complaints, controversies, LDS, mental health, narcissists, social media, YouTube

Self-preservation and the “gift of fear”, rather than bigotry…

I kind of don’t really want to write this post, because I have a bad feeling that it might be controversial… But I saw something yesterday that annoyed me a bit, and since it’s been kind of a difficult week anyway, I figure I might as well post about it.

Some time ago, someone out there in Facebook Land encouraged me to follow Father Nathan Monk. I think it might have been someone in the Duggar Family News group. According to his “about section”, Father Nathan Monk is a best selling author, “depressive humorist”, and former priest. He often posts things that are wise, funny, and insightful. However, there are times when he’s a little too “woke” for me, and I get annoyed. I know at least one time, I unfollowed for awhile. I think last month it happened, and I took a break for a month. Recently, his posts started popping up on my feed again. I mostly enjoyed them, until I saw the one below…

Naturally, he got many comments from people who completely agreed with his take on why so many people don’t like Meghan Markle. Lots of people were jumping on the bandwagon that people “hate” Meghan just because she’s “black”. I noticed that anyone who disagreed with any part of Father Nathan Monk’s post was immediately piled upon by other posters, seemingly eager to shut up the lone dissenter. People were calling the guy a bigot and a misogynist. Granted, he did turn out to be a Trump supporter from Britain, but even that doesn’t necessarily make him a bigot. I thought his comments regarding Meghan made a lot of sense, his political preferences notwithstanding. To me, it just proves that not all Trump supporters are necessarily crazy or stupid. They just haven’t reached the conclusions that I have, for whatever reason. Like the guy posted, “it’s okay to disagree.” I don’t know why he can easily see Meghan Markle’s issues and not see Trump’s, but then, I don’t know anything about him. Maybe he’s right about Trump and I’m wrong, although I doubt it. I suspect he just cares more about money than I do.

Now, if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you might know that I’m not one of Meghan Markle’s fans. My dislike of Meghan Markle has absolutely NOTHING at all to do with her racial makeup. I couldn’t care less about that. I don’t care that she’s an American who had the audacity to marry a British prince, either. I think people should be allowed to love and marry whomever they choose. And I also think that Harry should have been allowed to chart his own course in life, as we all should. I watched the interview Meghan and Harry had with Oprah Winfrey, and a lot of what Harry said made sense to me. I’ve always liked him, and when he and Meghan first got together, I was genuinely happy for both of them. I cried when I watched their wedding, especially at this part…

The man who sings the solo never fails to bring me to tears. This is just beautiful. I was even inspired to make my own version of this song based on this interpretation, which is one of so many over the years.

Here’s proof that I watched and loved their wedding, and this song…

When I heard this and watched the wedding, I had high hopes for this union.

What surprises me is looking at the congregation and not seeing that much emotion… but it is Britain. If I had been there in person, I would have been sobbing. That rendition is– indeed– glorious!

Below is what I had to say in late November 2017, when Harry and Meghan’s engagement was announced…

A screenshot from my original blog in an entry posted on November 29, 2017, so you can see that I’m not making this up… On another, unrelated point, I see that the post in question was about 85% about a certain lurker from Colorado. And given that it was late 2017, when we were having serious issues with our ex landlady, I now know it was the former tenant, spying on me and reporting her findings. I had titled the post “Snoopin’ and poopin’,” and that was definitely what she was doing. Sorry… I know I should forget about this, given what happened to former tenant, but it still really pisses me off.

As you can see, I had nothing bad to say about Meghan in 2017. I thought she was pretty, and Harry seemed happy. I did not give a shit about her race, and in fact, the two people I posted about her resembling are famous and beautiful WHITE people. But even if they were Black, it wouldn’t matter to me.

In May 2018, a few days after Harry’s and Meghan’s nuptials, I posted this :

See? Nothing derisive here about Meghan’s skin color.

Also from May 2018, I had written a post about gun violence in the USA, and added some comments about the royal wedding between Harry and Meghan. Again, totally positive and hopeful comments from yours truly.

Are these comments racist?

And finally, two more comments from October 2018, when Meghan announced her pregnancy… Nothing negative or racist here, either. And here’s a link to my post about Harry’s interview with Oprah last year. I had sympathy then, too, even if, by that point, I was liking Meghan less.

I’m not going to claim that there aren’t a lot of racists out there who don’t like Meghan Markle only because of her skin tone. I’m sure there are plenty of small-minded people who think she had no business marrying a British prince simply due to her being a biracial American woman with middle class roots. My point is that not all of us dislike her for those reasons. And just as it’s not right for people to make assumptions about others due to things they can’t help, like their skin color, it’s also wrong to assume that people are racist just because they’ve come to conclusions that you haven’t. I would gather that coming to that conclusion, even if it’s just for well-intentioned “woke” purposes, is just as wrong as stereotyping people due to their skin color is. In other words, people who instantly cry “RACISM” when someone says something disapproving of Meghan Markle are really not much better than the gossip mongers.

H.G. Tudor, who has been notably relentless and snarky in his observations of Meghan Markle’s behavior, put out what I think is a pretty good video. The main idea is that no, we don’t know her… but people who DO know her have spoken about her behavior. How many more people need to speak up before people realize that not everyone dislikes her due to her skin color?

I don’t like Meghan Markle because I don’t like her behavior. She makes my “cluster B” chimes go off. I’m not the only one who feels this way. And we’re not wrong to have these feelings, because we have had exposure to narcissists, and experience has taught us that these types give off signals that are triggering. Once you’ve been around that type of person, you can pick up on the vibes. Even though I get those vibes– mainly those of hypocrisy, fakeness, and self-centeredness– I totally get that I could be misinterpreting. Experience has told me that I’m pretty perceptive, and my perceptions are often right on target.

There’s a reason that people have this “sixth sense”, by the way. It’s part of self-preservation. Back in 2010, in my old blog, I posted about a book I read called The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. It was recommended by a YouTuber who called himself Lithodid Man. I blogged about the video by Lithodid Man, and he eventually found the post and left me a comment. Below is his video, which is now twelve years old…

Lithodid Man, who is an atheist, talks about being approached by a very insistent evangelical proselytizer who was trying to wear him down and get access to his minor son. He explains that he had read de Becker’s book, and it opened his eyes to the manipulative techniques the guy was using to get Lithodid Man to agree to let his son go to a church group.
An excerpt of my 2010 post about The Gift of Fear.

Gavin de Becker’s book is about recognizing when your senses are telling you of a threat, and acting accordingly, and in your own best interests, to protect yourself from harm. Our culture often pushes us, through peer pressure, to think one way or the other, to be agreeable and not make a fuss, to not be a “Karen”, to always cooperate and not make any waves… And people who are manipulative, narcissistic, or otherwise up to no good, are only too happy to exploit those pressures we live under to be nice at all costs.

Being nice is not a bad thing, but one shouldn’t be nice simply because it’s the path of least resistance. Sometimes, those instincts are DEAD ON… and tragically, we don’t realize until something heartbreaking has happened. For more on this, read any of my posts about Bill’s ex wife, and what has happened because he was “too nice” and too afraid to upset other people. Granted, it hasn’t been all bad. If he hadn’t married Ex, we might not have gotten married. Some other woman would have almost certainly treated him a lot better and he probably would have stayed married to her, even if the match wasn’t as compatible as ours is. But a lot of people were hurt because Bill ignored “the gift of fear” and didn’t listen to his instincts. He has told me on many occasions that on his wedding day to Ex, he had a voice telling him not to do it. He ignored that voice and suffered the consequences– kind of like Diana, former Princess of Wales, did. He learned a lot of tough lessons. Some of them have rubbed off on me.

Here’s another example. For years, I was quite vocal about how much I dislike Mormonism. I still dislike it, but feel less compelled to speak out about it these days, mainly because Bill’s younger daughter, who is LDS, now talks to him. I know that there are really good people in Mormonism. I knew that, even when I was more outspoken about Mormonism. My disdain for the church had NOTHING to do with the people within it. I don’t dislike people simply due to their religious beliefs. If that were the case, I never would have married Bill, who was still LDS on our wedding day. It was the institution and doctrine itself that I saw as damaging, because it was used as a tool to separate my husband from his daughters. He wasn’t “worthy” to be their father or baptise them, according to Ex and the church itself. He didn’t believe in the church’s teachings, so he was less fit. This, even though Ex was the one who was abusing and neglecting their children, and Bill himself.

So I determined that I don’t like Mormonism for that reason, not because I’m overall a religious bigot. And I also know that the Mormons aren’t the only ones who pull that shit… they just happen to be the ones who have affected us directly. I don’t like the other religions where those kinds of divisive practices prevail, either. In fact, I’m not that big on religion as a whole, but I especially dislike really restrictive, controlling ones where everyone has to believe and think the same way, and criticism isn’t allowed. Does that automatically make me a bigot? I don’t think so. But some people insisted that I am one, no matter how much I tried to explain my reasoning to them. Thankfully, most of them are now out of my life. Likewise, my disdain for Meghan Markle has nothing to do with her skin color or race. It’s because I recognize problematic behaviors that I think are toxic.

It annoys me to read posts like Father Nathan Monk’s, that presume to lecture everyone about being “racist” against Meghan Markle and discounting why people might not like her. First of all, she is a very public figure. She chose to be a public figure. One could argue that making that choice, in and of itself, is kind of a narcissistic thing to do. Yes, there are famous people out there who aren’t really all that “public”. I’ve read and heard about Meghan Markle’s desire for “privacy”, and yet she’s still everywhere.

Sure, I could give Meghan a pass for attending the Queen’s funeral, and even the Platinum Jubilee, but she’s clearly been trying to monetize her association with the British Royal Family. She still uses that title– the Duchess of Sussex– even as she publicly disdains Harry’s family and disowns her own family. This might be easy to ignore if these folks were regular citizens, but they aren’t. The British Royal Family is extremely public.

While I’m not generally a fan of saying, “you knew what you were getting into”, I do think that Meghan had to know that she wouldn’t be living a private life if she married Harry. It’s not even like she was like Diana. Diana was 19 years old when she got married, and didn’t even have a college degree. Meghan was a divorcee in her late 30s when she and Harry got married. And Meghan is certainly old enough to remember Diana, and what happened to her. Moreover, other people who married into royalty have been harassed– Sarah Ferguson definitely was. Camilla Parker Bowles was. Even Kate Middleton was. So, in that sense, she wasn’t alone… and wasn’t really treated that differently, other than the fact that Meghan is biracial and American. I’m not saying it’s right that the press harassed these ladies. What I am saying is that they were all being pursued and treated similarly poorly by the press. Prince Edward’s wife, Sophie, is the only one I don’t remember being messed with as much by the press. Maybe it’s because she was involved in public relations herself, if memory serves.

I don’t know Meghan Markle personally, and almost surely never will. So, the fact that I see her behavior as obnoxious and don’t like it is irrelevant, anyway. It’s not like I’m sending her hate mail, or even posting a lot of toxic stuff about her. I don’t even hang around with a bunch of girlfriends and giggle as we drink wine and trade catty gossip about her. I just pick up on these toxic vibes that I can’t ignore. I still wish Meghan and Harry luck with their marriage, particularly since there are now children involved. And I even hope that the two of them prove me wrong and have a long, successful, and happy marriage. I would be even happier if Meghan stopped seeming so artificial and tone deaf to me. And yes, I will continue to write about my observations of her behavior as I see fit. But, whether or not people believe me, my feelings have nothing to do with Meghan’s race. And to make that sweeping and insulting judgment about anyone who has criticisms of Meghan Markle is pretty lazy, limited, and disrespectful, in my view. People are going to “do themselves”, though… so for the sake of my sanity, I’ll try to ignore the bullshit and drive on.

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Duggars, Ex, narcissists, psychology, Trump

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear…”

This morning, I’m reminded of the popular saying that serves as today’s post title. It’s a lesson we’ve learned again and again. The universe will give you opportunities to learn lessons. In our case, we have apparently needed to learn more about narcissists and narcissism. And we have had several teachers who have appeared. It’s only been recently that we’ve been learning the lessons and changing our approaches to dealing with these types of people.

Yesterday’s post turned out to be more popular than I was expecting it to be. I’m sure part of the reason it was so compelling is that it included a somewhat “sordid” true story. Even three years on from our last move, it still made me nervous to share that post. It occurs to me that some people might read my posts and think I’m just whining. Maybe I do “whine” more than I should. It would be nice to have more of a “get on with it” attitude about more things.

I have what Dr. Phil would call a “psychological sunburn” about certain issues. That means I’m unusually sensitive about some things. In my case, it’s dealing with abusive people. I’ve mentioned before that I feel “saturated”, especially when it comes to verbal abuse. I just can’t abide it anymore. I don’t willingly engage with people who are like that, and writing helps me process it. I realize it probably comes off as a little “off-kilter” to some people, although I also know that some people can relate and appreciate these posts. So I keep writing them.

Narcissism is a hot topic these days. Spend a few minutes on YouTube and you’ll find so many videos about narcissism and narcissistic people. Some people are as tired of hearing and reading about narcissism, as I am of hearing about the pandemic. I don’t know why others are so interested in narcissism, but I know I am, because I’ve spent a lifetime being subjected to the general fuckery that can come from being around abusive and exploitative people. It’s a lot to unpack.

The first time I ever heard the term “narcissism” was when I was a senior in high school. I was taking a psychology class, and my teacher was the kind who loved to show “made for TV” movies to demonstrate certain psychological disorders. We watched the 1989 film Small Sacrifices, which starred Farrah Fawcett and was based on true crime writer Ann Rule’s excellent book. Fawcett portrayed Diane Downs, a woman who shot her own children and then claimed that she was carjacked. I remember my teacher saying that Downs had narcissistic personality disorder.

At the time, I thought nothing of it. I was seventeen years old and really didn’t know a lot about the world. Hell, at that time, I didn’t even realize that my father was an alcoholic, even though it was pretty obvious. I was used to seeing him drink excessively, and was accustomed to the erratic and sometimes scary behavior that resulted from his drinking, PTSD, and depression.

It never occurred to me that, years later, I would marry a man whose ex wife was extremely narcissistic, or even that her shockingly abusive behavior, as egregiously selfish and damaging as it was, would be something that a couple of my friends would also experience with people in their lives. I started to look around and realized that I was seeing narcissism all over the place.

When I started to realize how common and pervasive narcissistic behavior seemed to be, I wondered if maybe I was imagining it. Like, maybe I was akin to a physician in training with a little knowledge, suddenly seeing the signs and symptoms of a disease I’d just learned about in a class. I do have degrees in social work and public health, but narcissism isn’t something we necessarily learned about in school, except when I took an undergraduate course in abnormal psychology. I did very well in that class, but I am certainly no expert.

I started learning a lot more about NPD years ago, when I watched my husband’s ex wife treat my husband like literal shit. I was absolutely dumbfounded by the disrespect she showed toward him and his family, and ultimately, her children. I couldn’t believe her nerve. I was very surprised that so many people let her get away with the things they let her get away with, like denying Bill access to his children and telling outrageous lies about him to everyone, including his own parents and the children. Then I learned more about the physical and sexual abuse that occurred, and saw the proof of it.

I knew there had to be something very wrong with Ex, because her “reasons” for her actions didn’t make any sense to me. They did not fit the man that I knew, and have now known, for over twenty years. She made claims that he hates women and was abusive to her. And yet he has never as much as raised his voice to me, let alone a hand. He’s literally one of the kindest, most gentle, and agreeable people I’ve ever met, in spite of his long career as a soldier.

At first, I thought maybe Ex had borderline personality disorder. I read a lot about it and realized that her behavior ticked a lot of the boxes. But people with BPD are usually somewhat treatable, if they realize they have a problem and want to get help, and they aren’t as cruel as Ex is. Ex has been hospitalized on a few occasions, and I’ve seen her spouting off about dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which is a treatment used for people with BPD. However, her behavior doesn’t seem to change, and there are still many signs that she’s got other issues– namely with narcissism. I have studied narcissism for years, and I am convinced that’s her main problem, at least at this point in her life.

Of course, it’s also certainly possible that she has both disorders. Sometimes cluster B personality disorders do overlap. Or maybe she’s got another problem entirely. I can only guess, based on what I’ve witnessed, heard about, and experienced in my years with Bill, and my own educational pursuits.

All I know is that when I started to read about narcissistic personality disorder, Ex’s behavior started to make a lot more sense, and was much less shocking. In fact, once I learned about personality disorders in general, Ex started to become more predictable. While it was still terrible to observe, and awful for my husband, who was denied contact with his daughters, there was something almost comforting in knowing that it wasn’t just our imagination that she was so incredibly controlling, and shamelessly self-centered and hurtful. Indeed, later when Bill started talking to his daughter, she confirmed that she was treated as badly as he was. Younger daughter recently announced that she’s expecting another baby. She wrote that she was much more nervous about telling her mother than telling Bill. Bill always reacts with kindness. Ex doesn’t.

Some might wonder why I write so much about Ex. To that question, I can only answer that it helps me process and unpack. People often assume she’s a normal person and I’m the problem. I would like to ask people who automatically assume that I’m the problem, to stop and think about what they would think, and how they would feel, if they were married to someone who was DENIED access to their own children by the other parent. I would expect a loving parent to want the other parent to be involved, if only for the sake of the children, who deserve to have access to their parents and should not be saddled with an unnecessary stigma of being the child of an abuser.

If there was a legitimate reason for the other parent to be denied access, there should have been documentation as to why that was necessary. But in Ex’s case, she was apparently married to two men who were not fit to be fathers to their children. She denied her first husband access to their son, and only helped them reunite when it suited her toxic agenda. She did it solely to be cruel and punitive to Bill, who was asserting himself because his former stepson was quite obviously using him for money. When Bill busted the young man for hiding the fact that he was changing his name and didn’t bother to tell Bill, but kept accepting child support from him (at age 21, no less), Ex suddenly decided that the young man should be in contact with the man she claimed was “crazy” and “abusive”. And now we know she said the same things about Bill, although as his second wife, I can attest that he’s not the one who is “crazy” and “abusive”.

Once I learned more about narcissism, I found out that a lot of people are dealing with narcissists in their lives. I wonder how that is possible, since it’s supposedly a “personality disorder”. But then I realized that one doesn’t have to have NPD to exhibit those behaviors on occasion. Narcissism seems to be an epidemic in western society. In fact, it seems to be somewhat celebrated and even normalized in American culture. Obviously narcissistic people are the ones who often end up being “stars”. They often have powerful jobs and lots of prestige, or they have a lot of money. But then you look at their personal lives, and examine things they’ve done to get ahead, and you realize they aren’t people you’d necessarily want to know.

Donald Trump, to my mind, is a VERY obvious grandiose and malignant narcissist. He’s had a string of unfaithful marriages and business failures. So many people who have been associated with him have ended up in trouble with the law, ranging from his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to people who invaded the Capitol building last January. There are many stories of him abusing women and being racist. He doesn’t seem to care beyond the superficial for anyone, except maybe his daughter, Ivanka, whom he’s said he would like to date. He’s been friends with the likes of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, as well as Steve Bannon. And yet, we made him President of the United States, and many people– some of whom I consider decent and basically intelligent– are still fooled by his icky, superficial and totally fake charm. They see his selfishness and crazy behavior as strengths.

It was my husband’s ex wife who made me realize how dangerous Trump is. Once I started studying narcissists and saw how these people put on public faces, but are toxic nightmares behind closed doors, I realized how terrible Trump as a leader is. And then I saw the proof of it in the aftermath of the 2020 election, which thank GOD he lost. I only hope that he can’t run again, because I’m not altogether sure he wouldn’t win. And if he wins, God help us all, because he would have no reason whatsoever to curb his behavior. He wouldn’t be able to run for another term and would be even closer to the end of his life, anyway.

But Trump is an extreme example of a narcissist. The truth is, they’re everywhere, and that’s why so many people are obsessively reading about them and watching videos about their behavior. Most of them don’t reach the terrible extremes of Trump. Most are probably not even as extreme as Ex is. I would say most narcissists are mainly just what we’d call inconsiderate assholes. They aren’t necessarily dangerous, but they are very unpleasant and toxic to be around. Some go to more extreme lengths and are incredibly dangerous and harmful, particularly to innocent people.

I look at Josh Duggar, whose trial is set to begin tomorrow. This is a man who was lecturing the masses about family values several years ago, as he was meeting and brutalizing a sex worker, cheating on his wife, and apparently, viewing illegal pornographic images. I have never met Josh Duggar, but he definitely has a lot of the signs of NPD, and he’s been raised in a culture where his selfish, destructive, abusive behavior is tolerated and even celebrated.

Meanwhile, since he’s been caught with illegal images that were described as the “worst of the worst” that experienced investigators have ever seen, Josh and his equally narcissistic father, Jim Bob, have been doing everything they can to get out of being held accountable for this behavior. Hell, Jim Bob is even running for public office again, even though his son is probably about to go to prison. Go figure that decision, except that Jim Bob is also extremely controlling and self-centered. Why should we care about these people? By all rights, we shouldn’t, but their story is compelling, because they have that yucky charisma and charm that a lot of narcissists have. I only hope that this time, they finally get held accountable for the things they do.

I come by my fascination with narcissism honestly, because it has affected me personally. I know that I’m not alone. I really think our culture has a lot to do with why this issue is so prevalent. Sadly, narcissists really hurt people, and they cause damage that is not easy to overcome. Whether it’s dealing with an abusive ex spouse who uses children and other people to maintain control, or it’s just a boss or a landlord who lives to make someone’s life hell, or it’s a person who is running the country and refusing to play fair, narcissists do a lot of harm to decent people. And I think the high number of books, videos, and blog posts about this subject only show that many students are ready, so the teachers have appeared.

Now… I’m going to dive back into my latest book by Les Carter, and I hope tomorrow, there will be a fresh book review. I’ve got several new books that I’m dying to start reading, but I can’t tackle them the way I used to. I hope everyone has a great Monday.

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law, mental health, music, narcissists, psychology

Repost: The clarinetist who dodged a bullet…

This is a repost from June 2018. I am working on finishing reading a book that I want to review. Maybe I’ll be able to do it today. Maybe not. Anyway, I thought this was an interesting story. It appears here mostly as/is, with a couple of new videos added.

I just read an infuriating story on the New York Times.  Eric Ambramovitz, a gifted clarinet player from Canada, was just awarded $375,000 Canadian dollars from a lawsuit he filed against his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Lee.  Why?  Because she crushed his dream and cost him two years of a promising music career.

In 2013, Ambramovitz and Lee were dating.  Both were music students and Abramovitz had dreams of studying under Yehuda Gilad at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, California.  But the manipulative and sneaky Ms. Lee did not want her beau of a few months to leave Canada.  So when Abramovitz received the rare, all expenses paid, highly prestigious acceptance to study under Gilad, who only takes on one or two new students per year, Lee intercepted the email, impersonated her ex boyfriend, and turned down the offer.  Then, she sent a fake email to Ambrovitz, indicating that he had not been accepted to study under Gilad at the conservatory.  Instead, he could attend the University of Southern California with a $5000 scholarship, which Lee knew would not be enough.  Abramovitz could not come up with the rest of the $50,000+ tuition charged at USC. 

Lee and Ambramovitz eventually broke up and Ambramovitz finished his bachelor’s degree in music at McGill University in Montreal.  Then in 2016, he traveled to Los Angeles to re-audition for Professor Gilad.  But Gilad was confused, because he remembered that Ambramovitz had already auditioned and turned down the chance to study with him.

It was at that point when Eric Ambramovitz came to the sickening realization that his ex girlfriend had committed some major league relationship fuckery.  He asked Mr. Gilad about the email he had received from “giladyehuda09”.  Gilad said that was not his email address.  At that point, Ambramovitz filed a police report.  Just an aside here, I’m not sure it would have occurred to me to file a police report if I had been victimized in this way, but now that I think about it, it makes perfect sense.  What Ms. Lee did was akin to identity theft.

This man has some serious musical chops! He is definitely no Squidward.

Fortunately, Ambramovitz won acceptance to the University of Southern California, where Mr. Gilad also teaches.  He completed a two year certificate, not on scholarship, and studied under the professor part time.  Professor Gilad testified in court that Ambramovitz made excellent progress studying under him.  However, Ms. Lee’s dishonest hijinks cost the gifted clarinetist two years of his career, as well as missed professional opportunities.  According to the article, 80 percent of clarinetists in North American orchestras consist of Gilad’s former students.

But he survived… and it didn’t crush his spirit.

Ms. Lee did not respond to the lawsuit and had no lawyer listed in the suit.  It’s doubtful that Ambramovitz will ever see any of the money he was awarded.  He has, however, found success as a professional clarinetist.  He just got a job working for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra after having previously worked with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. 

A few things come to mind after having read about this case.  First off, I’m amazed that Ms. Lee had access to her ex boyfriend’s email account.  I wonder why Ambramovitz wasn’t able to log into some kind of school account to see what his admittance status was.  Seems like when I applied to graduate school at USC, I had an account that showed what documents I still needed to submit.  That was in 1999.  I guess that’s not how they do things at all schools.  I see from another article (a much more complete one) that Ms. Lee also did the same thing with Mr. Abramovitz’s successful application to Julliard.

Not only is he insanely talented, but he’s also quite generous with sharing his gifts. I’m so glad he got out of that toxic relationship. He also seems like a really nice person.

I guess it just goes to show you that you can’t trust anyone.  According to another article about this case, Ms. Lee moved fast.  Within a month of their first date, Ambramovitz was staying at her apartment almost full time.  He let her use his laptop and she obviously had access to his passwords.  Actually, if she’s got cluster B tendencies, this makes perfect sense.  They tend to overwhelm their victims with whirlwind romances.  Then, once the poor victim is hooked, cluster B, high conflict types turn into horrible people.   

I’m glad Ambramovitz broke up with that miserable woman.  What an awful thing she did to him!  I hope karma kicks her ass.  But… at least he didn’t marry her.  This kind of sabotaging behavior is what Bill experienced firsthand when he was married to his ex wife.  I liken being in a relationship with someone like that to being chained to a dead tree.  A dead tree might eventually rot enough so a victim can escape, but it could take years of soul crushing before that happens.

Bill suffered damage to his career, his relations with his family, and his finances before he was finally able to break away from his psycho cluster B ex.  While Ambramovitz’s situation is heartbreaking on many levels, at least his story has a happy ending…  as does Bill’s.  Not everyone is so lucky.

ETA: September 2021… I may have to write some about Gabby Petito later. Unfortunately, her story didn’t have a happy ending. Also… fun fact– many years ago, I played clarinet myself. But I did not have a gift for it.

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book reviews, domestic violence, modern problems, true crime

Reposted book review: Social Taboo: A Male Victim of Domestic Violence Speaks…

Here’s another reposted book review from the original Overeducated Housewife blog. This one was written in July 2017 and appears as/is. I had completely forgotten about this book, but it’s definitely one that belongs on my blog.

Sad story plus wretched writing equals missed opportunities…

Ever since I started reading it, I have been itching to write my review of Social Taboo: A Male Victim of Domestic Violence Speaks.  I finally finished reading Richard Cassalata’s 2016 book about twenty minutes ago after struggling with it and thinking it would never end.  I didn’t realize it when I started reading this book, but Social Taboo is 578 painful pages in length.  I would guess at least 150 of those pages could have been omitted.  Add in the fact that Mr. Cassalata apparently never had this book edited or even read by a literate friend before he published it, and you have a recipe for a former English major’s nightmare.   

As you might guess from this book’s title, Social Taboo is a non-fiction account of a man’s experience with an abusive woman. The author, who refers to himself as Rick, writes that in early January 2011, he had been looking online for a relationship with a woman. Rick is a divorced father of three boys, and as of 2016, he lives in Arizona. He has not had much luck with online personal ads. Evidently, many of the responses he gets are porn solicitations.

One night, Rick gets an email from an attractive woman named Amy.  Amy lives in Eloy, which is evidently a crime infested, yet very rural, area.  She’s a teacher in her mid to late 30s at the time, having earned teaching certifications in Ohio and Arizona.  She invites Rick over and asks him to bring with him a bottle of Grey Goose vodka.

Although Rick is not much of a drinker, he complies with Amy’s request and drives out to Eloy.  He and Amy hit it off immediately, although Rick is slightly alarmed when Amy pours herself a generous measure of vodka mixed with cranberry juice.  Although he says nothing to her at the time, it soon becomes apparent that Amy has a serious drinking problem.    

Rick, who is in the midst of earning his teaching credentials, finds that he and Amy are able to talk shop.  However, besides talking about their work, Amy also talks about her past relationships.  If you know anything about women with cluster B personality disorders, you know that there are already a couple of red flags popping up during this couple’s first meeting.  

Rick describes Amy as witty, charming, sweet, friendly, and very attractive.  He writes that they “clicked” from the get go.  And while it may not be the smartest thing for him to have done, during that first date, Rick and Amy are consummating their brand new relationship between the sheets on Amy’s bed.  Unfortunately, Amy neglects to tell Rick that she has contracted oral herpes, which Rick incorrectly identifies as a sexually transmitted disease.  Yes, it can be transmitted sexually, but what Rick is referring to is the same virus that causes cold sores.  In truth, most people have been exposed to the virus that causes oral herpes by the time they are adults.

Things move quickly, as they often do in relationships with women who have cluster B personality disorders.  Pretty soon, Rick and Amy are inseparable.  Rick gets approval to work with Amy– she actually becomes his supervisor as he’s picking up training hours at Amy’s school.  Yet another red flag is raised, but Rick is apparently oblivious to it.  Soon, they’re talking about marriage and it’s not long before Rick moves in to Amy’s home.  When he’s living with her, Rick discovers that Amy’s drinking problem is a lot more serious than he’d first realized.  Aside from that, she is extremely possessive and resents it when Rick plays racquetball with his buddies on Saturday mornings.  He comes back from the court to find Amy completely obliterated after she’s consumed way too much Grey Goose vodka.

Rick soon finds himself deeply entrenched in his relationship with Amy, who seems to be having a hard time letting go of her ex husband, Jim.  She claims that they need to see each other because they are filing their taxes.  Rick isn’t happy about Amy’s continued visits with her ex, but he tolerates it until it becomes clear that Amy is doing a lot more than discussing taxes with Jim.  But when Rick confronts Amy, she goes batshit crazy.  It’s not long before Amy enlists local law enforcement in her bid to control Rick.  She even talks him into handing over his paychecks to her.  Again… a classic red flag of an abuser.  

It turns out that Amy is also kinky.  She has a collection of sex toys and wants Rick to use them on her and be her “Dom”, that is, sexual dominant.  She uses sex to make up with Rick after their epic fights.  All I can say is that Amy must have been one hell of a lover.  Rick falls for her tricks over and over again, just like Charlie Brown does when Lucy Van Pelt offers to hold the football for him.  I don’t actually have anything against kink.  However, it’s pretty clear that Amy uses kink as a means to control her men.

Throughout the book, Rick refers to the interesting array of jobs he’s held in the helping profession.  He claims to have been a law enforcement officer, a social worker, and a teacher, both at the college and school levels.  However, Rick doesn’t really give readers a full accounting of his academic pedigree.  This was one of my many complaints about Social Taboo.  As I was reading Rick’s story, he would mention his academic background, but in vague terms.  I myself have master’s degrees in social work and public health, so he caught my attention when he wrote about his sociology degree, but then referred to himself as a “former social worker”.  

First off, social work and sociology are not the same thing.  Secondly, while Rick may have worked for child protective services at one point, that would not make him a social worker.  Social work is not synonymous with child welfare work.  Moreover, having earned my degree in social work, I know what goes into getting that education.  I was perplexed by Rick’s vast array of careers.  He’s supposedly only 35 years old at one point in this book.  It takes time and money to become a qualified social worker or teacher, particularly at the college level.  And yet, Rick has apparently been a social worker, a teacher, a professor, and a law enforcement officer.  I question how much experience he would have had in those fields and how he managed to earn the appropriate credentials.  I’m not saying he’s outright lying, but it would have been helpful if he had explained that a bit more.

My next complaint about this book is that it is way too long.  I see an earlier paperback version of this book comes in at over 700 pages.  This edition, which has a different title, is almost 600 pages.  A lot of those pages should have been edited out because much of it is repetitive minutiae.  At one point in the book, I was sure I had to be at least halfway through it.  I was dismayed to see I had only read about 25%.  I eventually found myself skimming because it was very repetitive and taking much too long to finish.

And finally, my biggest complaint about this book is the shitty writing.  Cassalata has a rather conversational style that could be engaging if not for all of the typographical errors, awkward sentence constructions, dangling participles, and wrong word choices.  Seriously, there were some errors that were almost laughable.  For the sake of this review, I’m going to find a few of the more memorable ones.

“After leaving my house, I purchased a big cup of coffee at a nearby convince store.”

“They’re just did not seem to be a happy medium in any decision concerning her in weeks.”

“Ferrous, I walked out of the classroom without acknowledging Amy’s existence.”

“I fucking hate you for that… you sun of a bitch!”

“Since you are freeloading off me and living in my house you will respect me you sorry sun of a bitch.”

“Arriving home, Amy was gone and it was a welcome relief.”

“Noticing the sun setting we walked out of the restaurant and Amy held my hand out the door.”

The book is absolutely saturated with mistakes like the ones I’ve posted.  When you have to get through 600 pages, it becomes very tiresome to run across so many errors.  More than once, I contemplated giving up on the book.  I also had to fight the urge to rant about it before I managed to finish.  Imagine… this man, like his psycho ex, Amy, are teachers.  No wonder so many people homeschool.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think it’s good that Mr. Cassalata was willing to share his story.  I wish more male victims of relationship abuse would speak out; that way, people like Bill’s ex wife might brought to justice for the havoc they wreak.  I just think that if you’re going to go to the trouble of writing a book about your experiences, particularly the very personal experiences the author writes of, you should make sure the writing is of good quality.  It’s asking a lot to ask readers to wade through almost 600 pages of explicit writing about abuse.  The least that author could do is make the writing worth the effort and as easy as possible for the reader– particularly given that readers often have paid for the book.  I see Cassalata’s paperback version is selling for about $25.  I would be pissed if I’d spent $25 on this book as it’s written.

Anyway, make no mistake about it.  Rick Cassalata got himself entangled with a psycho.  I empathize with him.  A lot of what he wrote about Amy is eerily similar to stories I’ve heard about Bill’s ex wife, right down to the weird sex, financial abuse, and irrational rages.  Bill was fortunate in that his ex wife had a fear of government interference, so she never called the police on him.  However, she did do a lot of the other things Amy did… and, oddly enough, Bill’s ex used to live in Arizona.  I hope things are better for Rick now.  I see at the end of his book, he’s got links to men’s rights organizations.  I, personally, have no issue with that, but I would imagine that if a lot of women read this book, they might.

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