A Word About the Me, Me, Me People
Dear Margo: I think you or your readers may not understand what it’s like to live with someone who is a narcissist. The word is so often thrown around. Just one example: My own mother (diagnosed with narcissism and borderline personality) tried to pick a fight with everyone at my lovely mother-in-law’s memorial service because she needed to be the center of attention. I would suggest to anyone dealing with this reality to look objectively at whatever the situation is and figure out what will give such a person the least “juice” and/or opportunity to become the center of attention. I would also recommend enlisting the help of people who are aware of the situation to take shifts monitoring such a person at any public affair. –Been There
Dear Been: Let me put it this way: I’ve not lived with someone who’s a narcissist, but I certainly did know one rather well. And you are right about that word being thrown around. It is an actual mental health diagnosis, and a woman who primps in front of a mirror does not qualify. People develop all kinds of mechanisms for coping with the narcissists in their lives — and, to be realistic, some people are not even aware that such behavior is what they’re dealing with. Your suggestions for managing aggressive and obvious egoists are good ones — and about the only ones.
Fascination with oneself, of course, comes from insecurities and early family situations that are skewed in one way or another. For whatever reason, narcissists resist therapy because, like some alcoholics, they do not recognize that there’s a problem. A famous, though certainly appealing, narcissist was Mohammed Ali. Once, before a plane he was on took off, the flight attendant told him to fasten his seatbelt. His answer was, “Superman don’t need no seat belt.” The wonderful response was: “Superman don’t need no airplane, either.” He laughed and did as he was told. –Margo, managerially
There Are Times When No Response Is Appropriate
Dear Margo: A few years ago, my partner was outside gardening when a neighbor stopped to talk to him. Later on, when my partner came inside, he told me Mr. Neighbor had told him about his married life, children, etc., and how he’d always wanted to have something done to him by a guy. My partner suggested to our neighbor that he try a “facsimile,” but he didn’t like that idea.
My partner has no problem screaming at me, but when he should correctly tell someone off, he’s all polite. I found the neighbor’s request disgusting because 1) it’s common knowledge in the neighborhood who we are and that we’re a couple, and 2) (and yes, this is shallow and meaningless) the neighbor is old, fat, and ugly. Yes, you can scold me for writing that.
There is a block party once a year, and when this man has been there, I simply avoid or ignore him. On a rare occasion, he might be out walking his dog, and I ignore him. My partner will speak to him as if nothing happened, which makes me want to scream. Should I send him a note telling him I know what he asked and to keep his distance? –Don’t Go to Strangers
Dear Don’t: Calm yourself. The unfortunate-looking neighbor propositioned your partner — I would guess more out of curiosity than desire — a couple of years ago! You need to stop obsessing about this. And there is definitely no need for a note. From what you say, he is seldom seen anyway, so he is, in effect, already keeping his distance. Here’s a lesson I learned from my mother. There is no need to cut someone off at the knees simply because a proposition is proffered. Your partner basically laughed it off, and I suggest you do the same. It’s fine to ignore him, if that makes you feel better, and just keep on showering him with indifference. –Margo, maturely
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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.
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