Raging narcissist mother.

Here’s a great scene from the 1983 movie, “Terms of Endearment” that paints a portrait of a narcissistic mother as well as Ordinary People did with Mary Tyler Moore playing a very malignant narcissist to her scapegoat son.

In this movie, Aurora (Shirley Maclaine) is very possessive of her only daughter, Emma (Debra Winger) and treats her like an object or extension of herself throughout her childhood and adolescence, though she does seem to love her in that overbearing way some narcissists have (if you can call that “love,” I’m not sure). I don’t think Aurora was as malignant as Mary Tyler Moore’s character in “Ordinary People,” but she is clearly a narcissist.

In many ways, I found this movie, which was released approximately the same time as “Ordinary People” (early ’80s) just as triggering. First of all, the child in this movie is a daughter, portraying a girl around the same age I was at the time this movie was released, and my mother was like a perfect cross between Aurora (a somatic narcissist) and Mary Tyler Moore’s very malignant Beth Jarrett (with a little “Mommie Dearest” thrown in to spice things up).

In this scene, Emma announces her pregnancy. Watch Aurora’s reaction. So typical of N-moms, especially the somatic type.

This is from the comments under the video and explains exactly what is going on here.  I think this person nailed it.

Shirley portrays narcissism perfectly and by the numbers. 1) Daughter’s wonderful news news eclipsed by mother’s preoccupation with aging. 2) Mother calculates her plan (watch her eyes) 3) The trigger is delivered: “I don’t understand.” (bullshit) 4) Daughter takes the bait and calls her mother out. 4) Success! Mom’s got a handle on the daughter and attacks her for making her feel old (because it’s all about her of course). 5) Son-in-law isn’t buying it (awesome by the way) 6) So mom feigns tears to regain moral high ground and walk away with it.

One thing that wasn’t very realistic about this movie was the way Aurora’s personality seemed to change at the end of the movie and she wound up doing the loving, unselfish thing many normal mothers would do (I can’t say more without spoiling the end). But it’s a movie and real life isn’t usually like the movies.

I also don’t think it’s spoiling anything to mention that Flap (Emma’s husband) turned out to be as narcissistic and selfish as Aurora. She never liked him and in many ways was right about him. That reminds me of my mother’s warnings about my malignant N ex.

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A dicey situation.

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“Dicey Situation” by Johnny Corduroy, Deviantart

I always hesitate before posting anything about my N mother, because I know she reads this blog. But then I think about two things: 1. what can she do? and 2. no one ever asked her to read this blog. It’s mine. If you don’t want to get burned, keep your hands off the stove. So here goes.

Yesterday when I talked to my mother about my dad, she said she wants to come visit me in the fall. She cannot afford a hotel room, and I can’t afford to put her up in one. She pretty much invited herself, saying, “Well, I will have to stay at your place.” Immediately I felt my self-protective shackles kick in: Danger! Danger! Boundary violation!

In most families, letting your mom stay with you fore a few days wouldn’t be a problem. But my family isn’t most families.  My mother is very judgmental of me and my lifestyle, which, although I’m satisfied with it, is less than glamorous and I know she would not/does not approve of the way I live (which really isn’t my fault anyway because I don’t have the financial resources to live better).  Even if she says nothing about my mismatched furniture, the sagging, stained couch, the buggy old-fashioned kitchen with its tiny 1970s electric stove, an old summer camp steamer trunk used as a coffee table, the box TV in the living room, the ancient windows that don’t open, and the black mold on one side of the house (which my landlord has yet to do something about), I know she will go back to her extended family and tongues will wag. I know she has devalued me to the rest of the family and puts me down, disapproving of the way I live. She cloaks these criticisms with “concern,” saying things like, “I just don’t know why Lauren always makes such bad choices,” or “it’s so sad the way she lives but she made her own bed.”  Or she talks about how mentally unstable or immature I am. Even though my mother is far from wealthy and even borders on as poor as I am, she has always put on airs of being of a higher social status than she actually is, and to be fair, she does a good job of it. Even if I was of a social class she approved of, our tastes and interests are vastly different. I’m far too “bohemian” for her liking and I’m pretty sure I still would be even if I was rich.

I also know she wouldn’t approve of my housemate, and they would get in each other’s way. The idea of the three of us having to share a roof, even for a few days, gives me the willies.   I wouldn’t be able to tolerate feeling like I have to apologize for the things I do while she is here.   If I tell her no, she can’t come, I know she will go back to the extended family and tell them I’m “hiding something.” She seems to think I still have my ex living with me and am saying nothing about it. This is of course ridiculous, but I know it’s what she’ll tell everyone. She can’t understand why I wouldn’t be thrilled to put her up on my couch for several days and I don’t have the courage to be honest with her. The fact she reads this blog and knows I’ve pegged her as a narcissist (even though I don’t think she is malignant, she is a textbook example of a woman with intractable NPD) doesn’t seem to faze her in the slightest. Being the narcissist she is, she simply is incapable of understanding why I wouldn’t be jumping for joy for the “opportunity” of putting her up on my couch for a few days.

I had no time to prepare for this, so I said weakly, “well, you will have to sleep on the couch then, because my roommate has the other room.” She responded with, “oh, you have a roommate?” As if this is some life choice of mine and isn’t a matter of financial necessity.  It’s also interesting to me that I have never been invited to see her where she lives.  The one time I suggested going to visit her there, she told me my half sister didn’t want me there (they share a townhouse).   I think she was lying, because my half sister barely knows me.  I haven’t seen her since 1986.   I think it’s actually my mother who doesn’t want me to come there, because I would “embarrass” her in front of the family, so she put words in my sister’s mouth.    Even if my sister doesn’t want me there, it was probably my mother who turned her against me.

I’m in a dicey situation, and I’m praying she changes her mind about coming. Just in case she isn’t, I guess I’ll have to start saving enough money between now and then to put her up in a local motel, which I should be able to do given the time frame. Then all I need to do is think of some reason why she can’t stay at my house (repairs? haven’t cleaned it?) She would like a motel better anyway with its pool, sterile rooms, flat screen TV, and a real bed. The fall is still a few months away but it will be hard for me to save the money because I’m trying to save enough money to go see my son in Florida in September. I think she might know this too, but she doesn’t care.

My narcissist mother’s hate-crush on Martha Stewart.

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I hesitated about posting this because earlier this year I found out my mother has read this blog and ever since,  I’ve felt inhibited about posting anything bad about her.

But why? What’s she gonna do? Not talk to me? We don’t talk anyway. Say bad things about me behind my back?  She does that too.  Why am I still so worried she might “disapprove?” She’s never approved of me and never will, so fuck it, I’m posting this because it’s funny.

My mother was consumed with Martha Stewart-envy, but would rather have laid on a bed of nails than ever admit it.

She was a woman who perceived herself to be the perfect housewife, perfect corporate hostess, perfect chef, perfect decorator, and perfect party-giver.  She held herself up as a paragon of upper-middle class feminine virtue.    When she was married to my father, she prided herself on her flawless and memorable cocktail parties (no matter that both she and my father spent the entire time drunk and arguing loudly at these events in front of their guests).  She crowed to anyone who would listen that she could whip up a gourmet meal worthy of Julia Child’s praise (to be fair, she actually was a good cook but she wasn’t THAT good).  She also thought of herself as a world-class interior decorator even though the kitchen in the house we lived in was outdated by about 40 years and never had any modernizations or improvements done to it (the fixtures were all white enameled metal, the floor was cracked multicolor-speckled brown linoleum, and counter space was nonexistent), the ancient floral wallpaper in most of the bedrooms was dingy and yellow with age (this was the original wallpaper in our 1920s Dutch colonial revival house), and every room in the public areas were carpeted with the same boring beige wall-to-wall because the hardwood floors looked like shit.

She did, in fact, have a short lived career as an interior decorator, and to be fair, she was probably reasonably skilled, but you’d never know it looking at our house. Our Christmas tree was always boring too–every year the same white lights and red and silver ornaments went on the tree (no other colors allowed) because anything more colorful was deemed “tacky” even though there was a child in the house.

After my parents divorced, my mother went into public relations and bragged constantly about how successful she was in her field and how everyone wanted to be her client because of her flawless skills, sparkling charisma, and her ability to sell ice to an Eskimo. Although she never achieved fame and riches, she liked to live as if she had both, and looked down on people who had “regular jobs.” But one thing my mother never had much of was creativity, although she liked to brag that she did.

Martha Stewart was everything my mother wished she was: a woman who had parlayed her creative homemaking, decorating, and cooking skills into a huge empire; a woman who appeared on TV talk shows, wrote books, published a glossy magazine, and had countless articles written about her in national publications. My mother hated Martha Stewart. She never passed up an opportunity to rail on about Martha’s terrible taste in decor and table presentations, her weight (to my mother, Martha was “fat”), her “tentlike” clothes, her irritating personality, her flat “peasant-like” facial features, her obsession with fattening desserts rather than healthy salads and lean meats, and her overuse of tacky primary colors and insipid pastels (my mother was the Queen of Beige, an evil color if I ever saw one–is it even a color?). For a normal woman with my mother’s range of interests, someone like Martha Stewart could have been an inspiration, but to a narcissist like my mother, she presented a huge threat; she was someone who had the potential to make my mother’s domestic and entertaining skills look uninspired and pedestrian in comparison.

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When the story broke on the news that Martha Stewart got arrested for tax fraud, my mother actually rubbed her hands together with glee and her eyes glittered in a Mean Girls sort of way. She literally squealed in delight when Martha was shown being taken off in handcuffs to the minimum security womens’ prison where she would live for the next five months, to be followed by another five months of house arrest. “Common criminal,” my mother sniffed contemptuously. “She had it coming. What’s she going to do? Sew tacky curtains for the barred windows?”

I’ve never been a big fan of Martha Stewart either but I thought her attitude in prison was classy, refreshing, and even touching. She treated her cellmates–mostly women of far lower social class than she was–with respect and dignity, and from everything I heard, all the women there adored her and they all cried when she was released. One of the girls knit Martha a clunky homemade shawl, which Martha proudly wore in front of the cameras as she was escorted away. I thought Martha handled what could have been an incredibly embarrassing situation with class and good humor. I pointed how nice Martha’s attitude was.
“I think it’s so cool the way she treats all those girls like human beings, and makes them feel valued.”
Always the wet blanket, my mother hissed, “well, you don’t know what she’s like when the camera isn’t on her.”*

That’s what narcissists do. They’re wet blankets. Maybe Martha Stewart can do something creative with those too.

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* Martha Stewart’s daughter reports that her mother was anything but ideal, and was probably a narcissist.  That may be true but I still thought her attitude toward her cellmates was admirable, even if it was only to make a good impression to the public.

Now I’ve seen everything.

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Click to enlarge.

There’s a lot of personality disorder tee-shirts and accessories out there on the web, but this one takes the cake. Poor baby! On the other hand, maybe it’s a good thing if other people know…