Reenie had been her best friend since the seventh grade.
They’d met at lunch time one day, each of them eating alone and ignored by the other kids. In the casual cruelty of youth, Reenie had been rejected by the other kids as unsuitable for friendship because she had a “wandering eye” and the doctors felt that she was not physically mature enough for surgical correction, leaving her with thick glasses and one eye that turned towards her nose when the other looked straight ahead.
They had sat at opposite sides of the steps leading up to the music building for several weeks, eating alone, ostensibly paying no attention to each other. Then, on a particularly chilly autumn day, Reenie had moved to her side of the steps where there was more sun, uttering only the words “Cold over there.” From such a diffident beginning sprung a fast friendship that had brought them through junior high and most of high school.
In the summer break after ninth grade Reenie had finally had the surgery to correct her eye and she started high school with a fresh new look. Reenie had a tiny, extremely curvy body and a sweet elfin face with large, expressive brown eyes. Unfortunately, the kids at the high school were the same kids they had gone to junior high with, so Reenie’s improved appearance meant nothing to people who had called her “Quasimodo” behind her back…and sometimes even to her face. Pretty, shapely, winsomely shy, Reenie remained an untouchable, irrevocably tainted by the past.
She could relate. Aside from the eczema on her leg that looked hideous and repulsed many of her classmates, she had been forcibly isolated from most of her peers and, by the time she started junior high, was completely out of the loop. She didn’t know what music the kids listened to, what was cool to wear and what was not, what entertainers the girls swooned over…in short, she was as far removed from the culture of her peers as her mother was. There was no teenager living in their house, just a smaller, indentured adult. An outcast in elementary school, her status remained quo in junior high.
But Reenie had gone to a different elementary school, so neither was aware of the other’s pariah status…not that it would have made any difference in the long run. Both were outside the junior high society and it was natural that, once they met, they should bond. It was a friendship that had supported them for better than five years and, to her complete and utter amazement, sparked no objection from Mother. In fact, it seemed to relax Mother’s restrictiveness, her friendship with Reenie. She was allowed to go places and do things with Reenie that would have been forbidden alone. And tonight, she and Reenie were taking the bus and going downtown to a USO dance.
Usually, she went to Reenie’s house to get ready…Reenie’s mother was sweet and gentle and she enjoyed her company. But tonight Reenie was coming here, they would eat dinner and do each other’s hair and make up, then dress up and take off for the dance. At the end of the evening, Reenie’s mother would pick them up from the bus stop and drive them home, her own mother of the opinion that it wasn’t snowing out (as if it ever snowed in Southern California) and there were no kidnappers or murderers reported to be on the loose, so she could damned well walk home, no matter that the last bus dropped them off only fifteen minutes before midnight.
She had gotten up early and washed her long, straight hair and put it up in rollers. Without a hair dryer, it would take all day to dry. Mother’s short, naturally curly hair needed only to be pushed into place with a finger when it was damp and then air dried…why on earth would she want to spend money on a hair dryer? Reenie would take her hair down and tease it and ease it into something full and elegant and sophisticated…then she would do the same for Reenie. They shared make up and jewellery, shoes and accessories…everything but clothes, Reenie being tinier than she was. Tonight she would wear the white tulle strapless semi-formal with the blue taffeta cummerbund and her white spikes…Reenie would doubtless show up in something sleek and form-fitting, like the purple sheath that showed her curves off to perfection. Reenie was so cute that the guys…except for the guys at their high school who simply could not forget her as “Quasimodo”…all noticed her right away. It was fun watching Reenie go all flustered at the unaccustomed male attention, a good portion of which spilled over to her. She wasn’t as cute and curvy as Reenie, but she was well-endowed and a lively conversationalist, so she got her fair share of the attention.
How she loved to dance! Checking to see that her hair was nearly dry enough to take down, she cha-chaed out to the kitchen, humming something with a Latin beat, to see what was going on for dinner. She stopped in her tracks at the sight of Mother frying pork chops.
“Um, would it be OK if I made a hamburger patty for Reenie?” she asked. Mother turned her head and fixed her with a baleful glare. “What? My cooking’s not good enough for your hoity toity friend?”
She shook her head. “It’s just that…Reenie doesn’t eat pork. She can’t.”
“Allergic?” Mother asked, her eyes back on the chops.
She should have lied and said “yes.” It would have saved untold drama and humiliation, screaming and hysterics. But, at that precise moment, she didn’t know that a lie would have been wiser than speaking the truth and since she was not in the habit of lying without compelling reason, she shook her head and said, offhandedly, “No, she’s Jewish.”
In that moment, time seemed to stop. Mother stood perfectly still…rigidly so. She made no sound, did not even appear to be breathing and only the sound of the grease cracking and popping in the frying pan gave life to the scene.
Her hand tightening on the spatula, Mother turned slowly and deliberately to face her. “She’s what?” Mother gritted out, eyebrows almost disappearing into her hairline. “What did you just say?”
Wary, but unsure about what she had done to offend, she took a step backwards. “She’s Jewish?” she replied questioningly.
“That’s what I thought you said,” Mother shouted, waving the grease-dripping spatula at her. “Jesus H. on-a-goddamned-crutch Christ! What is the matter with you, bringing a goddamned kike into my house?!”
She stepped back again, staggered at the ferocity of the onslaught. What on earth was going on?
“It’s not enough I have to listen to you babbling on about those snot-nosed little brats that you just can’t seem to remember are half brothers and sisters, it’s not enough I have to listen to you prancing around the house blabbering in your pretentious French, it’s not enough that I put up with that racket you call music…now you are telling me that all this time you’ve been sneaking a goddamned filthy Jew into my house?”
She was stunned. She knew Mother expected her to dislike Negroes and that Mexicans were viewed as being only good enough for stoop-labour. She understood that Asian people of all nationalities were considered “Japs” and “Chinks” and they were to be avoided because of The War…Mother had suffered severe deprivation due to war-time shortages and rationing and she laid her lack of silk stockings and fresh butter directly at their feet---why she didn’t hate Germans, too, was a bit of a mystery, except when you considered that Mother’s own heritage was mostly German.
“I cannot believe that you had the audacity to bring that dirty kike into my house!” Mother was still screaming. “She will not ever set foot in this house again! Do you hear me?”
She nodded in still-stunned silence.
“And don’t be bringing home any other kikes, either. You better call her up right now because if she shows up at my front door, I’ll throw her ass off the property!” The smell of smoke made Mother turn back to the stove and the pork chops that had been fried to cinders. A new wave of invective turned the air blue and she slunk out of the kitchen before she was shanghaied into cleaning up the mess.
She hurried away, shaking with shock and disbelief. She wasn’t allowed to have Jewish friends, either? Dear God, how was she supposed to tell? Was she supposed to interview everybody she met and make sure they weren’t Jewish before she could be friends? It was easy enough to sort the Negro and Mexican kids out…the dark skin and Spanish surnames were a dead giveaway. A thought suddenly struck her…Mother hadn’t said a word when she was going out with Danny Feldman…Mother couldn’t tell just by looking, either!
She picked up the phone and dialled Reenie’s number. “Hey…we were just leaving…”
“Change of plans,” she interrupted. “Mother burned dinner and is having one of her fits…would it be ok if we did this at your house?” She would die before she told Reenie the truth. What if she wasn’t allowed to hang out with Reenie any more? What was she going to do then?
“Sure,” Reenie replied unsuspectingly. “How about my mom picks you up and I’ll put some mac and cheese on the stove for us?”
“Bitchin’,” she said. “I’ll meet your mom out front. We’re gonna have such a good time tonight!” she promised, a bright smile in her voice. She put down the phone, shook her head, and hurried to pack up her things and be outside by the time Reenie's mother arrived...God forbid the poor woman should knock on the door and her mother answer it! Heartsore, embarrassed, saddened, she stuck the bright smile back on her face...it was going to be a long, long evening.
It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.