Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Narcissists are People, Too

My mom said something very enlightened and enlightening to me on the phone just now. She was being affectionate and I was getting uncomfortable and started tearing up and squirming at the same time and telling her to shut up. I said, “You’re being nice, it’s making me uncomfortable.” Then she said, “But you like it, too. One of the things I sometimes forget about you is that you push people away, but it’s like a test. You want them to come after you, to chase you, because it makes you feel loved.”

My mom is a smart lady.

When I tell people to go away I usually want just the opposite. When I say I don’t want to know someone, it’s because I am sad and scared and don’t know what I’m doing. But I want them to chase after me. God, that must be aggravating. I wonder if I can get a prescription for something like that? The harder I push means the more I know they love me, and the more I want them to prove that they do.

Unless, you know, they’re a stalker.

Then I started thinking about how no one really knows me as well as my Mom. It makes sense. She like, created me. But at the same time there is so much that she doesn’t know about me. My mom is trying to understand who I am, and who I’m trying to be. And I’m learning to understand that not only is she my mom, but she’s a person, too, with her own needs beyond what I need from her. I guess that’s the crux of the parent-adult child relationship: learning how to navigate shifting roles, how to love each other in a different way than what you’ve grown up with.

Everyone is giving Emily Gould shit for being a narcissist. But the truth is, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being self-involved and self-analyzing when you’re in your 20’s. We’re all trying to figure these things out, and she just happened to do it in a public forum. Maybe sharing her pain made her feel less alone. Maybe she needed an audience because she needs validation for the choices that she makes.

Or maybe she is just a Millennial, and has grown up accustomed to sharing everything that’s happened to her with a wider and increasingly voyeuristic audience. Is everyone who updates their Facebook status a narcissist because they want people to be interested in what they’re doing? Or is it something larger than that? Reaching out for a connection that we’re terrified of losing, because this world may be small, but this city is big, and it can be agonizing to navigate it alone. And I don’t think any of us should have to.

-Jess

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