was so mortified I ran out of the room crying, which of course was a huge mistake because that gave my mother ammunition to remind everyone once again about how sensitive I was (and she didn’t mean this in a complimentary way). She was always making jokes at my expense and then when I didn’t laugh or if I looked hurt, it was always “Lauren is just being over-sensitive again” or “Lauren has no sense of humor.” I’ve heard this is quite a common accusation narc parents use against the child they have chosen to be their scapegoat. They hate sensitivity and love to turn it into a bad thing because it takes the responsibility for their cruel behavior off of them and puts the blame onto the child.

This is the sort of “flattery” a scapegoated child can get from a parent who is a malignant narcissist. There are times I feel guilty that I don’t feel more love for my mother than I do, but when I think of all the years she demeaned me and put me down, always going out of her way to make me feel small and worthless, I don’t feel so guilty about my ambivalent feelings toward her.

I don’t hate my mother. Instead, I pity her for being so shallow and never having known who her true self might have been. She’s an intelligent woman but you would never know it because she never was interested in ideas or the life of the mind. Her eyes glaze over if you try to engage her in any “deep” topics. She reads pulp novels and fashion magazines, never anything scholarly or educational.

She has now lost her beauty due to age (and too many facelifts) and she is all too aware it. Knowing she has lost her physical beauty–the one thing that gave her an identity of sorts–has turned her bitter and angry in her old age.

Cerebral vs. somatic narcissists

cerebral_narc somatic_narc
Either of these narcs are poison–run away as fast as you can. The chihuahua is probably okay.

I’m in a blah, uncreative mood tonight and can’t think of anything to write about (I had an irritating day and just want to read), so tonight I’m just going to post this interesting article by Sam Vaknin here where he describes the differences between the two types of narcissists: cerebral and somatic. Either type can be malignant or non-malignant. I haven’t really covered the two types of narcissists in much depth before, so this should take care of that oversight.

My mother is a somatic narcissist, histrionic type. They are prone to over the top dramatic behavior, shallow sexual relationships, and tantrums. If my daughter is a narcissist, then she would also be a somatic histrionic type (which can be confused with Borderline PD, which she may actually be). Female narcissists are probably more likely to be somatic (vain, preening, overly concerned with appearance and/or health) but both types can be found in either gender. Most gay male narcissists I’ve met are of the somatic type, but that doesn’t mean most gay narcissists are necessarily somatic. I’ve know one or two cerebral ones too.

Here is that article.

Dr. Jackal and Mr. Hide: Cerebral vs. Somatic Narcissist

Narcissists are either cerebral or somatic. In other words, they either generate their Narcissistic Supply by applying their bodies or by applying their minds.

The somatic narcissist flaunts his sexual conquests, parades his possessions, exhibits his muscles, brags about his physical aesthetics, youthfulness, sexual prowess or exploits, and is often a health freak and a hypochondriac. The somatic narcissist regards his body as an object to be sculpted and honed (via extreme diets, multiple cosmetic surgeries, bodybuilding, or weightlifting). When coupled with psychopathic tendencies, the somatic appropriates other people’s bodies and treats these as “raw materials” to be dismembered, tampered with, altered, invaded, or otherwise abused.

Somatic narcissists are often portrayed as sex addicts or histrionic. But really they derive their narcissistic supply not so much from the sex act as from the process of securing it: the conspiracies and assignations, the chase and conquest, the subjugation and habituation of their targets, and even from dumping and discarding their prey, once having extracted the attention and admiration they had sought. These extracurricular activities endow them with a sense of omnipotence and all-pervasive control. Their sway over their paramours and would-be lovers proves to them (and to others) their uniqueness, desirability and irresistibility.

The cerebral narcissist is a know-it-all, haughty and intelligent “computer”. He uses his awesome intellect, or knowledge (real or pretended) to secure adoration, adulation and admiration. To him, his body and its maintenance are a burden and a distraction.

Both types are auto-erotic (psychosexually in love with themselves, with their bodies and with their brain). Both types prefer masturbation to adult, mature, interactive, multi-dimensional and emotion-laden sex.

The cerebral narcissist is often celibate (even when he has a girlfriend or a spouse). He prefers pornography and sexual auto-stimulation to the real thing. The cerebral narcissist is sometimes a latent (hidden, not yet outed) homosexual. [Interesting.]

The somatic narcissist uses other people’s bodies to masturbate. Sex with him – pyrotechnics and acrobatics aside – is likely to be an impersonal and emotionally alienating and draining experience. The partner is often treated as an object, an extension of the somatic narcissist, a toy, a warm and pulsating vibrator.

It is a mistake to assume type-constancy. In other words, all narcissists are BOTH cerebral and somatic. In each narcissist, one of the types is dominant. So, the narcissist is either OVERWHELMINGLY cerebral – or DOMINANTLY somatic. But the other type, the recessive (manifested less frequently) type, is there. It is lurking, waiting to erupt.

The narcissist swings between his dominant type and his recessive type. The latter is expressed mainly as a result of a major narcissistic injury or life crisis.

I can give you hundreds of examples from my correspondence but, instead, let’s talk about me (of course…:o))

I am a cerebral narcissist. I brandish my brainpower, exhibit my intellectual achievements, bask in the attention given to my mind and its products. I hate my body and neglect it. It is a nuisance, a burden, a derided appendix, an inconvenience, a punishment. Needless to add that I rarely have sex (often years apart). I masturbate regularly, very mechanically, as one would change water in an aquarium. I stay away from women because I perceive them to be ruthless predators who are out to consume me and mine.

I have had quite a few major life crises. I got divorced, lost millions a few times, did time in one of the worst prisons in the world, fled countries as a political refugee, was threatened, harassed and stalked by powerful people and groups. I have been devalued, betrayed, denigrated and insulted.

Invariably, following every life crisis, the somatic narcissist in me took over. I became a lascivious lecher. When this happened, I had a few relationships – replete with abundant and addictive sex – going simultaneously. I participated in and initiated group sex and mass orgies. I exercised, lost weight and honed my body into an irresistible proposition.

This outburst of unrestrained, primordial lust waned in a few months and I settled back into my cerebral ways. No sex, no women, no body.

These total reversals of character stun my mates. My girlfriends and spouse found it impossible to digest this eerie transformation from the gregarious, darkly handsome, well-built and sexually insatiable person that swept them off their feet – to the bodiless, bookwormish hermit with not an inkling of interest in either sex or other carnal pleasures.

I miss my somatic half. I wish I could find a balance, but I know it is a doomed quest. This sexual beast of mine will forever be trapped in the intellectual cage that is I, Sam Vaknin, the Brain.

Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye
And all my soul and all my every part;
And for this sin there is no remedy,
It is so grounded inward in my heart.
Methinks no face so gracious is as mine,
No shape so true, no truth of such account;
And for myself mine own worth do define,
As I all other in all worths surmount.
But when my glass shows me myself indeed,
Beated and chopp’d with tann’d antiquity,
Mine own self-love quite contrary I read;
Self so self-loving were iniquity.
‘Tis thee, myself, that for myself I praise,
Painting my age with beauty of thy days.

(Sonnet 62, William Shakespeare)

Plac’d on this isthmus of a middle state,
A Being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much;
Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus’d;
Still by himself, abus’d or disabus’d;
Created half to rise and half to fall;
Great Lord of all things, yet a prey to all,
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d;
The glory, jest and riddle of the world.

(Essay on Man, Alexander Pope)

Respect my boundaries!


My daughter is either a somatic histrionic narcissist (same as my mother) or has borderline personality disorder (BPD) in addition to diagnosed PTSD and bipolar disorder. She would be somatic if she’s got NPD because she’s obsessed with clothes and shopping and she takes more selfies than every Hollywood starlet put together in one room. She’s very attractive and she knows it and has been able to use her looks to get what she wants, at least from males.

But due to her intense mood swings and the fact she does show some empathy and remorse, then she’s also likely to be be a borderline, a related Cluster B disorder which is more common in women than in men (narcissism is more common in men) but has much in common with NPD. Whatever she is, she’s a high maintenance drama queen. I’ve joked with her that she’d be perfect for a reality show like “Bad Girls Club,” but to be honest, I could definitely see someone like her on a show like that!

Of course I love my daughter dearly and enjoy her company too (she can be a lot of fun and easy to talk to, which is why she makes friends easily) but her disorders definitely make her difficult to deal with, especially now that she’s moved back in with me.

She has been home for almost two weeks. Things have been going swimmingly (okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration) and there have been no real problems. I read her the riot act on her return and she agreed to some new rules. She does not appear to be doing drugs and is taking steps to get her life in order, including seeing a therapist this week. I told her if I saw pain pills or any other evidence of hard drugs, there was the door.

But tonight she invaded my boundaries. She had gone to the mall with some friends, and came home in an upbeat mood, which was fine, but my daughter also gets a little obsessive and impatient when she’s excited and happy, and has a bad habit of not respecting my boundaries. I also think she’d had a drink or two.

Because there are only two bedrooms (my roommate has the other one) and I took over Molly’s bedroom when she had moved in with Paul (and I won’t give it up!) she has been having to sleep on the couch in the living room. She’s turned it into a large bedroom and it actually looks nice, if a bit cluttered. I almost never have company anyway, so it’s not like I really need a living room.

But tonight when she got home at about 10:30 she wanted to pull some more of her things from my room (things she never uses and didn’t need tonight). I told her it was late, I have to be up early for work (and to drive her to the DMV) and I needed some alone-time before going to bed. I needed time online too. As an Aspie, she knows if I don’t get my “alone time” I get very cranky and snappish. I do not like my Aspie routine to be interrupted. She knows this well.

But she kept rummaging around in all the drawers and pulled boxes out of the closet, tossed shoes and bags and papers and stray clothes all over the floor, messed up my things in the process, and was making a racket doing so. I must have told her three times or more to please do this tomorrow, but she wouldn’t listen and kept saying “one more minute!” But it wasn’t one more minute, it wasn’t three more minutes or five or twenty: this shit went on for almost an hour. I was ready to scream and pull my hair out.

When she finally finished tearing my room apart looking for her things, she took them into the living room. Then she decided she needed to find a place to plug in her humidifier (she suffers from dry sinuses and mild asthma). She proceeded to start unplugging things from the wall, including the damned router. It took me another twenty minutes to get connected to the Internet again. I actually burst into tears of frustration (the kind of tears I shed more than any other kind–it’s almost impossible for me to cry when I’m sad).

It wasn’t that this was something that couldn’t be fixed easily, but I’d had more than enough. I was so stressed and completely frustrated with my daughter and the chaos she was creating and the boundaries she was violating due to her inability to wait for anything. She wants what she wants when she wants it.

In a near rage, tears streaming, I’m afraid I snapped and told her I wished she never moved back in because she had no respect for my boundaries or anything else. She started to cry, and I told her I was sorry and apologized. She asked me if I really meant what I said and I told her no truthfully. I explained again why I need my quiet time at night and why it was a bad time for her to decide to redecorate. She said she understood…but does she?

Time will tell.

My mother, the exhibitionist.

Painting of woman (title unknown) by Jeremy Lipking.

I have written before about how common it is for narcissists (especially somatic narcissists) to obsess over their (and their children’s) bodily functions. I even described my malignantly narcissistic mother’s obsession with my childhood BM’s and the Enema from Hell that was a constant threat if I failed to produce.

But there’s more to the obsession than this. For my mother, all bodily functions became performance art. Modesty was a foreign concept to her.

My mother was always an extremely beautiful woman with a sexy but slender body (which she spent hours every day keeping that way through constant exercise, yoga, and living on only salads, chicken and fish). She is still in good shape but has lost her facial beauty due to age and way too many facelifts which makes her appear to be wearing a mask–to my way of thinking, a sad and final physical manifestation of the psychological mask she has worn her entire life. She has become a walking, talking mask.

In her younger years she was an exhibitionist. She regularly walked around the house naked, or dressed in a flimsy diaphanous short negligee, with no panties on underneath. In fact, she never dressed in actual clothing unless she had to go out. My mother’s perfect naked body was almost completely visible under that sheer garment, especially when the light hit it a certain way. She cared not one whit that a child was present.

In the 1970s, during the womens’ movement, the popular book “Our Bodies, Ourselves” was her Bible. It was kept on the living room table for everyone to see, along with other coffee table books like “America the Beautiful.”

I remember being fascinated by that book, with its graphic descriptions of the most intimate female bodily functions, including sexual intercourse and masturbation. With equal parts of awe and a weird, squirmy, embarrassed feeling, I stared at the many black and white photographs of women breastfeeding, or giving birth, or lying on the OBGYN’s table with their legs in stirrups, or doing yoga naked, or dancing in groups with other naked women, pregnant or not.


I remember when my mother was married, I always could tell when she was having sex with my father, because she would groan loudly enough to make the whole house shake. Her moans and groans scared me at first, but after awhile I got used to it. I could tell when they were finished too, because she would announce loudly that she needed to douche to avoid getting pregnant.

After the divorce, when I was 14, things got even worse. We had moved to a small one bedroom apartment, and she took the living room (at least she had the human decency to let me have the bedroom). As a highly attractive and socially gregarious woman who always needed a source of male narcissistic supply, she had a running string of boyfriends. I was left alone overnight often–which I actually didn’t mind at all–because if she returned home with one of her dates, it meant they slept together on the pull out sofa,and THAT meant if I wanted to leave my room for any reason, I had to walk through the living room because there was no hallway.

Walking through the living room with them in there was so embarrassing, I would skulk through quickly with my eyes averted, trying not to see or be seen, but it never worked. She always wound up calling me in for some reason, sitting up from under the covers, her shapely naked breasts exposed, forcing me to look at her in bed with some man I did not know or want to know. I knew on some level that was her real reason for calling me in. She WANTED me to see.

She also always left the door open when she went to the bathroom. She didn’t care if I saw her. In fact, she would call me in while she was sitting on the toilet to ask me a question or tell me something. She wanted me to see but I have no idea why.


The worst thing was when she was having her period. I remember her describing loudly to anyone who would listen (or was forced to hear) the way the clotted menstrual blood would gush out and stream down her thighs when she got out of bed after it pooling inside her all night. She announced it as if she was announcing she just got a promotion at work or won some award.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a prude. I can appreciate the beauty of the female human body and even its mysterious, intimate, lifegiving functions, but these are private and not something a normal person shares publicly as if they’re discussing the news or the weather. Only a somatic narcissist (like my mother) does that. Because to them, it’s performance art and their body is an exhibit to be worshipped and admired, even during its uglier moments. Modesty is never on the radar.