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.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Information, please

“Mrs. Blake,” the receptionist called, her lips so primly formed that the name almost came out “bleak.” It was exactly how she felt…bleak.

No matter how she apportioned it, $105 a month simply could not sustain her and the baby. The Navy said her husband should be allocating some part of his pay to her allotment check…maybe $35 a month or so…but they couldn’t make him do it. And since he was someplace between the California coast and the Asian, she couldn’t do much about it either.

And so she decided to get a job.

Jean, next door, had offered to babysit. Annie was a good baby…a little colicky at times, perhaps, but mostly a sweet natured cherub. Jean was home all day with her two toddlers and, being a Navy wife too, could use a little extra money. She had transportation and child care all worked out, now all she needed was a job.

The last time she had gone job hunting, it had been an unmitigated disaster. Oh, she had gotten the job all right, but Mother had put the kibosh on it, but quick. She had found a job as a live-in housekeeper and baby sitter for a widower with two preschool children. He knew she was pregnant, he knew she was seventeen and unmarried, and when she said she expected to keep her baby, he just shrugged. “What’s one more in the house?” he asked. “There’s plenty of stuff you can use out in the garage…a crib, clothes…lots of stuff.” She had pretty much been Mother’s housekeeper since she was seven or eight, and her three young siblings…uh, half-siblings…had given her a considerable amount of experience in dealing with young children. She was confident she could handle the job, it provided a roof over her head and a wage, and he had shown her a room with attached bath, private entrance and…very important…locks. He didn’t seem like a lecherous type who would be interested in more than having his home kept up and his children looked after…she had learned the hard way to recognize that predatory aura about a man…and he travelled a lot, so she would be home alone with the children a great deal. Seemed about perfect.

Mother, of course, took a decidedly different view. “You will not go move in with some strange man!” she declared hotly. “Isn’t it enough that you are pregnant and not married, but you have to go shack up with some guy you barely know?”

“It’s not like that, Mother!” she argued back. “It’s a job! I’ll have my own room with a private entrance and locks on the insides of the doors! I’ll get paid! It’s something I know how to do!”

“I will not have you advertising to the whole world what a little tramp you are! That man ought to be arrested, soliciting a seventeen-year-old girl! That’s white slavery! It’s statutory rape if he touches you!”

“He’s not going to touch me!” she shouted back. “I don’t know what you are so upset about! You don’t want me here…and I’ve found a perfect solution to the problem…”

“You are my problem,” Mother ground out through clenched teeth. “And you will remain my problem right up until the day you turn eighteen. And you will do exactly as you are told, not one iota more, not one iota less, do you hear me? And you will not…I repeat, you will not take this job or any other one, for that matter! When you start to show you are going to the Florence Crittenton home and that is the end of it!”

Well, it hadn’t been the end of it, but it had been the end of that job. But Mother was not part of the picture now, even though she and Frank just lived across town, and she was on her own. “You made your bed, now you lie in it,” Mother had said when she had dropped her and Annie off at the little cottage after picking them up from the hospital. “Don’t think you can come running to me when things get tough!”

She hadn’t. She’d gone job hunting. She was eighteen, a high school graduate…with excellent grades, mind you…and she was reasonably intelligent. There had to be something she could do to earn a decent living.

It took just over a week, but she finally found the perfect job. The telephone company was hiring information operators…entry level! She packed up a bag for Annie, dropped her off with Jean, hopped a bus for downtown, and presented herself at the personnel office, ready to start her training. She was a bit surprised to learn that she had to fill out a six page form and then come back tomorrow for testing, but that was OK…she always aced tests, so that actually worked in her favour. Unless, of course, there was a lot of math on it. But why would they want an information operator to do math? She turned in her forms and took the test appointment slip and headed back to her little converted garage cottage full of confidence.

It turned out not to be such a difficult test and, in fact, the last part was actually rather enjoyable. She had had to write an essay about a famous person, living or dead, and what she admired about that person. She had chosen John F. Kennedy, a man still very much in the hearts and minds of people, despite his shocking and untimely death. The test, actually, was much easier than the college entrance exams she had taken back in high school…was that really only a year ago?...and she wasn’t even sure why she had had to take it, since it didn’t seem to have anything to do with switchboards or looking up references or anything she imagined an information operator might be expected to do.

Those college exams…she shook her head, a flush of anger surging over her. She had qualified for a scholarship…she could have gone to college, instead of ending up sitting here in a dingy personnel lobby, waiting for the results of her test and the offer of a job. She knew she had done well on the exam…one of these jobs working for the phone company was surely in her future…a secure future working for a major corporation with benefits and retirement and everything! It was almost as good as going to college, she told herself, tamping down that surge of anger again…and much more immediate. Money by the end of next month instead of in three more years… If she didn’t get this job, she didn’t know what she was going to do…

“Mrs. Blake,” the receptionist called. She looked up expectantly.

“Mr. King will see you now.”

She stood and brushed the wrinkles out of her blue wool skirt and tugged down the hem of her jacket. Some of the clothes she had bought with Nana that summer were turning out useful even after high school she thought, moving purposefully, confidently, towards the interview room.

Mr. King gave no preamble. “Well, Mrs. Blake, yours is probably the highest score we have ever seen on this test.” She smiled a very tiny smile, just a slight quirking of the corners of her lips. “And the essay was also one of the very best we have ever read.”

Something was wrong here, she could feel it. Mr. King did not seem pleased at the prospect of having the highest scorer on their test sitting in front of him…in fact, he seemed downright uncomfortable. What was going on?

“You may not be aware, but the position of information operator is a rather repetitious job…not very challenging or interesting. Boring, one might say,” he paused, looking at her earnestly. She nodded for him to go on.

“We have found certain kinds of people do well in this occupation and…well, others do not.”

What was he trying to tell her? If she scored so high, what was the problem? Did she score poorly in the parts that were important to the ability to do the job?

“What I’m trying to say, Mrs. Blake, is that we don’t think you’d be happy as an information operator. Someone as bright as you are…you’d find it boring, uninteresting, and you probably wouldn’t be with the company long enough to justify our cost of training you.” He looked directly at her, blinking owlishly.

She could not believe her ears. “You mean you are turning me down for this position because I’m too smart to be an information operator?” she asked incredulously.

He nodded and gave her a rueful little smile. “In a nutshell, yes.”

“And I don’t get a chance to show you how well I can do this job?”

He shook his head and pushed back his chair, signalling the end of the interview.

“Mr. King,” she said softly. “Mr. King, I need this job! I have a baby and we just don’t have enough to get by…”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Blake,” he said, his voice now professionally cool. “But I am sure than someone as intelligent and obviously able as you are will be able to find something suitable without much difficulty.” He showed her to the door and nodded to the receptionist to send in the next applicant.

She stood in the wind on the sidewalk outside the glass door. People hurried by her, rushing to their destinations, their own jobs, their own livelihoods. She just stood there, stunned, clutching her purse, unable to move. All her life she had been encouraged to excel. Even Mother, who was almost impossible to please in any venue, would call up her friends and brag when a straight A report card came home…not that Brother ever got one. Be smart, study hard, do well, get good grades, excel…it is the key to success, to getting ahead. Or so she had been told.

It was a lie. A bald-faced, blatant, unequivocal lie. She was too damned smart to be a damned telephone operator…they didn’t want the smart ones, the ones who did well in school, the ones who had good grades, personal discipline, and the ability to use their brains. They wanted to screw-ups, the girls who couldn’t get into the College Prep or Honours classes, and who made barely average grades in their average classes. Excellence didn’t count for shit!

She should have known…she should have had it figured out back in high school… She’d done well on the SATs, she had scored unusually high on the CEEB, and when she applied for a couple of scholarships, her guidance counsellor had offered the opinion that she should have little difficulty winning one or even both of them. She was smart and capable, her grades were good, and she was definitely college-ready. And what happened?

Everyone acknowledged that she had better grades, better scores, even a better record of extracurricular activities than the boys to whom the scholarships were given. Their financial need was not even as great as her own. It wasn't fair! she had cried, but, the counsellor said, despite their lacklustre grades and uninspiring school record, they were boys…they needed the college degree because they were going to grow up and marry and have families to support. She, on the other hand, did not need a degree because she would just grow up and marry someone who would support her and her children. Like now...

She should have figured it out then…that intelligence, excellence, and performance didn’t mean a thing. But she didn’t…she thought it was more of that crap she used to put up with Mother, always favouring Brother because he was a that actually meant something. But now she knew…she was female, she was smart, and she was doomed.

She turned herself towards the bus stop and began walking. She still had to find a job or she and Annie would starve. She wasn’t sure yet what she was going to do for work, but she knew now that it damned sure wasn’t going to involve her intellect.


  1. I relate to this, too. My IQ used to be 156. I say "used to be," because I've had a couple of concussions and a mini-stroke since I took the proctored Mensa IQ test in 1979, and I can tell that I'm not nearly as smart as I was. Sometimes, in fact, I am appallingly stupid.

    But I've heard those words too, after taking an apptitude test as part of a job application. "Yours is probably the highest score we have ever seen on this test... Someone as bright as you are…you’d find it boring, uninteresting, and you probably wouldn’t be with the company long enough to justify our cost of training you."

    I was also given the "girls don't need a college education, you will have a husband to support you, your brothers need the education so they can support their own families" spiel.

    Anyway, back to the here and now... I've decided to make my blog private, at least for a while. In the past few days I've had some triggering experiences which have forced me to realize that I am far more psychologically broken than I previously knew. So I'm going to do what you did, focus on writing my memories as they come to mind, without having to worry about people reading and responding to my posts.

    Right now, I know that I am not OK. I'm not where I want to be, and not where I think I can be, with some extra effort. I am extremely dysfunctional in almost every way, today. Intensive therapy is what I need. You have inspired me to go for it. I was on the brink of giving up, when I started reading your 46 memories. But if you can be as stable as you are, after all that you have gone through, then I am not hopeless, after all.

    Thank you for sharing your story and giving me hope.

    I'm now going to continue reading the rest of your 46 Memories.

    Hugs and Love ~ Me

    1. "Right now, I know that I am not OK. I'm not where I want to be, and not where I think I can be..."

      First step of recovery, acknowledgement and recognition, completed!

      You are already on your way before you even knew it.

      Going for a private blog where you can just write it all out is a good choice. Let me give you a hint for the tough stories: when I was in therapy and could come to a memory I just couldn't articulate, my therapist would tell me to put it in the third person. By disassociating from it a little, by making the story about someone else rather then me, I could get it out.

      I found myself stuck in writing the 46 memories and found that if I made them about another person, the pain wasn't quite so deep. I owned the stories later, after they were out of my head and into the computer. The first task was to purge them. So, if you find yourself sitting there staring at the screen and unable to write because you are too much in contact with the pain, try shifting to an "observer" position--it really does dull the painful parts and makes it easier to write.

      Also, you don't have to do the stories in chronological order. Just write what you are feeling when you are feeling it. You can rearrange them into chronological order later, if that is important to you. Don't create rules for yourself--the writing doesn't have to be publication quality (you can fix that later if you decide to publish). Just WRITE--let it come out of your heart and through your fingers onto the screen. Don't delete ANYTHING you have written until it has gotten cold---6 weeks or more---and you re-read it. What you write is not a betrayal of anyone else as you have every right to record your life and nobody else has a right to expect you not to. Just write and keep on writing--it took me 46 memories to feel purged--you may need also may need fewer.

      Just write Charity--in a private blog you can be more honest about your experiences and your feelings that anywhere else because there is no one to judge you but YOU. Just write....



  2. Violet,

    "What you write is not a betrayal of anyone else as you have every right to record your life and nobody else has a right to expect you not to."

    I need to hear this. I just discovered your blog on Thursday. After reading the first few of your 46; I was so overwhelmed with my own so similar memories that it sent my mind into a very dark place. Fortunately, I was able to pull myself out as I've been participating in a recovery from codependence program for the last three years. I've often referred publicly to my mother as a "dominating matriarch". I've spent a lot of time wondering why she behaves as she does. I'm slowly reading your 46. Thank you so much for sharing your intimate thoughts. It is very validating, and for me very overwhelming. I take a break when it becomes too difficult. I never considered my mother an N. I never actually knew much about Narcissism. I think I just thought it was a male disorder and usually involved uncanny scary violence. My mother yelled and screamed every day; she would hit often but nearly always stopped short of wounds or bruising that might give her away.

    I'm going to finish reading your blog. Then I'm going to write out my own memories. I'm glad to hear that writing about it will not be a betrayal. Just thinking about my past, I hear myself whispering lest anyone hear (huh, I'm thinking within myself ~ who is going to hear?) Yet I'm scared. I really have been abused even if the evidence was not criminal.
    Blessings SweetViolet
    & again thanks for sharing.

    1. I like that "I really have been abused even if the evidence was not criminal".

      I think that's such an important point. It helps us remember how severe and painful and damaging abuse can be, even if there are no physical scars to prove it.

      I struggle a lot with that. I know my mother has hurt me purposefully countless times. I know she has betrayed me and robbed me (actually, that IS criminal!) and insulted me and everyone/everything I love. I know she has set me up for failure, and destroyed every single event/day that has ever been important for me.

      Deep down inside I know how evil she is. But every once in a while a little bit of doubt comes over me. I can't help but wonder if it's just me, my "wild imagination" or simply that I'm exaggerating and being a "bad daughter" (as she always liked to call me). And it makes me feel so, so horrible :(.

    2. Clara, thanks for replying to 46 Memories. What you told about your NM stopping just short of leaving marks with her hitting reminded me of something. My NM used to brag about being able to whip me without leaving a mark. Like many DoNM I was hit many times daily by NM and GC, but not in front of others. Gotta keep up appearances.


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