Questions to weed out narcissists

Is there anything more frustrating than interacting with a narcissist?

I’ve worked with three white male narcissists in the past few years, which has led to a LOT of googling about how to deal with them. (See: the gray rock tactic.)

Turns out, some common narcissist traits are refusal to admit they’re wrong, constantly blaming others, little compassion for others, little respect for boundaries, “nice” deeds done to make them look good, and taking credit for others’ work.

Based on those traits, I came up with some questions I hope to use in the future to reveal if someone has a lot of narcissistic traits:

  • Have you been to therapy? Are you in therapy now? (Note: Some narcissists go to therapy, so this doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it’s very revealing if they say something like “I don’t need therapy” or “it’s never really worked for me”)
  • What’s some criticism you received and how did you grow from it and address your weakness? (What’s an example of you learning from constructive feedback?)
  • What’s a mistake you made and how did you take ownership for it?
  • How do you react when people tell you you’re wrong?
  • When’s the last time you sincerely apologized for something?
  • How do you react when someone is in pain or struggling?
  • Who is someone you’ve helped succeed? How did you do it?
  • What are some needs of others you’ve helped to meet?
  • How often do you admit you’re wrong?
  • Is it important to you to feel special, powerful, and unique?
  • How do you respond to other people’s boundaries?
  • How do you help build others’ confidence and self-esteem?
  • What’s an example of you taking responsibility for something negative?
  • How do you react when someone questions you?
  • What’s something kind you did recently?
  • When did you show compassion recently?

Obviously you can’t just sit someone down and ask them all of these, but I hope to sprinkle them into professional and personal settings. I know the sooner I spot a narcissist, the sooner I can save myself anguish and stay the hell away from them!

white silence is violence

Source

Awhile ago, I started writing a blog post titled, “All white people are racist.” A friend had recommended So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, and it really opened my eyes. Like so many ignorant white people, I hadn’t realized before that we white Americans exist in a racist system. We’re taught to be racist. We ARE racist. And getting defensive and insulted about that is soooo not the point. The point is to own my privilege, recognize my racism, and do the work to be actively anti-racist.

I never published that blog post.

I went back and forth. It seemed important. It also seemed angry. Shouldn’t I stick to happy fluffy stuff, like collages and gifs and inspirational quotes? I didn’t want to be offputting, have people think I was an angry feminist or ~ social justice warrior ~.

FUCK THAT. That was a big mistake. I’m sorry for my silence. Black people don’t have the luxury of deciding, nope, I don’t want to think about race today. I’m going to do better by:

It feels weird to put that out there, like I’m bragging, but I want to commit and hold myself accountable. Silence isn’t an option anymore.

fashion distraction

“What’s out of fashion now is the schedule of the entire system: the shows, the showrooms, the orders.”

Anthony Vaccarello, creative director at Saint Laurent

runway pics via NYT; collages by moi

It’s probably frivolous to even be thinking about fashion right now, but for me, it’s been a welcome distraction from the depressing-as-fuck state of the world: friends losing their jobs, (more) racially motivated murders by police (and others), America’s worst president (enabled by a chickenshit social media platform), and an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness.

It’s a privilege and a luxury to be able to step back from all that for a second and look at pretty pictures. Color cheers me up, if only for a moment. And it’s a tiny consolation that COVID-19 just might be changing the fashion industry for the better.

For one thing, gender lines are continuing to blur. It’s slowly becoming more acceptable to be nonbinary, and fashion designers are starting to make more unisex clothes. So people are realizing that maaaybe it’s unnecessary to have different men’s and women’s lines, shown in different months. According to the NYT:

On Monday [May 25], Alessandro Michele, the creative director of Gucci, held a video news conference to announce that the brand will reduce the number of shows it holds each year from five to two…He also wants to do away with the distinction between men’s wear and women’s wear, and the traditional appellations of fall/winter and spring/summer.

Woot!! Gucci is also launching a genderless section of its website, the NYT says in the same article. Hopefully others will follow.

Another way the fashion industry should change, IMO? Lose the snooty exclusivity and promotion of rapid consumption. (Remember “Don’t stomp your little last-season Prada shoes at me, honey!” from Legally Blonde?) It’s such an elitist, rich-person world, even without shaming people for wearing something that–gasp!–came out last month. Thankfully, the lines between seasons might blur, in addition to gender divides. InStyle predicts, “Fashion trends will slow down…Designers including Donatella Versace, Rick Owens, and Guram Gvasalia of Vetements have indicated they are looking forward to slowing down and creating seasonless clothes.” (Besides, with climate change, every season is summer! 😬)

Speaking of climate change, that’s another reason the fashion industry should reinvent itself right now. Excess is never a good look, but particularly when resources are becoming more scarce AND SO MANY PEOPLE ARE JOBLESS. Rather than using child labor and oil-based materials like acrylic and polyester, we need quality clothes that are designed to last, made ethically, and priced somewhat reasonably (like Everlane, only cuter and more colorful). CGTN thinks consumers are ready: “During the crisis, many customers have been shopping more consciously and thinking about ethical aspects of their shopping experience–a shift in consumer mindset expected to accelerated by the pandemic.”

Teen Vogue says that there’s also been an uptick in online secondhand shopping (GOOD!). Thrift stores and vintage shops are where it’s at (or, uh, they will be once they reopen, if they aren’t closed forever?! #shoplocal). Maybe fast fashion is finally losing its luster.

Who knows? Call me Pollyanna, but maybe something good will come out of our current disasters: changed consumers and fashion designers alike.

quote of the day: “strong female leads”

NYT: I Don’t Want To Be the Strong Female Lead

I have mixed feelings on the phrase “strong women.”

Years ago, a woman told me, “Most of my friends are…[pause]…strong women.” It came off slightly condescending, insulting, and confusing. Was she saying most women AREN’T strong? Was she using “strong” as a euphemism for “loud,” “difficult,” and/or “opinionated”? (Which women should be allowed to be, obvs.) At the time, I thought she was saying I wasn’t strong. I can definitely seem quiet, shy, and “nice” at first, before people realize I’m a diabolical witch with coals for eyes. But kindness and strength aren’t mutually exclusive.

Plus, fuck our culture’s obsession with strength! (See: the proliferation of “strong is the new skinny” quotes on Pinterest. YUCK.) Being physically weak DOES NOT mean you’re inferior. People who are weak, vulnerable, and/or marginalized need advocates and assistance–not in a paternalistic way, but in a way that acknowledges privilege and uses it for good. (Like donating to a homeless shelter or writing your local politicians or whatever.)

If lifting weights makes you happy, go for it. Be as physically strong as you want! But fetishizing strength seems harmful. The “strong woman” thing seems related to the “cool girltrope: “I’m not like most girls/women [because most of them suck]; I’m more like a dude!” Yikes. Internalized misogyny 😦

Anyway, I LOVE Brit Marling’s quote! Femininity is not inferior. YES to listening, empathy, and vulnerability, now more than ever.

dispatches from the end of the world

hello! are you still alive? good job!

it’s a weird time to be alive. emails about coronavirus are annoying. emails that aren’t about coronavirus seem tone-deaf. we got an inch of snow yesterday, in March. THE WORLD IS ENDING! everything is fine! i go back and forth several times an hour.

words, as always, are powerful. being concerned about coronavirus is either “freaking out” or “taking it seriously,” depending who you ask. being unconcerned is a luxury:

[T]he theory that this isn’t serious, the idea that other people are succumbing to a panic you’re way too cool to get wrapped up in, that’s not interesting, or thoughtful, or contrarian. It’s just cruel.

i already have hermit-like tendencies, but when it’s externally mandated, staying home alone suddenly feels isolated and empty and apocalyptic. then at Safeway, everything seems normal (ignoring the gaping holes on the shelves in the cleaning aisle). so much alone-ness seems like a golden opportunity to get in shape, like movie montages of the main character (wrongly imprisoned, of course) doing pushups in her cell. when in reality, i drink wine and lie on the couch, half-watching Bones and working on the same rag rug i’ve been working on for ages. so basically nothing has changed.

it’s times like these i’m oddly glad to not work in media anymore, not be a slave to clicks, not have to spin literally every topic into how it relates to coronavirus. (The 10 Best Nail Polish Shades For When You’re Involuntarily Working From Home! Affiliate Links May Give Us a Small Percent of Your Purchase!) it also reminds me of how privileged and fortunate i am to have a job where working from home is no big deal, unlike my cousin and her boyfriend, who work for school districts. will service-industry folks get fired? how many restaurants will have to fold? will this thing fuck up the global economy for years?! the panic starts again.

then i breathe, and make more tea, and look at my cat lying unconcerned in the sunshine. maybe i’ll go for a walk today. maybe i’ll tackle my stack of library books (another silver lining: no late fees indefinitely!). all we can do is wash our hands, try to stay calm, and help each other out (from three feet away, obvs). oh yeah, and vote for someone in November who ISN’T a willfully ignorant, unresponsive asshole grossly mismanaging the situation.

we’ll get through this. most of us. hopefully.

Which Golden Girl are you? An existential crisis

I am a Rose. Always have been, probably always will be.

But I’ve spent most of my life trying to be the other ones.

Sure, Rose is sweet. But she’s the one you make fun of for being so innocent and optimistic and ditzy.

Dorothy is the cool one. Dorothy is the equivalent of being a badass, snarky cool girl in a leather jacket, chain-smoking and playing drums in a riot grrrl band and dating a woman totally nonchalantly even though it’s the ’90s. (Very specific, I know.)

I had a *~breakthrough~* in therapy today and realized I have been trying SO SO long to NOT be a Rose. (Excusing for the moment that no one real person can 100% be a fictional character created in the ’80s.) I was afraid as a Rose I’m not good enough. I guess I thought if I really admitted and embraced being a Rose, I’d have to hang out with other Roses 24/7 because the Blanches and Dorothys and Sophias of the world wouldn’t like me.

It’s silly, I know, but I was am insecure.

But you know what? Trying to be someone you’re not is EXHAUSTING. Beating yourself up for not being edgier or snarkier or more extroverted or having more sex is NOT healthy or productive!

Nobody’s like, “Yo, Rose. Quit being yourself. We need two Dorothys instead of one Dorothy and one of you.” That’d be ridiculous! (Also boring, right?!)

It’s like that quoted-to-death saying, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Being myself is scary sometimes, though. I’m very judgmental, especially toward myself. There are tons of things I don’t like about myself (still getting zits in my 30s! constantly running late! unwillingness to go to even the world’s most convenient gym!).

How is it OK to be myself when I “should” be so much better or even someone else entirely?

That sounds like a pretty shitty way to live, though. The only answer is to accept my Rose-ness and trust that the Blanches and Dorothys (not really Sophias, because she’s just so caustic…see? total Rose) of the world will still want to be my friend.

Plus, I tell WAY fewer stories about St. Olaf. 😉

who i have a crush on

People who thank the bus driver.
People who tip extra.
People who let people with one or two items go ahead in the grocery store line.
People who help empty the dishwasher at work even though it’s not “their job.”
People who pick up litter.
People who flatten their cardboard boxes before recycling them.
People who put the toilet seat down and replace the toilet paper roll.
People who are considerate.
People who are kind.

there’s nothing wrong with you

My therapist told me that today. Not in a “We’re done here; you’ve evolved and are perfect, TRUMPET NOISE!!!!1” way (snort). In a “You go through life thinking you’re bad and wrong and messed up and THAT’S why people are shitty and that’s not true” way.

There’s nothing wrong with me. Or you. WHAT A REVOLUTIONARY THOUGHT.

“There’s nothing wrong with any of us–except maybe Trump,” she continued (um LOVE HER). “Or sociopaths, or narcissists, or like serial killers.” I nodded. “People are inherently good.”

RECORD SCRATCH say whaaaat?

I grew up hearing we’re all sinful and evil and hopelessly flawed and only by the grace of some white guy (he was Middle Eastern, but that’s another topic) do we have ANY hope of escaping our inherent shittiness, which will otherwise make our lives miserable. And if we don’t apologize and feel guilty constantly, we’ll be damned to torturous hellfire. Woohoo!

So the idea that there MIGHT NOT be anything wrong with me is a bit of a shock. It’s gonna take a while to sink in.

I mentioned how when I was young, some female “friends” excluded me and were basically catty, petty, insecure trashbags (can you tell their actions were emotionally scarring?). And I concluded it was MY fault they were mean to me. I had done something to push them away, but I didn’t know what (being a self-righteous little goody-goody? being super judgmental?), so now I’m afraid of pushing people away without realizing it. Of breaking some unwritten rule. Because who I am is flawed and not good enough.

My therapist pointed out it probably wasn’t even about me. For the first time, I thought about the damaging family dynamics and body image issues those girls were struggling with. There was alcoholism. One of them was obsessed with getting a nose job–at like 15. Another one of them would come out as gay later and was probably struggling with a sexuality our school condemned. There was a lot going on! It’s almost funny I thought I had that much power over them, when we were actually all just struggling through the meatgrinder that is puberty and adolescence.

Anyway. “There is nothing wrong with you.” It’s an amazing concept! And I think I believe it. We’re all (OK, most of us) just trying our best to find happiness and love and stability. That won’t scare people into going to church, but it rings true. Sometimes we hurt each other, mostly (I think) because of childhood/family wounds we haven’t worked through yet. But we can learn and address our issues and change and apologize–without self-flagellation. Who knew?!

Not me. Not until today.

There is nothing wrong with you.