This is a screen grab that a family member of my ex sent to me – it’s a Facebook post by my younger daughter, Linda.
Please ensure that your seat belts are securely fastened and your seat backs and trays are in their full upright positions, because this is going to be an incredibly long and turbulent ride.
I actually got this screen shot more than six months ago from someone who still feeds me screen shots that this person feels I should see. My first knee-jerk reaction was to blast Linda, right there on her Facebook page, in front of all her friends and family but I realized that would be playing right into her plan, proving (at least in her mind) what a horrible mother and person I am. So, I stayed silent.
I will remain silent no more – at least, not here, where I can voice my thoughts and let them drift out into the universe, and land where they may.
For the past few years, I have made multiple posts on this blog about Linda (here, here, and here) describing certain incidents or giving voice to my feelings about my relationship with my middle child. To describe it as turbulent would be a grossly inadequate description. Each time I have made a post, within a few days, she goes on a tear and just generally makes life miserable. I have no reason to doubt that this particular post will be any different.
I think I can pinpoint the beginning of the worse of it around 1991, when I bought the house and we moved out here. Linda was twelve, starting over in a new school, at the awkward age of twelve. Just a day or two before the start of school, I suggested she go next door and introduce herself, as I knew there was a girl there the same age as Linda. She hesitated, but I suggested she could break the ice by asking what time the bus came (since we needed to know that anyway). It’s important to note that we had just moved into the house that Saturday – only four days before the start of the new school year.
Long story short, Linda took my suggestion, went next door, asked what time the bus came and from that point on, she and Andrea were inseparable. Because buying the house and getting the kids registered had happened in the very late weeks of August, Linda was nervous that something would go wrong on the first day (not an invalid concern, I might add), so I drove her to school the first day. She looked so cute that first day – wearing a cute little black skirt with matching black polka-dotted shirt, and black patent leather shoes. She was a pretty girl anyway and I often told her that. Perhaps I appealed a little too much to her vanity, I don’t know, but she was obsessed with not only her own clothing and being dressed just so, but mine and her brother’s as well. She was so obsessed with it, that it was not unusual for her to snipe at us about something that didn’t meet with her approval.
There was one time we were on our way out the door, to go shopping or something where we would be seen together in public (the HORRORS!) and Linda stopped me as I started down the stairs, and told me “Sheesh, Mom, don’t wear your socks like that, it makes you look like an old lady!” I had on crew socks and sneakers with my shorts. She reached down, and “slouched” my socks until she was satisfied that they weren’t too embarrassing for her. I shrugged it off as her just helping her Mom stay fashionable. She’d make snarky comments about my work clothes and flatly refused to wear anything I bought her. It was as if, by virtue of the fact I bought it, it meant I liked it, and therefore she hated it. Physical appearance was EVERYTHING to Linda. She fat shamed her peers. She made unkind remarks about kids who had scars or disabilities.
It wasn’t unusual for me to come home from work and have Andrea and Linda sitting at the kitchen table either doing their homework or just chattering away. But, if I said ANYTHING to Andrea, Linda would snark a little at me, telling me “You ask too many questions,” or she wouldn’t let Andrea get a response in before she jumped in and asked Andrea a different question, to divert her attention away from me. Again, I just chalked it up to being “that age when it’s not cool to like your parents.”
The light of friendship between Linda and Andrea burned intensely for about three years. When the girls were sophomores, or maybe juniors, I began noticing that Andrea had stopped coming to our house, and Linda had stopped going next door. I asked Linda about it, and she spat out in a very nasty tone “Andrea and I have different interests these days,” and that was the end of it.
Some time later, I was outside and waved as Andrea and her mother pulled up into their driveway. They got out of the car and the three of us just started chatting about nothing important. After a little while, I commented to Andrea “I miss seeing you” and Andrea glanced sideways at her mother, then down at her shoes. “Yeah,” she said and then, this normally chatty, gregarious girl fell silent. “I know,” I said, “You girls have vastly different interests these days. Linda mentioned that.”
While that was partly true (Linda was VERY into cheer leading, and Andrea did indoor/outdoor track and cross country), it was apparently not all of it. “Yeah,” Andrea replied, “I guess.” It was clear to me that there was more to it than just different interests, but Andrea was clearly uncomfortable talking about it. A couple of days later, Andrea and I were outside at the same time and got to talking again. I said “I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable talking about Linda. I know you both feel awkward about how far apart you’ve drifted, but it’s okay. I still love you,” chuckling as I said it. As we talked, Andrea described for me how, when I was at work and she was at my house, Linda was always very animated and chatty, and happy-go-lucky but the moment I came home, she became the polar opposite. This, she explained, was why she left whenever I got home. I asked her why she thought that was, that Linda got that way, and Andrea told me that she really thought that Linda was embarrassed of me. She commented that there had been things that Linda said about me that led her to believe that. “My Mom could use some makeup,” “My Mom dresses like she’s in the 70s,” “My Mom needs to get a real job.” (NOTE: I was working as a temporary when I bought the house, trying to obtain full-time, permanent employment.) “I think she thinks everyone looks down on her because of her life situation, and I think she makes it seem worse than it is.”
A year later, during the summer between their junior and senior year, Andrea died in a car accident. We had been away that week, visiting my sister in North Carolina. We drove up in the driveway and Mary (the crotchety old neighbor next door) came running across the lawn, anxious to be the first to deliver the news. Linda went right inside, while Joe and I got delayed by Mary. While I stood outside talking to Mary, trying to get away to get to Linda before she found out by hearing something on the answering machine, I heard the phone ring. I screamed “Don’t answer that!” but it was too late.
I ran into the house and saw Linda on the phone, quietly listening, not looking at me, not looking at anything, but not reacting in any way. I dared to hope that my daughter had not learned about the death of her best friend by some gossip calling and telling her. I glanced at the answering machine, standing dutifully by the front door, with the red number 26 flashing. While we had been gone, someone had blown up the phone, and I knew why.
Linda calmly hung up the phone. I took a step toward her. “Linda,” I began, “There was an accident…” “I know,” she said. “Andrea died.” She was emotionless. It occurred to me briefly to be concerned about that, but that niggling thought didn’t surface before she said “I’m going next door.” I went with her.
We knocked on the door, which was opened by Andrea’s father (Wayne). Behind him was Andrea’s 15 year old sister (Jaime) and her mother (Laurie). Linda walked past Wayne, put her arms around Jaime and that was when my daughter started to cry. She then hugged Laurie and they both cried. Linda had been part of their family for a while and everyone’s loss was palpable. I stayed home for a few days, because I thought Linda might need to have me around in dealing with her loss. She was on the phone with her friends a lot, and seemed completely unaffected by Andrea’s death. On the day of the funeral, she seemed reluctant about going. When the time came, she and I went to the funeral home, greeted Andrea’s family, and Linda “circulated” with her friends for a little while. During the ceremony, it was the first time I saw Linda really cry since she first learned of Andrea’s death. I put my arm around her, and she leaned into me for support. Looking back, I think that was the last time that Linda ever willingly let me put my arms around her – and it was the last time she wanted me to.
A few weeks later, a week or two before school started up again, I was outside and saw Laurie sitting on the back patio, sunning herself. I walked over and said hello. She motioned for me to sit in the chair next to her, so I did. I asked her “How are you doing, Laurie?” Immediately I wished I hadn’t asked her that because, I thought, how the hell WOULD she be doing if her daughter had just died? “As well as can be expected,” she offered, trying to be cheerful. We sat for a while and chatted about Andrea, the girls’ friendship, and how I had once threatened to buy an intercom system between the two houses so we could have our phones back. We chuckled at that. Laurie thanked me for NOT avoiding talking about Andrea. “Everyone avoids it because they’re afraid they’ll make me sad talking about her, but I hate that everyone is acting like, now that she’s gone, I don’t want to talk about her.” I mentioned that, every time I tried to engage Linda in any conversation about Andrea, Linda either walked away, or changed the subject. I told Laurie that I believed that Linda was feeling guilty about having lost touch with Andrea and that she pushed away anyone who mentioned her because it made her have to look at herself. Looking at herself (her inner self) was something Linda was not good at.
After she got home that evening, I mentioned to Linda that I had talked to Laurie, and how Laurie had thanked me for not avoiding talking about Andrea. Linda became agitated and sniped at me that “You shouldn’t have done that. You probably made her feel bad and she was just saying that because she’s too nice to say that it upsets her.” I told Linda that, in fact, I didn’t think that was the case – that Laurie truly meant what she said, but Linda wasn’t having it. I dropped it.
I yelled a lot.
Yep, I yelled a lot, not because it was the way I did things, but because it seemed to be the only thing that Linda ever responded to. If I spoke to her in a normal tone, she didn’t respond or didn’t do as she was told to do. But if I yelled, she took it as a personal assault. I couldn’t win. When she and I fought, we fought ugly.
There was once a time when, during an argument, I mentioned that she couldn’t be bothered with anyone inside the house – that her only interest in people were those outside of the home. She shot back that Joe and I had the same interests (which is not untrue) and that she had no interest in what we did. “We don’t even watch the same television programs,” she said, as she turned and slammed through her bedroom door. I sat, incredulous, as I heard her television blaring in her room, with the exact same program that Joe and I were watching. Joe and I just looked at each other, not needing to say what both of us were thinking.
Linda never tried to see beyond her own bubble. As an example, I used to require that, when it had snowed significantly, and effort had to have been made to at least TRY to shovel the driveway. I knew it was difficult and, because Linda and Joe were both small, shoveling was not going to be an easy task for them, but it was the EFFORT that I was looking for. So, I came home one day and not a single effort had been made to clear a spot in the driveway for me to park, or walk. I came into the house and immediately started bitching about it (and yes, I bitched about things). Linda said “I don’t see why WE should have to do that, YOU are the only one that drives.” I turned, looked at her and said “You’re right, Linda. I drive YOU to cheer leading practice and home. I drive YOU to your friends houses. I drive YOU to work. I drive YOU to the mall. I drive YOU to wherever you need or want to go. But that’s okay. Since I’m the only one who drives, I’ll shovel the goddamned driveway and YOU can find a ride to wherever you need to go. No problem.”
There came a huge argument one day – who knows what over, but I normally tried to NOT fight with Linda as much as possible because it could turn so ugly so quickly. Linda was like a little chihuahua when she was mad. Mouth just yapping and yapping and yapping, with nothing intelligent coming out of it. Just yapping because she needed to say something, anything. Anyway, I remember completely blowing a gasket, shrieking at her “You need me to do this, you want me to do this, you have to have me do this, but WHAT ABOUT WHAT I NEED FROM YOU? Is it too much to ask for you to show a little respect? To show a little gratitude for the things I do and have done for you? Is all of that just too fucking hard for you?” And, as I turned to walk out of her room, I tripped over her stereo that was sitting on the floor in the middle of her room – and had no business being there in the first place. Still in “blowing my stack” mode, and furious that stereo had tripped me, I turned around and kicked the stereo, and again, and again, and kept kicking it until there were pieces of it lying around on the floor. I went to my room and cried. I felt guilty, not for what I’d said, but because I had let loose that kind of fury on her stereo. It wasn’t unlike the rage my mother used to show when she’d swing the belt so hard on my brother and I, that she had welts on her own back. It terrified me that I could be like her.
She “ran away” that night. The following day, she came back to the house, wanting to get her clothes. I didn’t want to make it easy for her to run away (as I had done when I was her age), so I refused to let her in to get anything. I told her that, if she wanted to run away, I wasn’t going to help her do it. Less than an hour later, there was a sheriff’s deputy at my door, explaining to me that Linda had called 911 and told them I wouldn’t let her have her clothes. I told the deputy what had happened, about kicking her stereo in, and why I wasn’t going to make it easy for her. He understood that my “asshole” was really in Linda’s best interest. She waited in her boyfriend’s car at the curb while the deputy and I spoke. Finished with our discussion, the deputy returned to Linda to explain to her that there was nothing he could do, unless she could prove that the clothes in the house actually belonged to her, and for that, she’d need receipts. In less than two minutes, she had HIM yelling at her, too. I didn’t feel so bad. She slammed into the passenger side of her boyfriend’s car, and I heard her shriek at him “Just GO!” As they drove off, the deputy came back to the door, and we chatted a few more minutes. He told me that she had some wild idea in her head that he was there to do her bidding, inside or outside of the law, and that she apparently felt he owed it to her to bend to her wishes. He then told me that, in that moment with my daughter, he understood why some parents strike their children. He made it clear that he did not condone it, but he understood how it could happen. I related to the officer that, a few months prior to that, Linda was doing her chihuahua yapping at me and, without any plan to do so, or any conscious decision to do so, I had slapped her across her face. Once. Hard enough to leave a hand print. I wasn’t proud of that moment, either.
A day later, Linda returned home. I thought for sure she would pack her shit and leave again, but I’m guessing she didn’t really have anyplace to go long-term. Oh, I’m sure that her boyfriend’s mother got an earful about what a horrible mother I was – that much was a given.
Linda objected to having to do chores as well. “My friends don’t have to do chores,” was her argument. “Well, your friends have two parents,” I countered. “They don’t have one parent trying to do everything inside and outside the house, while working a full-time job, a part-time job, and the Reserves once a month.”
“I know, that’s embarrassing” was her retort.
Now, we didn’t live in abject poverty by any means. I mean, I bought a house, in a nice neighborhood, and I worked to pay the bills for us to live there. There wasn’t any extra money and the part-time job was so that I could float above the red line, financially. It also enabled me to let the kids do some of the things they wanted to do. Cheerleading. School pictures. Football. Birthday parties. Senior pictures. Field trips. Decent Christmases. My kids lacked for no basic needs and had things that some kids didn’t. For some of those things, I required them to come up with part of the fees/cost and I would come up with the rest. The idea wasn’t to humiliate them, or to force them to pay their own way, but to teach them that there are no handouts in life and that they needed to learn to work for what they wanted. If they worked and earned something, anything toward what they wanted, I made sure they could get it, if it was within my means. Was that such a terrible lesson to have to learn? And was it such a horrible thing, to require those kids to help out around the house, to be responsible for their environment?
Linda used to leave empty water glasses all around the house. If you’ve ever watched the movie “Signs,” it was a lot like “Bo’s” thing of leaving glasses of water everywhere. If she made any effort at all (which was rare), she’d merely bring them up and set them on the counter in the kitchen. Even if the dishwasher was empty, she’d just set them on the counter. Often I would say to her “Put your glass IN THE DISHWASHER! Don’t leave it there for ME to take care of.” One time she said “God, you take it so PERSONALLY!” Of course I do – I take personally a complete lack of respect which allows a person to think that I was put here to pick up after them, even though they are perfectly able, just unwilling, to pick up after themselves. The fact that she a) continued to do this and b) accused me of taking it personally speaks volumes of the level of respect (or lack thereof) that she had for me.
Linda informed me during mid-summer of 1999 that she was flying to Colorado to visit her father in early September. I didn’t think anything unusual about that because the kids had gone out to see him before and, since she was working and earning her own money, who was I to tell her she couldn’t? It was mid-November when, in conversation with Joe, I learned that she was flying out to visit her father, but had no intentions of returning. She was going, lock, stock and barrel to live with her father. She’d had no intention of saying anything to me about her plans. In my heart, I believe she intended to hurt me with that – by not saying anything about it. I had co-signed a loan for a car for her and, since she was flying to Colorado, it was clearly her intent to leave the car, and stick me with the payments on it.
Later that night, when I mentioned to her that Joe had told me her plans, and asked for an explanation, she simply walked away from me, went to her room, and slammed the door shut.
Linda couldn’t stand her brother
I don’t know if it’s that she hated him, disliked him, was jealous of him or was even just completely ambivalent about him. What I do know is that she did everything she could to tear him down and make him feel “less than.” She criticized his clothes, his hair, the way he talked – there was no limit to how low she would go to tear him down.
Anytime she walked out of her room, if Joe was sitting in the video rocker in the middle of the family room, she made a point of smacking him in the head as she walked by him. He didn’t have to do anything, just be there. I heard her tell him once that he was a major dork and that, according to her friends, that was why he didn’t have any friends. Yet, Joe not only had friends, he had lots of friends and was highly respected among his peers. One day, long after she had moved out to Colorado, I was talking with her on the phone. I mentioned something about Joe and she immediately interrupted me with “That kid is as dumb as a box of rocks. Look at the way he wears his belt!” As if the way a person wears their belt could ever measure their level of intelligence.
I think that, if the truth was known, Linda resented the close relationship that Joe and I enjoyed. She didn’t want that with me – I was an embarrassment to her, but she still resented Joe for having it.
After Linda moved to Colorado, we’d talk on the phone periodically (if I was on her “good side”) and inevitably, if I mentioned Joe, she’d launch into some sort of diatribe about how stupid, ugly, immature, dorky or other negative assessments where Joe was concerned. On Easter Sunday in 2004, I was talking to Linda on the phone. She had a wedding coming up in June, and the rehearsal dinner was to be on Joe’s 21st birthday. I knew Joe was incensed about it, but he was diplomatic enough to say nothing to his sister (who had asked him to be an usher in her wedding). Anyway, as we talked, I said something about Joe and, as always, she started badmouthing him based on stupid things. Finally reaching my fracture point, I said to her “That is MY SON you are talking about. You wouldn’t want someone to talk to you that way about YOUR son, so what makes you think I want to hear that shit about my son EVERY TIME his name comes up in conversation?”
It’s noteworthy that today in therapy I mentioned this particular incident to my therapist. I related to her how Linda’s response was a loud and angry tirade about how horribly I treat her, and she said “I hate you, and I never want to see you again!” Later, in an email, she would tell me that she didn’t want me to come to her wedding because, get this, I hadn’t “earned the right to be there.” A couple of days later, her husband called and said “I know you want Linda to feel the wrath of Mom, but she feels badly about what happened and she’s sorry.” I simply said to him “If she feels bad, and she’s sorry, then why am I talking to YOU?”
When I related this to my therapist, she said “It sounds like she’s a real narcissist.” I had been thinking this for years but, in defense of my daughter (and don’t ask why I WOULD defend her, I just did) I said “Well, I think we all are a little narcissistic.” My therapist replied “You’re right, we’re all inclined, to varying degrees, to be a little narcissistic. However, there’s a profound difference between occasional narcissistic acts and being a narcissist.”
Prior to today, with all the thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours I have spent in therapy, not once during all that time have I ever felt validated like that. My therapist explained to me that narcissists often react badly to being called out for their behavior, and either last out physically or verbally in such a manner as to hurt the other person. Narcissists also often use projection in order to deflect away from their own bad behavior. That is – they accuse you of doing what they are guilty of. In doing so (as Linda did in the above screen shot), they elicit sympathy, attention, and reinforcement from others, in order to validate themselves. They use gaslighting and outright lies as weapons, with an expected outcome to make you believe that you are worthless, or less than worthy of anything. I can’t count the number of times I have said “Linda has always been a master at making me feel bad about me.” And today my therapist, with her explanation of a narcissistic personality, took away a large chunk of my negative feelings about myself where Linda is concerned.
My ex-husband’s wife saw this early on, when Linda got pregnant for her first child. There was some kind of outburst from Linda directed at her stepmother and the stepmother asked me “Is this the pregnancy hormones, or is this the real Linda I’m seeing?” My response? “Probably a mixture of both.”
Linda is just plain cruel
I think this is critical – the cruelty.
When Linda hurts, everyone must hurt. This has been a mantra of mine where Linda is concerned. When called out on her bullshit, she becomes so enraged that she becomes incredibly cruel. “I hate you” is a common statement when she’s angry. When her husband called me that time, after she had uninvited me to the wedding, he said “She tells me she hates me all the time!” My reply was “Just because she says that to you all the time, doesn’t make it right, it doesn’t dilute the meaning of the words, and it doesn’t justify her continued use of that phrase. When you say ‘I hate you,’ your intent is to hurt the person you are saying it to. It’s not a joke. It’s no more ‘just an expression’ than telling a black person ‘you dress like a n*gger.’ It’s intent is to hurt. Period.”
I made a comment on my brother’s Facebook page about something he had posted – that it was incredibly racist and factually incorrect. He sniped at me and, in under 10 minutes, Linda was there, ripping into me publicly on Facebook. The key thing of note here is that Linda rarely argues/discusses the issue. She goes directly to personal attack. I pointed out to her that she seems to have appointed herself as the “family protector,” with her cape and costume, swooping in to protect anyone and everything from her mother. I then withdrew from the ugliness that continued afterward until she made a crack about me being pathetic living alone with only cats who could stand to be around me. I’m ashamed to admit that I responded that, if this was her idea of “conflict resolution,” it probably explained a lot about why Child Protective Services (where she works) is in such bad shape these days – if this is how their case workers resolve personal conflict.
Like a true narcissist, Linda takes absolutely no responsibility for her actions or her words. When I pointed out how hurtful “I hate you” is, when we finally spoke again, she launched into a diversion tactic to point out to me what a terrible mother I was and how I “never did anything” for her, and how hurtful that was. When I told her that I was sick of walking egg shells around her, she immediately threw back that she had been walking egg shells around me her whole life.
Narcissists never change.
I have spent the last 20 or so years hoping that having children and a husband would mellow Linda out. Maybe it has on her end of life, but it hasn’t mellowed her out with regard to me OR her brother.
We all do things from time to time that seem narcissistic in nature. I won’t take any sort of appointment later than 11:00 a.m. because I’m selfish with my time and don’t want an afternoon appointment to fuck up my entire day. I used to schedule an occasional meeting outside during the nice weather so I could smoke while I worked. I am prone to doing things sometimes with my OWN self-interest in mind but I am not cruel. I do not work tirelessly to tear other people down. I do not gaslight. And I try to take ownership of my actions. Note I said try. Sometimes I don’t do a good job of that, but I try.
So, because narcissists never change, I’ve decided that life is too goddamned short for me to spend what precious little time I have left fighting with my daughter who has no respect, empathy, love or ability to see beyond the end of her own nose, or live outside her own bubble.
For the past 20-some-odd years, when she and I have been at odds, I have given her space, not reached out, but always left the door open for her to come back in.
Today, I softly but firmly, close that door. I want no more of her, her cruelty, her rage, or her “it’s all about me” personality. I love her very much, but I do not like her at all. Today, I strike out on my own path, but it’s a path where she will not follow, nor cross my path again.
I am not a narcissist.