book reviews, celebrities, narcissists

A review of Revenge: Meghan, Harry and the war between the Windsors, by Tom Bower…

Not long ago, I wrote that I had been following H.G. Tudor’s deliciously snarky YouTube videos about British investigative author Tom Bower’s brand new book, Revenge. I hadn’t been planning to read Revenge, but Tudor, who has a velvety British accent and a hilarious sense of humor as he narrates, made me give in to temptation. I ordered the book last Friday; it arrived on Monday, and I’ve just now finished it. I’ve also been continuing to watch Tudor’s narration videos, which include his interpretations of the book through the lens of what he called Meghan’s “narcissistic behavior”.

To be clear, I agree with Mr. Tudor that Meghan Markle is probably a narcissist, although not having met her personally, I can’t say that for certain. Tom Bower, likewise, seems to think Meghan is an incredibly selfish, self-serving, and despicable person. Bower is the author of at least 25 books about famous people, to include members of the British Royal Family. He is known for being a very thorough reporter, and claims that he interviewed over 80 people for his book. Of course, a lot of what he writes about was also covered in the press. Overall, having read this book, one gets the sense that Meghan Markle is bad news for the British Royal Family and a real threat to the monarchy.

When I ordered this book, it was not yet offered on Amazon.com. I had to order a physical copy of it from Amazon.de. I don’t read a lot of actual books these days, preferring to read stuff on my Kindle, because it’s cheaper, more convenient, and doesn’t require me to find a place for the book when I’m finished with it. Now that I’ve read the book, I wish I’d held out for Kindle. It’s now available in the Amazon.com store, and much less expensive. But, as I’m not always the most disciplined when it comes to small impulse buys, I decided not to wait. Bill doesn’t mind that I do this. His first wife had a habit of buying cars, landscaping, houses, and furniture when she felt the impulse to buy things.

So anyway, I wasn’t expecting that much from Bower’s book. I read that he had worked for The Daily Mail, which is one of Britain’s biggest tabloids. I knew it would be salacious, and it was. I don’t mind salacious books. I do mind typos, though, and there were a few in this book. Bower brings up Meghan Markle’s work on Suits frequently, and at one point, he even wrote about how Princes Charles and William wore suits to Prince Philip’s funeral, to avoid embarrassing Harry, who wasn’t allowed to wear his uniform, and Prince Andrew, who was recently stripped of his honors. Instead of writing “suits”, as a common noun, Bower wrote “Suits“, as if he was writing about Meghan’s USA Network show, Suits. In another spot, he referred to Kate Middleton’s “Alexandra McQueen” outfit. I think he meant Alexander McQueen. And in still another, he refers to Pennsylvania as part of New England, and it’s not. These are a few examples I can think of offhand. They aren’t a huge deal, but I did notice. Better editing and fact checking is indicated. But then, this book is over 500 pages long and exhaustively researched, cited, and furnished with lots of endnotes. There were bound to be a couple of mistakes somewhere.

Bower starts at the beginning, detailing Meghan Markle’s birth to parents, Doria Ragland, who is Black, and Thomas Markle, who is White, in Los Angeles, California, on August 4, 1981. She was the only child between her parents, although Thomas Markle had two children from his first marriage, Samantha and Tom Jr. Samantha was originally named Yvonne, but she changed her name to Samantha. She is in a wheelchair, because she has multiple sclerosis. Her brother, Tom, reportedly has issues with bankruptcies and alcoholism, and has a son who is estranged. Doria Ragland is presented as kind of a “hippy dippy” yoga enthusiast who later became a social worker. They divorced when Meghan was young, but stayed in touch and even had amicable dinners together as Meghan came of age. Meghan was reportedly called “Flower” and treated like a princess, her every whim catered to, especially by her father. Sadly, Meghan and her father are now famously on the outs… My husband can relate to that, since he’s on the outs with one of his daughters, too.

Bower continues detailing Meghan’s life with astonishing comprehensiveness, covering old boyfriends, old school friends, old agents and colleagues, and frequently shedding light on some of the stories we’ve heard since Meghan burst onto the international scene in late 2017. As Bower paints it, Meghan was looking to get ahead, and constantly used people, discarding and/or ghosting them when she was finished with them. As someone who studies narcissism, this pattern is very familiar to me. I suspect the same thing will one day happen to Harry… but maybe I’m wrong. In fact, I hope I am, for their children’s sakes. The overwhelming message, though, is that Meghan craves money, success, prestige, and power. And, as Harry famously stated as wedding preparations were being made in 2018, “What Meghan wants, Meghan gets.” I think, in the coming years, those words could end up haunting Harry.

It must be heartbreaking for Her Majesty, the Queen, to see her grandson’s fall from public favor. I might even blame Harry, except I don’t think he was particularly savvy about Meghan’s type. He seemed lonely and aimless, and other women he had dated had wisely steered clear of joining the British Royal Family. Sure, there are a lot of perks that come from being royal, but with that privilege comes huge responsibilities and lots of rules and protocol to follow. Harry’s other girlfriends hadn’t wanted to live life in a fishbowl as a condition of being famous and wealthy. Meghan, on the other hand, seemed to want to take Harry’s mother’s place as the “People’s Princess”. Or, at least that’s how she seemed to want people to see her. Unfortunately for Meghan, she doesn’t have a scintilla of Diana’s charisma or instinctive way of relating to regular people. In fact, Meghan is merely an actress, and not a very good one, at that. She plays at being a caring, loving, compassionate role model, as she jets around in private planes, holds her children hostage from their extended family members, and never does anything without a camera crew. And anyone who calls her out for that behavior is quickly labeled a “racist” or a “misogynist” or even a “racist misogynist”.

Bower writes about the infamous Apple TV interview conducted by Oprah Winfrey last year, and adds more details to that story. It was quite a betrayal to the British Royal Family, and probably one of the main reasons why Harry and Meghan were so frozen out at Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee in June. The Royals don’t want Harry and Meghan using them for their Netflix and Spotify careers, nor for Harry’s upcoming memoirs, which will probably be very humiliating for the whole family… including Harry.

I mostly found Tom Bower’s book, Revenge, interesting and a quick read, which was nice after my last book, which took weeks to finish. I’m glad I read it, because H.G. Tudor hasn’t been reading the whole chapters… or, at least I don’t think he does. Reading it on my own helps me make sure I get the whole sordid story. 😉 There are photographs included, some of which are from Meghan’s somewhat less glamorous childhood. I definitely noticed a distinct pattern in the tales Bower shared, which are very familiar to anyone who has had dealings with narcissists, or just really self-centered people. I don’t know if Meghan Markle is a certified narcissist; I am not qualified to diagnose her, nor have I ever met her. But I will say that the patterns of her reported behaviors are very recognizable to me, and they are that of diagnosable narcissists. If even half of what is reported in this book regarding her problematic behaviors is true, she definitely is a high conflict person.

I give Meghan props for becoming rich and famous, against all odds… but I have a feeling that, like most alleged narcissists, she’s headed for a big, embarrassing, fall. I just hope that by the time it happens, Harry has moved on. I like Harry, in spite of his recently bratty and petulant behavior. I don’t think he’s a bad guy. I think he’s caught in a web. It happens to the best of people. But again… just my opinion… and lots of people are still on Team Meghan and think she’s the real victim. Even George and Amal Clooney seem to think so. So there is that.

I think I’d give Revenge 3.5 stars out of five, but don’t expect highbrow reading. I suggest downloading the book, watching any of the narrated videos on YouTube (others besides H.G. Tudor are doing them), or checking Revenge out from a library. My rating is probably more generous than some reviewers’, but I like a good juicy read. Fair warning that those who like Meghan and Harry probably won’t like this book.

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communication, complaints, humor, rants

It’s a messy morning for me…

If you’re squeamish about sickness, you might want to skip the first few paragraphs of this post.

So, I think I brought home a souvenir from Belgium. I wasn’t feeling 100 percent yesterday. I had a sore throat and a runny nose. I was sneezing, too. It all culminated last night. I had been really hungry, because we didn’t have much food in the house after our brief trip. I didn’t have much of a lunch. So when Bill made bacon cheeseburgers for dinner, I was all for it.

Just as I finished my burger, my body erupted into a violent coughing fit that nauseated me. I froze, looking horrified, and Bill asked me what was wrong. I said I felt like I was going to vomit. I got up and made a move toward the bathroom.

I didn’t quite make it to the toilet and, let’s just say, it was quite the Technicolor yawn. I spewed puke all over the bathroom and the rug outside the door. It took some time to clean everything up, because everything got doused– the floor, the toilet, the walls, and any items that were in the strike zone. Since this house doesn’t have closets, that meant a few things got sprayed. Bill had to go to the grocery store to buy more sponges and I had to do a sudden load of laundry.

Then, after I got most all of the surfaces cleaned, I got out my steam mop and started to give the floors a once over to get the last residue from my sickness. In the process of doing that, I scalded the fuck out of my toe. Naturally, that led to a lot of cursing and an urge to burst into tears, which I somehow managed to avoid doing.

I would definitely feel better if Bill did this nurse’s routine…

This morning, I woke up after a reasonably decent sleep, but my nose is running and I’m sneezing… This could be my allergies, or it could be a cold. Either way, I don’t feel well. However, I still have my senses of smell and taste, and I don’t feel overly tired or achy. So whatever this is, I’m sure it will pass. I’m still horrified about last night’s vomit fest, though I know it could have been worse. At least I didn’t also have diarrhea. I just have a very sensitive gag reflex and will hurl at the slightest provocation, just like the Maggie Blackamoor on Little Britain.

I relate.

And now that I’ve brought up Little Britain, it’s time to move on to today’s topic… because Little Britain offers a fine segue into what’s on my mind this morning.

A little while ago, I ran across an article in The Atlantic about comedy and comedians. The article, titled “When the Punishment Doesn’t Fit the Joke”, was written by Conor Friedersdorf, is partly about the comedian Dave Chappelle. Mr. Chappelle is no stranger to making jokes that sometimes go over like turds in proverbial punch bowls, as my Aunt Gayle would put it. Personally, I think Chappelle is often funny, but I’m not a super fan of his work. I never saw the Netflix special that got him into hot water, during which he made fun of trans people. Chappelle’s special was pulled from Netflix, and many people were talking about how insensitive and “bullying” he was toward a marginalized group. Some people tried to take it even further, attacking his career, trying to ruin him.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know I’m not a fan of “cancel culture”, especially when it comes to comedians. I may not like every joke I hear, but I am a big proponent of free speech and letting people vote with their wallets and consciences. Also, I like provocative content that makes people think. Sometimes so-called “offensive” humor is thought provoking. Even if a joke is cruel, if it gets people talking, it’s not all bad, in my opinion. Moreover, I enjoy being able to make decisions for myself about what is, and what is not, acceptable humor. I don’t need “help” from the masses.

In his article, Conor Friedersdorf begins by writing about Chappelle, and the performing arts theater at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, DC. Mr. Chappelle is a former student at the school and has donated a lot of money to it, so the theater was going to be named after him. But then Chappelle got into trouble for his jokes about trans people. The renaming ceremony was postponed, and Chappelle eventually told everyone “that for now, the venue will be named the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.”

Friedersdorf wrote that his colleague, David Frum, had attended the event and offered an interpretation of what happened.

In sophisticated comedy, comedians play with the tension between formal and informal beliefs, and Chappelle’s is very sophisticated comedy. The function of humor as a release from the forbidden thought explains why some of the most productive sources of jokes are authoritarian societies, because they forbid so much. In the squares of Moscow today, protesters physically reenact an old Soviet joke, demonstrating with blank signs because “Everybody already knows everything I want to say.” That same function of comedy explains why “woke America” is the target of so much satirical humor today, because so much of wokeness aspires to forbid.

When Chappelle deferred adding his name to the theater of the school to which he’d given so much of himself—not only checks, but return appearances—he was not yielding or apologizing. He was challenging the in-school critics: You don’t understand what I do—not my right to do it, but the reason it matters that I exercise that right. Until you do understand, you cannot have my name. Someday you will understand. You may have it then.

The article continued with Friedersdorf’s thoughts on modern comedy and what the role of a comedian is supposed to be. Comedians make jokes and offer humorous positions on any given topic. The great George Carlin once did a bit called “Rape Can Be Funny”. In it, he talked about how comedians run into backlash over “tasteless” jokes all the time, with people who try to tell them what is or isn’t funny, and what can or can’t be joked about. Back in 1990, Carlin said:

I believe you can joke about anything.

It all depends on how you construct the joke. What the exaggeration is. What the exaggeration is.

Because every joke needs one exaggeration. Every joke needs one thing to be way out of proportion.

Now… I want to state right away that, on many occasions, I’ve heard Carlin’s routine about how rape can be funny. I own a copy of the CD it comes from, and have listened to it enough that I can recite it from memory. Personally, I don’t think “Rape Can Be Funny” is Carlin’s best work. He makes some very tone deaf jokes about rape that, to me, just plain miss the mark. Carlin’s rape jokes aren’t funny to me, though, because he seemed to think rape is about sex and sexual attraction. In my view, rape is about people who want to take power over another person. It doesn’t have to be a man who does it, either. Women are capable of raping men. I know this because it happened to my husband during his first marriage. He trusted his ex wife, and she rewarded him by violently assaulting him when he was not capable of defending himself. I don’t think she did it because she was turned on, or wanting to turn him on. She did it because she wanted to hurt him, and show him who was in control. That had nothing to do with love, sex, or bonding. It was an act of violence and, to me, it was definitely NOT funny.

However– even though I don’t agree with Carlin’s opinions about rape, I will admit that he made a very good point in his routine about how anything can be funny to certain people. The most skillful comics can make the most horrifying topics funny. I think Carlin was one of the best comics ever, but sometimes even he flubbed things. I didn’t find his rape routine that funny, but I appreciated the one pearl of wisdom within it, in which his main point is that comedians should be free to tackle all topics. If we don’t like it, we don’t have to laugh. We don’t have to watch the show or buy the album. That would be a fitting consequence of not being funny. Trying to ruin comedians’ careers over one or two bad or offensive jokes may not be a fitting consequence– especially when a certain community presumes to make that decision for everyone.

This is the best part of the routine, in my opinion. The rest of it, not so much. But it would have been a tragedy if George had been canceled for saying this. Because most of the other stuff he said was genius!

As is my habit, I went to the Facebook comment section, just to see what people thought of Conor Friedersdorf’s article. As usual, plenty of people who didn’t read it were chiming in. There were also some virtue signalers in there– mostly white guys– trying very hard to prove to everyone how sensitive and “woke” they are, by calling Chappelle a “bully”.

First off, I don’t think that merely joking about someone or something makes them a bully. In my mind, the term “bullying” connotes abuse and harassment that include threats and intimidation, not merely insults or ridicule. When I think of bullies, I think of people who use their positions of power to control or coerce others. Simply joking about a group, tasteless and mean as the joke may be, isn’t really acting like a bully. Now, if Dave was also trying to force trans people to give him money or property, or threatened to beat them up after the show, that would be more like bullying, in my view.

Secondly, the main virtue signaling offender in the comment section was being very insulting himself. Anyone who disagreed with him was labeled an “asshole”, among other derogatory terms. It seems to me that if one believes comedians should be kinder and gentler, one should be the change they want to see. Name calling those who have a differing viewpoint, especially when you’re pushing the view that people should be pressured/forced into being politically correct, is quite hypocritical. Below are just a few comments made by this guy. I thought about pointing it out to him that his habit of name calling isn’t very PC, but decided I’d rather frost my bush than argue with him.

…life would be better people were nicer to each other and didn’t try to fill the empty voids in their miserable lives by punching down at people more vulnerable than themselves. And it’s okay to call people who do that assholes and say you don’t want to be associated with them.

We’re having that conversation, and a lot of it is “wow, Chapelle really seems to be an asshole who delights in saying hurtful things about marginalized people from atom his giant pile of Netflix money”. But the Atlantic doesn’t like that conversation so they’re trying to shut it down. Fuck that.

…you say “that’s not the world we live in” like this is some divinely ordained state. But it’s a choice. Powerful assholes get away with attacking marginalized communities because others choose to accept it (as long as it’s happening to other people). But we could chose not to just brush off this kind of hate. We could be better.

There was one very sensible woman commenting who brought up that if people in the trans community want to be recognized as “mainstream”, they should be “tough enough” to be made fun of on occasion. One can’t ask to be treated like everyone else, and also demand “special” treatment or membership in a protected class. I totally agree with that notion.

I don’t find all attempts at humor successful, and some jokes really are tasteless, offensive, and too close to the bone, in my opinion. But it’s just MY opinion. Other people have different opinions, and personally I prefer having the right to speak freely over being threatened with being canceled if I express the “wrong” thing or have the “wrong” opinion. And to be clear, I don’t consider refusing to attend a show or buy a DVD to be “canceling” someone. Canceling someone is when a person or group tries to shut someone up or punish them by attempting to ruin their lives. That goes too far, in my view. Especially in a society that is supposed to be “free”, allowing freedom of expression and open exchanges of ideas.

ETA: I had to comment to the virtue signaling guy who was insulting everyone with name calling, as he also called for kindness. I wrote:

“Does it not strike you as slightly hypocritical that you keep labeling people ‘assholes’, as you preach about how we should all be more sensitive and kinder to others? Shouldn’t you start by being the change you want to see? Name calling isn’t the best look if you want to convince people that you’re a good person.”

I just had to do it. This guy seems to think that he should be the one who decides what is– and what is not– appropriate humor, and what jokes we should find acceptable. To quote him, I say “fuck that.” I can make up my own mind about what I find funny, and I can also vote with my wallet, and my feet. Moreover, I don’t respect someone demanding that we treat everyone with kindness and decency as he dehumanizes those who disagree with him by calling them “assholes”. He’ll probably come at me hours from now. Hopefully, I’ll be in an antihistamine induced coma by then.

I will hasten to add that I know I use the word “asshole” a lot myself. The difference is, I try really hard not to presume to “set an example”. I try not to tell people what they should be saying, thinking, or finding funny… or, at least I hope I don’t. I definitely don’t think anyone should necessarily look up to me, or value my opinions… I just like to express myself sometimes. I usually confine my expression to this blog, though, because otherwise, I’ll find myself engaged in a dialogue with someone preaching about being kind to the marginalized, as he calls me an “asshole”. Moreover, simply finding a joke funny– even if it’s vulgar, tasteless, or crass– doesn’t equate to “hate”. I can still laugh at Avenue Q or South Park, after all…

I saw this show in England a few years ago, and was crying at the end of it, it was SO good… it was basically about MY life as a Gen Xer! Should I not have found this funny? Some people might think that. Why don’t I get a vote, too?

As someone who loves humor, I don’t want to see comedians being canceled. I want them to be free to come up with jokes on any topic. I’m smart enough to decide for myself if I think something is funny or not, and I can choose for myself if I want to consume what they’re selling. I don’t need guys like the woke dude above, calling Dave Chappelle an “asshole”, as he condemns his comedy for being too “mean” and marginalizing groups that he deems “at risk”. I want everyone to have a vote, and I want them to be allowed to choose for themselves. That’s freedom, to me. And dammit, I love irreverent humor, even if it sometimes hurts.

Now, if I could only free myself from this runny nose, headache, fatigue, and sneezing, I’d be batting 500…

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law, mental health, politicians, politics, racism, Texas, true crime

Enough pro-life platitudes! Texas Has Its Priorities Completely Screwed Up!

Early this morning, I woke up to the horrible news about Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. It’s another school shooting, this time perpetrated by a lonely, bullied, obviously mentally ill young man named Salvador Rolando Ramos. Days after his 18th birthday, Mr. Ramos legally purchased the weapons he would use to shoot and critically wound his grandmother, and then go on a shooting rampage at the elementary school. Mr. Ramos, who wore body armor and carried a rifle during his deadly rampage, was fatally shot, apparently by police.

At this writing, at least nineteen children were murdered, along with two adults. Both adults who died were teachers; one was Irma Garcia, a teacher with 23 years of experience at Robb Elementary, while the other, Eva Mireles, had taught for 17 years, and had a daughter in college. Many other people have been physically injured, and will forevermore carry the emotional and physical scars from yesterday’s shooting spree. The rest of us– the decent ones, anyway, are injured by yet another senseless school shooting in a country that professes to be “the land of the free”. And this time, the shooting happened in a state that professes to be so “pro-life” that many of its citizens will do almost anything to force women to stay pregnant.

The “right to life” crew, many of whom are men, claim that a developing fetus’s right to be born is more important than anything. The claim that abortion is cruel and inhumane. But at least a developing embryo is completely unaware of its being aborted. Children sitting in classrooms– some of whom were probably conceived with help from modern scientific reproductive methods– were no doubt absolutely terrified when Ramos opened fire on them. For those kids, Texas Republicans offer “thoughts and prayers”, and ridiculous suggestions about arming teachers and “good guys with guns”.

I am technically a Texas resident, although I haven’t lived there since 2014. Every year, when I cast an absentee ballot with my votes, the ballot goes to Texas, which is where Bill and I happened to be living when he finished his service with the Army. I didn’t hate Texas when I left there. I thought it was too hot, and there were way too many religious wingnuts. I didn’t like the extremely right wing politics of people in Texas, nor did I enjoy all the gun toting wackos I saw in downtown San Antonio. But I kind of respected Texas’s free-spirited culture. I enjoyed most of the people I met there, the music, the food, and having temporary access to members of my family, and Bill’s mom and aunt. When we left in 2014, I thought maybe we could move back at some point. Now I know that I don’t want to live there again. In fact, I’m not sure I really want to live in the United States again.

In the almost eight years since we left Texas, I have come to really dislike a lot of things about it. I despise the politics of Governor Greg Abbott and his relentless attack on women, as he also champions gun lovers. I can’t wait to cast a vote against Mr. Abbott. I don’t really care too much about who runs against him, either, which is a pretty terrible place to be. I would like to care about and even like the politics of the people who run for public office. But lately, the people who are running are so incredibly lacking in sense that I find myself voting AGAINST people, instead of for them.

According to the Washington Post, Salvador Ramos was severely bullied by his peers for having a strong lisp and a stutter. He had friends when he was younger, but then started doing self-destructive things, like cutting up his face with a knife “for fun”. Still, his friends said he was a very nice kid– shy, but nice. He’d be bullied for being different, but he had a few friends who stuck by him. Things seemed to go really downhill for Ramos when he shared a picture of himself wearing black eyeliner. For that, he was bullied by his peers and called a derogatory term for a homosexual male. Then, one of the friends who would try to stand up for Ramos, left the area when his mother’s job was transferred. At that point, Ramos began to dress all in black, grow out his hair, and wear military style boots. He quit going to school. At night, he and a friend would drive around and shoot at people with BB guns. He’d also egg people’s cars. He told one new friend that he wanted to join the Marines so he could “kill people”. The new friend became an ex friend after that.

Ramos’s mother eventually tried to kick him out of their home, and Ramos posted about it on Instagram. The incident showed Ramos calling his mom a “bitch”, as police intervened to break up the fight.

Ramos had a wish list of automatic weapons he wanted. A few days ago, he posted a picture of himself with a couple of rifles. There were some people who tried to help him, in spite of his odd proclivity for guns, but Ramos’s home life was terrible. According to a neighbor, Ramos’s mother used drugs. He eventually moved in with his grandmother, who owned the house where Ramos lived with his mom. A few days ago, the neighbor saw the grandmother, who mentioned that she was in the process of evicting Ramos’s mother, because she was abusing drugs.

I read all of this stuff, and I wonder how much help Ramos got from people who could do something for him. Did he ever speak to counselors? Was he encouraged to address his mental health and educational issues? At this point, I don’t know. I don’t want to blame educators, because I know they’ve got enough to deal with every day. And while it would be easy to blame people who bullied Ramos at school, being bullied is not a reason for someone to go on a shooting spree. I wonder what life situations led to Salvador Ramos’ fatal decisions yesterday.

I think these kinds of stress related meltdowns will only get worse, as guns are promoted as a solution to ending violence and maintaining “freedom”, and desperate women are being compelled to be pregnant when they aren’t ready to have babies. How many troubled women will be forced to give birth, thanks to the idiotic bans on abortions? I believe that people like Salvador Ramos evolve because they have very fucked up home lives, and not enough is done to help them make things better. There are too many children being born into situations where there’s substance abuse, sexual abuse, violence, racism, and poverty.

I haven’t even touched on the horrific gun fueled rampage that happened at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York on May 14th. That incident, which occurred at the hands of Peyton S. Gendron, a disgruntled 18 year old racist White guy with a gun, resulted in the premature deaths of ten people and the wounding of three. Eleven of Gendron’s victims were Black. Gendron survived his rampage, and is now in protective custody and on suicide watch. If the police hadn’t stopped him when they had, Gendron says that he would have shot more people. He’d had plans to visit churches and an elementary school. As awful as Gendron’s attack was, at least his victims were all adults. But that doesn’t make it much better, does it?

I’m so tired of violent, thuggish, Republican bullies with guns and big mouths. I’m so angry at people who champion narcissistic cretins like Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and the usual gang of idiots in the Republican National Committee. No, I don’t think Democrats are perfect, by any stretch. I don’t like extreme left wing politics, snooty attitudes, and lack of common sense some Democrats have. But at least Democrats have something to offer besides thoughts, prayers, more guns, and restrictions on abortion. This news just makes me sick… and it makes me feel an odd mixture of relief that, for now, I live outside of my country, and guilt, that I’m so far away, watching from a distance as the United States I’ve always known turns into a weird dystopia.

It’s hard to believe that a lot of us were looking forward to today, as Josh Duggar finds out his fate. I was also looking forward to finding out more about Tariq Witherspoon, the man who ran over and killed my friend, Matt, last year. He supposed to go to court in New York today. Those were two cases of callous, lawless men facing their crimes. But I sit here and think of how many people have died in the last two years… from COVID-19, cancer, murder, manslaughter and recklessness, and suicide. And we want to bring more babies into this mess? When we don’t even have enough formula to feed them? We can’t offer citizens decent, affordable healthcare, housing, or an infrastructure that doesn’t collapse as the climate becomes less hospitable to humans! Why in the hell would we want more innocent babies born into this hellish reality on Earth?

In a matter of days, Bill’s third grandson will be born. He will join his four year old brother and two year old sister. I worry about those kids, who are going to be growing up in a country that continues to grow more troubled by the year. I know how much their parents love them, and have wanted them to come into the world. I only hope that by the time they’re ready for school, more has been done to repair the serious issues that are causing little kids like them to die when all they’re trying to do is go to school, attend church, shop for food, or just be children, exploring the world.

I’m so glad I never had children. This world is completely fucked. Below is an “oldie but goodie” Facebook post that was making the rounds six years ago, and is sadly still very relevant.

Yeah. I am for shutting down the gun stores.
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mental health, narcissists, nostalgia, psychology, TV

“Be your own hero…” Life lessons from 80s era TV.

Throughout the 1980s, I was a big fan of the cheesy TV show, Fame. I’m not sure why I liked it so much. Even in the 80s, I knew it was a really cheesy show. I wasn’t involved in the performing arts at that time in my life, although my parents were. I just liked watching the reruns every night, which came on an independent, local television station in my area, WTVZ, channel 33. The independent version of WTVZ that I knew during my childhood went defunct years ago. It was bought out by a much bigger, national network. But, back in the day, I used to love watching prime time hits in syndication or reruns on channel 33. Now, I can do that on YouTube.

Yes, this is a cheesy and silly number, but there is wisdom in this song.

When I was in 7th or 8th grade, WTVZ ran episodes of Fame every evening at 7:00pm. I used to watch that show religiously. I still remember a lot of the musical numbers from the show. One such song was sung by the character, Coco (Erica Gimpel). It was called “Be Your Own Hero.” Actually, the song’s lyrics, themselves, aren’t that wise. They’re kind of corny and trite. But, the title is catchy, and the melody is upbeat and positive. And even if all you do is just look at the song’s title, you can take something away from it.

Fame was about talented kids in high school who hoped to make it big in show business someday. They knew they faced long odds of finding success, even though they were obviously gifted people. Being talented isn’t always enough, though. Luck plays a part, as does working hard, and believing in yourself. A big part of success, in any aspect of life, is not letting “the bastards” get you down. Because, as unfortunate as it is, there are always people out there who just like to watch the world burn. They like to see people fail. And some of these folks don’t even have the courtesy to be “real” about who they are. They put on a convincing act, and don’t reveal their true colors until after some time has passed. So, as the song goes, you gotta “be your own hero”, if you want to make it. You have to advocate for yourself and take opportunities as they arise, as you avoid falling into traps and pitfalls. Only you know what your reality is. No one else knows you, like you know yourself.

I am thinking about this song today, having had a discussion with Bill this morning about three situations in which we’ve managed not to be suckers. I’ve talked and written about these situations a lot over the years, but today was the first time I saw a pattern. It was a pattern of success– of us “being our own heroes” by knowing the differences between legitimate opportunities, and traps. This morning, we talked about three different scenarios that came up over the past twenty years, or so. These were circumstances in which other people were trying to take advantage of us. They were using the classic manipulative tactics to get what they wanted, when they weren’t entitled.

I’ll start with an old chestnut that I’ve trotted out umpteen times over the years– Christmas 2004. Detailed versions of the story of that holiday season are easily found in this blog, so I won’t rehash the tale. Basically, Ex was holding Bill’s daughters hostage– or bait, if you will. They were like carrots on the proverbial stick, as she used the prospect of Bill being allowed to see his own kids as reward for letting Ex come in to Bill’s father’s home and control everyone for the holidays. I was supposed to go to that gathering, but I saw it for the trap it was, and wisely stayed out of it. Yes, there was backlash, and plenty of people think I was wrong not to cooperate with Ex. However, I could plainly see what she was doing. I knew that no one– not even Ex– would benefit if I did what she wanted me to do. So I disobeyed her command to spend Christmas with her, and stayed home.

Now, Ex did retaliate, by stepping up her parental alienation campaign and being more toxic. In the years following that incident, there was a price to be paid for not acquiescing to her demands. However, if I had obeyed her, the price would have been much higher. In the long run, her actions have made her look like an asshole, and at least one (and probably more) of her kids know she’s an asshole. And I don’t have the memories of having to spend time in her presence. I was my own hero in that instance, because I realized that my own mental health matters. I don’t have to give in to emotional blackmail. If I had gone along with her plan, there was no guarantee that there would have been a reward of any kind. In fact, if I had given her the chance to know me in person, it might have made things a lot worse. The end result is that I haven’t had to deal with 20 years of her interfering with my marriage or trying to manipulate my husband, or me. Yes, she still manipulates other people, but we can’t control that. They have to be their own heroes and realize what she is, and what she does. Younger daughter has managed to do just that. I have high hopes that she will break the cycle of narcissistic abuse, at least in her own family.

The second scenario happened in 2009, when we busted then 21 year old former stepson secretly changing his last name as he continued to take child support from Bill (who isn’t his legal father). Ex had gotten the lad’s name changed to Bill’s when he was a toddler. When he was 21, he decided to change it back to his original surname (probably at Ex’s behest). But he still wanted Bill’s financial support, so he took these steps in secret. I later found out about it, quite by accident. I told Bill, and he decided to see if he could prompt the young man into coming clean. He never did.

For some reason, Ex had not filed for child support arranged by the state. My guess is that she knew that if she had the state handling child support, she wouldn’t get as much money. Bill was giving her $850 per child, which was a lot of money. When former stepson turned 18, Bill started paying him directly, which was what was required by their divorce agreement. Ex had a change of heart about that. She tried to get Bill to stop giving former stepson money directly. I guess she realized that the money gave her son power, and the ability to get away from her influence. But she did manage to get him to change his name, which was fine. He just should have had the common courtesy and respect to tell Bill what he was doing. Former stepson had neglected to do that, so it was left to Bill to practice some tough love.

As we realized what former stepson was up to, Bill came up with an idea. He’d given former stepson a chance to tell Bill about the name change, but former stepson had kept mum. So Bill, who was handling the “child support” payments directly, abruptly cut off the boy’s money. After a couple of days passed, and the child support money didn’t land in his bank account, as expected, the lad surfaced, asking what was going on. That was when Bill confronted him, and told him he had just declared himself no longer in need of getting “child support”. Changing one’s surname is, after all, the action of an adult.

Naturally, former stepson was angry that the man he had disingenuously been calling “Dad” had found out that he was changing his last name. His initial response wasn’t shame, embarrassment, or contrition. It was outrage. But there was Bill, now in charge. He had “been his own hero”, and not let this kid use his generosity to control and manipulate him. Bill had realized that letting his former stepson get away with this deceptive and shady behavior wasn’t good in the long run. It would make their relationship transactional, encourage more shady behavior in the future, and frankly, make Bill his former stepson’s lackey. That would have done some serious damage to Bill’s self-respect, while it gave former stepson a victory that he shouldn’t have. It would have been bad parenting for Bill to let his former stepson get away with what he was doing.

Yes, there were repercussions. Former stepson was furious, and now he doesn’t talk to Bill anymore. But we’ve heard he also doesn’t talk much to Ex, either. He’s paying his own way now, and has a family of his own. Bill is sorry they don’t talk anymore, but he also knows he’s not in a relationship with someone who only values him for money. Maybe someday they can heal the rift; but if they don’t, it’s okay. Bill will survive. So will former stepson. Hopefully, neither of his children will ever pull the same shameful bullshit with him when they get older.

And finally, we were our own heroes a couple of years ago, when our former landlady tried to steal our security deposit after we left her hovel. In retrospect, we should not have stayed in that house for four years. We should not have allowed her to treat us the way she did. Being nice and acquiescing to her demands only emboldened her, and apparently made her think that she could egregiously break German law and ignore our rights. At the end of our time in her house, we were left having, once again, to be tough and confrontational.

I had determined the year before we moved that ex landlady was going to be a major pain in the ass about our deposit when we moved. Actually, my concern was that she might try to sue us, because the 17 year old awning on her house had collapsed on my watch (due to high winds, NOT my negligence– in fact, she was negligent in not having it repaired by an actual technician, instead of her husband). I talked Bill into getting legal insurance, thinking we might need it if she tried to take action against us, even though it would have been ludicrous and probably doomed to failure.

What ended up happening, though, is that she simply refused to give us our money, and became very rude and insulting. She said we were the “worst” tenants she’d ever had, not realizing that she was the least professional landlady/landlord we’ve ever had. She did a lot of things wrong. She hadn’t done a proper protocol when we moved in, and she never did a former reconciliation of our “other costs”, which is required by German law. She also made false accusations against us that we could prove were false, and there was strong evidence that she had broken and entered the house when we weren’t home. That’s a huge “no no” in Germany.

When Bill received a very insulting, berating, and downright mean shaming email from the former landlady, he resolved not to respond to her. Instead, he closed his computer and went to sleep. He knew exactly what he was going to do next, and it was going to come as a very unpleasant surprise to the old bitch. She was expecting him to roll over for him, as he had done when we still lived in her house. Instead, he called a lawyer and had her write a letter demanding over 9000 euros, to include our stolen deposit, and the “other costs” she had received from us, but never reconciled. Naturally, ex landlady went berserk, and threatened to countersue. However, she had zero case against us because she couldn’t prove her claims. What’s more, we had a whole stack of rude, unhinged, hostile emails she had sent to Bill, at the end of our tenancy. Bill, on the other hand, had stayed professional and polite.

Ex landlady hadn’t had any respect for me, or what I do– writing blogs, taking photos, and the like. But the fact that I do these things– keep records, that is– was her downfall. And because I am a writer and researcher, we had that evidence to submit in our support of a lawsuit against her. If she had gone to court, it would have likely been a fucking massacre– especially since she falsely accused us of theft, and we could easily prove that her accusation was patently false. It was obvious that she wanted us to buy her a new, fancy awning. But she’s damned lucky that we let her file an insurance claim, under the circumstances. The awning wasn’t repaired properly. If it had fallen on me and caused injury, she would have been liable.

In the end, she settled with us, and was forced to not only give back most of the money she had illegally withheld, but she also had to pay for our lawyer, her lawyer, and court costs. And she’s now blacklisted from renting to anyone in the U.S. military community. I mean, I suppose she could rent to another contractor, like Bill. But most military contractors know that they can access the list of unapproved landlords. If they’re smart, they avoid renting from those folks. And government workers and military servicemembers won’t get government support/housing allowance if they rent from her. Her house is definitely nothing special, so I can’t see anyone paying out of pocket to live there.

That situation was very stressful for us. It gave us no joy or pleasure to sue our ex landlady. But as awful as that situation was, it was also exhilarating not to be someone’s chump. Bill actually described it that way to me. People underestimate him all the time. They take his kind, gentle nature as weakness. They are usually very surprised when he reminds them that he’s spent his whole adult life as a Soldier. Soldiers engage in war for a living. Soldiers are often career heroes. So she should not have been surprised. Bill was just doing what the Army trained him to do. Bill was “being his own hero.”

There have been other incidences of us “being our own heroes”, but this post is long enough already. I write these stories for those who find themselves in similar tough spots. I think our culture teaches us to “go along to get along”, or take the path of least resistance. That’s not always a bad thing to do. Sometimes, cooperating really is the best course of action. But, when you’re dealing with a bully who has no respect for you, it’s usually best not to negotiate. They will always try to make it so that you’re their chump. You can’t expect a fair shake from these people, and if you give them what they want, you will only embolden them to do worse things to you, or other innocent people. So be your own hero.

When you are confronted by high conflict bully types, try not to react emotionally. Stop for a moment. Don’t dash off a response, especially in writing. In fact, you might want to go radio silent and privately hatch some plans. As you can see from our stories, the element of surprise can be very effective in getting these people to fuck off. Above all, realize that you matter, and your mental health matters. Always advocate for yourself, and in a situation in which there isn’t a “win-win” option, do what suits you best. Most of the time, that will be the healthiest choice for everybody. Especially if you’re dealing with a high conflict person.

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Ex, mental health, narcissists, psychology, scams

“Um… excuse me for noticing, but your slip is showing…”

Happy Friday, y’all. Tomorrow is the big day… we’re gonna load up the Volvo and drive south for a vacation in Switzerland, Italy, and Liechtenstein. I’m looking forward to going, although I always worry a bit when we leave home. I especially worry about Arran, who is getting pretty old, and doesn’t enjoy being boarded as much as he used to when he was younger. But one of the reasons we chose to live in Europe is so we could do some exploring of the continent. Because of the pandemic, we’ve been doing less of that in recent years. It’s time we got back to it, if only so I can justify keeping my travel blog going. I do still have a handful of readers there who don’t follow this blog at all, so I like to offer fresh and interesting content to them whenever possible.

I have some stuff to take care of in preparation for the trip. I still need to pack, and there are a couple of routine household chores I’d like to get done before we head off in the morning. But being busy hasn’t stopped me from checking in on Ex. I know a lot of people think I’m “obsessed” with her, and my preoccupation might even be “unhealthy”. I might agree with them; although at this point, I mostly find her intriguing, rather than personally threatening. As an occasional student of psychology, some of the things she does, and gets away with, are fascinating. I think I would find her interesting even if she hadn’t been married to Bill, and I didn’t know her backstory. As a somewhat “relatively normal” person, I am continually shocked by her gall and complete lack of authenticity.

Years ago, I used to love watching cartoons. When I think of Ex, I often think in terms of cartoons. On my original blog, I once famously compared Ex to Wile E. Coyote, because she often has “big” ideas that turn out to be harebrained schemes that eventually blow up in her face. When I wrote that post in the fall of 2018, I got a comment from a reader who felt my posts about Ex were/are completely inappropriate and in “poor taste”. This person, obviously not someone who knows me or the situation, probably assumed that Ex is a “normal” person and I’m just a mean, bitter, second wife. But she’s not a normal person, and if you know anything about her, that reality becomes very clear in a hurry. And I may be mean and bitter sometimes, but I have never once come close to doing some of the things Ex does on a regular basis to people she supposedly loves.

On the surface, she seems like a lovely, thoughtful, “normal” woman. But look closer, and you see who she really is. I often find myself comparing her to cartoon characters, maybe because some of her behavior is very cartoonish. In 2018, Ex’s antics reminded me of Wile E. Coyote… but in 2022, she reminds me more of Yosemite Sam.

“Your slip is showing.”

In 1955, Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam starred in a cartoon called “Sahara Hare”. Yosemite Sam comes riding in on a camel, yelling and carrying on. When the camel doesn’t “whoa” when Sam says “whoa”, he knocks the poor animal on the head with his rifle. Just your typical, garden variety bully, posturing for all the world to see, right?

Meanwhile, Bugs Bunny is bathing in an oasis, good naturedly singing as he steps out, in search of a towel. His eyes are shut when he encounters Yosemite Sam, who wears desert garb that covers his head. Bugs mistakes Sam’s head covering as a towel. Sam whirls around to confront the rascally rabbit, who is busily drying off with Sam’s garb. Bugs asks him what’s up, and wonders if he’s with the side show. Yosemite Sam responds by introducing himself in threatening terms… to which Bugs says, “Your slip is showing.” This makes Sam cower in shame as he tries to cover up something that embarrasses him.

Of course, Bugs was conning him…

Realizing that he’s been duped into shame and humiliation, and feeling determined to gain Bugs Bunny’s respect, Sam gets angry and starts firing his weapon at Bugs, who is calmly departing the scene and easily missing Sam’s bullets. But then Sam nearly misses Bugs, who takes off running. Sam gets back on the camel and screams at him to follow Bugs. The camel doesn’t move, until Sam hits him again… then he won’t stop running, again causing Sam to hit him over the head with his gun.

Yep… Sam is really nothing but a bully, putting on a facade that is meant to intimidate other people. But really, he’s just an abusive, foolish, buffoon, who doesn’t manage to sway the astute. Only the naive or unaware are impressed or intimidated by Sam– a cartoon character who cowers in shame when a rabbit tells him that his “slip is showing”, even after he’s postured this loud, obnoxious, ridiculous spectacle that is supposed to be scary.

Young people among us might not know that a slip is an undergarment, typically worn by women, underneath dresses or skirts made of sheer or otherwise revealing material. It’s intended to preserve modesty, and cover up panty lines and the “naughty bits”… or private parts, if you prefer. That a tough talking little turd like Sam is wearing women’s undergarments is also a statement about his status as a “beta”, trying to act like an “alpha”.

In these more “enlightened” times, this cartoon might seem hopelessly sexist and un-PC, but the point is, Sam is trying to be something he’s really not. He’s a coward and a bully, who preys on the weak, foolish, and gullible. In that way, he’s kind of like Donald Trump. I don’t know how many of us ladies are still wearing slips these days, but when they were commonly worn, just like underwear, slips weren’t supposed to be shown to others. And men, at least in 1955, weren’t supposed to wear slips at all. So, the fact that Sam rushed to hide his “slip” from the trickster bunny is especially embarrassing and shameful.

Now Ex does have her moments of acting like the fiery version of Yosemite Sam. When she gets angry, she’s reportedly kind of “scary”… not that I’ve experienced it directly. I have just been here in the aftermath of other people’s dealings with her. I believe them when they say that she has her “Yosemite Sam” moments, and is full of bluster that can be frightening to experience. Ex also doesn’t really bluff much. Call her on her bullshit, she will happily cut off her nose to spite her own face– or more often, other people’s faces– just to try to “prove you wrong”. While a lot of her antics are, at best, truly ridiculous, sometimes she does do damaging, and even dangerous, things in her efforts to command “respect”.

Like, for instance, she gave up Bill’s generous financial support of his adult daughters, which I know she could and would have used, even though, technically, it wasn’t her money. She realized that maintaining control of offspring, and the official narrative of what really happened, was more important to her than access to Bill’s money was. It also didn’t seem to matter to her that Bill’s daughters might have appreciated having that support, or even access to Bill’s 911 GI Bill for college expenses. She was much more focused on her own agenda and what suited her, not what was actually best for Bill’s daughters. I specify Bill’s daughters, because Ex’s other kids aren’t his responsibility, even if he did raise and pay support for Ex’s son with #1. She probably treats her kids with #3 somewhat similarly, although sometimes it seems like Bill’s daughters got the worst treatment– as if they needed to be punished for having his DNA. From what we’ve heard, #3’s daughter seems to be the current golden child.

But, even though Ex was proud to stop taking child support from Bill, and was all too ready to stop her daughters from getting the support directly, she still needs money. She also needs a lot of attention and narcissistic supply. So, she will do things like force her children to take out loans that she can skim from. And, for some reason, she feels compelled to present a completely false version of herself to the world. The opinions of strangers seem to be much more important to her than the opinions of family members. I find that very interesting, which is why I continue to watch her. Of course, I also watch her because she’s repeatedly proven that she’s very underhanded and not above trying to take advantage of people in Bill’s family.

So anyway, this week, after a period of relative calm and quiet, Ex resurfaced with more of her outrageous bullshit. On one social media platform, she shared several memes, accompanied by nonsensical blather that sounded good, but weren’t actually in harmony with specific actions that she’s taken. Click on the images to see what I mean.

Um… this was NEVER an issue with Ex. In fact, in over 20 years of observing her, I have seen that she’s not one to consider other people’s feelings or needs, at least not unless there is something in it for her. Other people are usually catering to her whims.

I really have no idea if she actually believes the crap she routinely spews to the masses. I know she hopes that other people will believe it, and she must get some kind of payback from affirmative comments, positive reactions, and validation she gets from total strangers. But people who really know her, or have even just been exposed to people who know her, realize that this is all a bunch of smoke and mirrors she puts out to the world for some reason. She is a very manipulative person, and it’s not wise to take anything she says or writes at face value.

Making things stranger is the fact that Ex puts out details that have an element of truth within them. Ex did, for instance, work as a university administrator for some years. But we know that Ex dropped out of high school and got a GED, just as her oldest kids did (not sure about her youngest daughter). Ex talks about her alleged goals that were thwarted by other people– her adoptive mom, her adoptive and step dads, her ex husbands, her children (especially her “severely autistic and non-verbal” son), or other entities that supposedly took advantage of her or ripped her off– ie. Mary Kay Cosmetics, Nutrisystem, the LDS church, etc. The list goes on and on. She never seems to be satisfied; she never takes personal responsibility; and her plans are always seemingly overtaken by events or the “bad actions” of other people.

Younger daughter told us that she was forced to leave public school when she was a teenager. Ex made her get a GED, then enroll in college classes, so she could get student loans, something Ex learned about in her role as an administrator, and possibly from her multiple attempts to get her own bachelor’s degree. Ex took the money that wasn’t used by tuition and spent it, leaving younger daughter to pay off the debt. Sadly, younger daughter didn’t even manage to finish the degree. Older daughter supposedly did get a degree, but still lives with her mother and has lots of debt. Ex has had multiple bankruptcies, but here she is dispensing advice as if she’s an expert on education. She did, supposedly get a master’s degree in education, but she’s never really used it professionally. In fact, she left her “university job” because she got fired… something about “mishandling funds”, which prompted her to move across country to a new place, where she hasn’t repeatedly shit in the local well of human forbearance and understanding.

One would think, looking at Ex’s public persona, that she’s a very loving, caring, and devoted mom and wife. But yet, instead of taking care of her family, as she claims she does, she’s posting crap for the masses… especially for celebrities. And there always seems to be a hook for money, narcissistic supply, and some kind of prestige or recognition by people who don’t even know her, and will never even meet her.

As I mentioned up post, I find Ex to be a fascinating character. If I were a practicing mental health professional, I would probably alternately be amazed and frustrated by her. A psychiatrist or psychologist (or both) could write quite an interesting book about her. But I think the personal price they would have to pay to create such a book would be much too high to justify the effort. Still, she really is something… and I must admit, I’m probably too wedded to watching her in action. Maybe our trip will help refocus my attention to things other than Ex’s slip… and the facade she constantly puts up that is always slipping to show the ugliness underneath.

It must be exhausting to have to constantly create this fantasy world she lives in, along with the constant framing of the narrative so that people will believe that she’s really who she claims to be. There’s a very human part of me that feels empathy for Ex, and a smaller part that is kind of amused by her. But then I remember what she did to Bill, who is the best person I know, and I get angry again. So here I am, processing this shit on my blog for anyone to read. Maybe I’m no better than she is, but at least I am not passing this crap on to my children… because in part, thanks to her, I don’t have any. Well, I’ll at least try to keep things real. You may not like what you see in me, but at least what you see is what you get. I try to be honest and authentic, even if the real me isn’t always a pretty sight. I find that being that way keeps most of the malicious fuckers away from me.

Anyway, I don’t mind if my slip is showing. Remember, I like to go to nude German spas. Speaking of which, it’s time I closed this post and got on with my chores, so we can get on the road tomorrow. Have a great Friday, y’all.

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