Ex, family, mental health, psychology

When Grandma gets canceled…

I used to read Slate Magazine’s advice column “Dear Prudence” fairly regularly, especially when we were still living in the States. I remember reading Dear Prudence in the Washington Post, too, especially when it was written by Emily Yoffe, who wrote an awesome book about adopting a beagle from BREW (Beagle Resource Education and Welfare). Bill and I have adopted three beagles from BREW ourselves, so naturally I wanted to read What the Dog Did: Tales from a Formerly Reluctant Dog Owner (2005). I remember Yoffe also famously wrote about competing in the Mrs. America pageant just for the sake of the experience. That was part of her “Human Guinea Pig” series for Slate. I probably ought to read Slate more often. It might annoy me less than The Atlantic does, with its daily doses of depressing articles about the rapidly degrading state of the world and how it’s never going to get better.

Anyway, this morning, a Facebook friend commented on a column by Dear Prudence. Dear Prudence is currently written by Daniel M. Lavery, who was born Mallory Ortberg and raised by evangelical Christians. I may have to read more about his story. I had not heard of him until today, but apparently he is well known and regarded as a writer, especially in transgender circles.

The topic that so intrigued me this morning is entitled “My Daughter Cut Me Out of Her Life! She didn’t even tell me she’s pregnant.” The letter that prompted the headline was from a mother, distraught that her formerly pleasant and cooperative adult daughter got married to a “controlling” man. Ever since the wedding, daughter has been much firmer with her mom– in fact, Mom thinks her daughter has “turned into a different person.” Recently, the daughter stopped taking her mother’s phone calls and texts. Below is the letter in question.

Dear Prudence,

Since my daughter married “Chris,” she has turned into a different person. It started on her wedding day, when she got drunk and screamed at me for “always putting her down” after I made a (not insulting!) comment about her non-traditional dress. That was four years ago, and things have gotten worse since then. She and Chris have spent every Christmas with his parents rather than me and my husband, she ignores calls and texts, and she has gone from attending every pre-pandemic family function with thoughtful gifts on birthdays to missing all but funerals and sending gift cards as Christmas presents. She has spoken to us twice since February, and on one of those occasions ended up screaming abuse at us until my husband hung up.

I found out the worst news recently and cannot process it. My daughter is pregnant, and not only had she not told us, but she didn’t plan to. I only found out, mortifyingly, because a friend saw something on social media and asked me about it (I’m not on social media). My husband and I tried getting through to our daughter, but she has changed her personal number and only Chris answers the house phone. When confronted, he told us that she no longer wanted any contact with us, and that “they” did not want us in their child’s life. My husband accused Chris of controlling our daughter, at which point Chris hung up. I have since called and pleaded with him to let me talk to my daughter, but to no avail. He has always been a cold person, but I never thought he would do something like this. I know that my daughter has some responsibility for her choices here, but I agree with my husband that Chris seems to be a powerful influence in isolating her from us in this extreme way. We are at a loss as to what to do from here. I cannot bear the thought of never meeting my own grandchild, and part of me can’t believe that our daughter would be so cruel as to follow through with this plan to keep us from them permanently. Is there anything I can say that might get through to Chris, or that I could put in a letter begging my daughter to reconcile? My husband and I miss the sweet, warm girl that we raised, and feel as though we’ve lost her to a cold, angry stranger.

—Heartbroken

Prudie gave the usual excellent advice. But what really stuck out to me was my friend’s comment. She wrote that the letter “smacked of ‘missing missing reasons.'” Prior to today, I had never heard of such a concept. I decided to follow the link my friend shared in her comment. I found myself on a blog page about parents and children who are estranged. It appears that the blog, Issendai.com, is mostly about psychology, and in particular, estrangement between parents and their children. I will have to explore it more thoroughly today.

The post my friend shared is entitled “The Missing Missing Reasons”, and it’s all about how parents of estranged children seem to “miss the boat” on why they are cut out of their adult children’s lives. These parents will say their children “never gave them a reason” for the estrangement. But then, after they start talking or writing, they reveal that their children actually DID give them a reason. It appears that the estranged parent simply didn’t acknowledge the reason.

In the above letter, the distraught mother claims that her daughter became someone she doesn’t know anymore after the daughter got married. She blames Chris, the husband, for the daughter’s change. She makes him out to be an abuser who is trying to prevent her from meeting her own grandchild. But if you read carefully, Mom also claims that her daughter “got drunk” at her wedding and yelled at her mother for “always putting her down” after the mom made a “not insulting” comment about her daughter’s unconventional wedding dress.

Just that initial part of her letter makes me think that “Heartbroken” has a habit of discounting her daughter’s feelings and expecting her adult child to defer to her. I suspect she might be the type of parent who think she’s always right and always deserves respect, even when she, herself, isn’t behaving in a respectable way. In her letter, I don’t see any acknowledgment from “Heartbroken” that she may have caused her daughter hurt or offense, even if it was completely unintentional. Instead, she assumes her daughter’s husband is entirely to blame for this estrangement.

Even though Heartbroken writes that her daughter “has some responsibility for her choices”, she doesn’t seem to understand that, as a competent adult, her daughter actually has complete responsibility for her choices. She isn’t a child anymore, and her mother is no longer the boss of her. It could be that Chris is helping her by screening her mother’s calls, but unless he’s the worst type of abusive monster, my guess is that he’s not doing it because he’s a control freak. He’s probably doing it because his mother-in-law is a possessive control freak who doesn’t see her daughter as a fully functioning adult, capable of having and expressing her own feelings and making decisions about who will, and who will not be, in her life. And unfortunately, until that unborn baby she’s carrying is also an adult, she is also capable of making choices for her child, which could mean that Grandma gets “canceled”.

I have some empathy for both sides of this situation. First off, I am a youngest child with family members who have historically discounted my opinions and treated me with contempt and disrespect. Fortunately, of all my family members, my mom has always had the most regard for me as an adult. In fact, when I was a child, my mom often expected me to be more adult than I was. She was in a hurry to see me grow up, because she had made it plain to me that she hadn’t expected or wanted a fourth child (me). I turned out to be a pretty good kid overall, but I had an attitude and wasn’t exactly genteel, high achieving, or well-behaved around her friends. Consequently, I often heard hurtful stories about how obnoxious I was as a toddler and small child. Some would say I never outgrew those traits, even though overall, I really wasn’t that difficult. I never got arrested or pregnant, and I finished high school, college, and graduate school on time, and with little help from anyone else, other than financially.

In my case, my mom became a lot easier to be around once I became an adult. She would probably say the same about me. I’m probably much less annoying as an adult. I certainly require less from her, so she can just be my friend. I notice my mom was also a lot less annoying once I got married. I think she was afraid I’d never be able to launch… or find a suitable mate. Bill turned out to be very acceptable and we’re doing fine, so Mom has relaxed a lot. I think it also helped when she no longer had to deal with my dad or keep their business from tanking.

And secondly, I’m married to a man who was estranged from his daughters. One adult daughter is still estranged. The other has reconnected, which is something I never thought would happen. Younger daughter has explained a lot about why the estrangement happened. When she and Bill started talking again, he approached gently and listened to her. In her case, the estrangement wasn’t so much because it was what she wanted. Her mother pretty much forced her to disconnect and filled her and her sister with fear and doubt.

In that process, I was painted as “the bad guy” because Bill stopped putting up with his ex wife’s abusive bullshit. I also made for a convenient scapegoat as a so-called home wrecking whore. Meanwhile, Bill approached Ex with calm assertiveness rather than meek submission or outright aggression. I’m sure that was infuriating and frustrating for Ex. She once even commented on how his tone had “changed”. She didn’t like it, because she was used to deference. And she blamed me, when she should have realized that he had simply recovered from her toxic bullshit and had made up his mind not to tolerate it anymore.

It took years, but that calm and gentle approach is paying off as Bill strengthens his ties to his daughter and her family. Meanwhile, it sounds to us like Ex is being shut out of at least two of her five children’s lives. And this time, the estrangement isn’t because they were forced– it’s because they’re now adults and they have chosen to disconnect, to some degree.

Ex is the type of person who will send an email full of emotional blackmail, blame, rage, and begging in order to get her way. She’s manipulative and disrespectful, and expects her children and other family members to kiss her ass. She has a one dimensional approach to relationships and sees them only in terms of how they relate to her, without any regard toward how her actions and behaviors affect other people. Meanwhile, she does everything she can to present a facade to the rest of the world about what an “amazing” person she is. It’s all a lie, and it’s obvious to most people who have any situational awareness.

I’m not saying I think “Heartbroken” is like Ex, though. She may have been a much better mother and may be a superior specimen when it comes to simple humanness. But in her letter, I read the words of a woman who blames other people for everything and doesn’t have much self-awareness or personal insight. For instance, she legitimately may not have meant her comment about her daughter’s wedding dress as an insult. However, that was clearly how it came across to her daughter. We can’t always control how people interpret what we say or do, but if someone does take offense to something we say or do, it’s his or her right. And then, we weigh whether or not we care about their being offended. If we care, maybe an apology or explanation is in order. If we don’t care, then fuck ’em, and we reap the consequences.

In this case, it sounds like Mom cares that her daughter has cut her out of her life. She doesn’t want to be canceled from her unborn grandchild’s life. With that being the case, she may have to humble herself and be a bit more introspective. She may have to alter her behavior and show her daughter more respect, or at least acknowledge that some of the things she’s said and done in the past have been hurtful and caused offense. If she isn’t willing to make that concession, she may stay canceled.

Most normal people don’t like being estranged from others, especially close relatives, like a parent. I’m sure “Heartbroken’s” daughter thought about it before she cut off her mom. She may have determined that being separated from/no contact with her mother is less painful than enduring her mother’s recurrent intrusiveness and disrespect. When a person is still a child, they have to tolerate a parent’s disregard and disrespect. But the wonderful thing about being an adult is that we all have the ability to make choices for ourselves. And it sounds like that is what “Heartbroken’s” daughter has done.

It may turn out that this relationship can be salvaged. The letter writer’s daughter may be a reasonable person, and she may welcome her mother back into her life if Mom starts treating her with some basic respect and civility. But it sounds like she’s not going to deal with her as she is today, and she’s not going to subject her child to her mother’s repeated disrespect, either.

The reason I think it’s been a pattern is because “Heartbroken’s” daughter mentioned it at her wedding, of all places. It was her day– a day I’m sure, drunk or not, she definitely wasn’t wanting to spend arguing with her mom. Then, the mom made the comment that she didn’t think she was insulting her daughter. But her daughter clearly took the comment about the wedding dress as insulting– on her day– and, more importantly, pointed out that it wasn’t the first time. So this has been an issue for a long time… and now that daughter has her own family, why does she “need” her mom? She doesn’t… at least not in the most basic ways. She’s a grown and functional person, with a husband who supports her, and soon a child of her own whose needs she will have to consider. And her mom, God help her, is still thinking only about herself and her needs as a mom and grandma.

I have cut some people out of my life. It wasn’t easy for me. I think about all of the years I spent with some of the people I don’t talk to anymore. I have some great memories. But after awhile, the good memories are outweighed by bad ones, and feeling traumatized and angry after multiple toxic interactions. After awhile, healthy people tend to make the decision to stop drinking the poison and put the bottle aside… I’ve done that, and it’s overall been a good thing… even if I do still have some great memories. However, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t listen if someone indicated that they wanted to talk to me, and it was an actual conversation involving more than one perspective. I think “Heartbroken” is firmly focused on her own perspective and how much she hurts. Until she realizes that her daughter was also hurt, she probably won’t get anywhere.

I think if “Heartbroken” is willing to open her heart and her mind, let her daughter know that she hears her and is willing to try to change the way she communicates, she may find her daughter is more willing to include her in her life. But if she just wants to blame her daughter and her son-in-law, I’m afraid Grandma is gonna stay canceled.

Anyway… I’m going to have to read more articles on Issendal.com. I’m glad I took a minute to read about “missing missing reasons”. It’s a concept that I think affects a lot of relationships involving high conflict, immature people who lack insight and introspection.

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Ex, mental health, narcissists, psychology

“I don’t have time”…

Yesterday, I wrote about how Bill discovered that his daughter was medically neglected when she was growing up. The problems that younger daughter had weren’t life threatening; they simply caused her great discomfort and pain. Ex figured her kid would live, so she didn’t have to take her to a doctor or pay for devices that would make her feel or function better. She didn’t have time for it, nor did she want to go to the trouble or spend the money. And if she did spend the time or the money, she would never let anyone forget it, as if seeing to her children’s needs was a favor, rather than a responsibility.

It occurs to me that I’ve often heard that same excuse from other narcissistic types. Whenever someone makes a request of them, particularly when it has to do with respecting personal boundaries or spending money, their excuse for not honoring the request is often “I don’t have time.” But they have no issues with taking YOUR time or making requests or demands of your money or resources.

When I was in the Peace Corps, I had several different landladies. The first two were basically kind and respectful enough. I left the first place because it involved living with a host family, a young woman and her little brother, and I wanted my own space and more privacy. I didn’t want to have to worry about someone going through my stuff when I wasn’t home (which happened both times I lived with host families). I preferred quiet in the evenings and she would have friends over until all hours. I also wanted to feel comfortable in my own home rather than like a guest. So, after two months living there, I moved into my own apartment. It was a lot better for me.

The second landlady I had was a very nice lady whose brother had moved to Ukraine and left her to take care of his apartment. She was also the Peace Corps doctor. I was reasonably happy there, but had to move after a year because her brother had decided to sell the place. No one told me he was selling it, so I was very confused when someone rang the doorbell wanting to know if I was “selling” the apartment. I started getting other random people showing up wanting a tour. Later, my landlady explained what was going on and I decided to move, rather than deal with people constantly coming over to see the apartment.

Then, there was my third landlady, who had an apartment and moved to Hungary to study. When I agreed to rent her place, I didn’t know her very well, although she too had worked for the Peace Corps. She left her father in charge of the apartment. Every month, he would show up at the apartment to collect the rent. I was paying twice as much rent for that apartment than I was for the previous one. By American standards, it was a very cheap place to live, but by Armenian standards, it was very expensive and quite overpriced. In fact, the place was smaller, and in a less desirable location, although it had nicer furniture (a real bed instead of a fold out couch). I worked at a non-governmental organization to help cover the rent. Technically, we weren’t supposed to be paid for extra work, but it was a common practice, especially for those of us who lived in Yerevan. Volunteers are no longer posted there.

In my last three months in that apartment, which I lived in for about ten months, the landlady came back to Armenia from Hungary and started paying visits, even if I wasn’t home. She would let herself into the apartment when I wasn’t there and let her son eat my food. Not only would he eat things from my fridge, but he’d leave the dirty dishes for me to find. One night, I came home from having gone out to see a movie and this lady and her father were waiting in the apartment for me. They had let themselves in while I wasn’t there. I was completely unprepared for the ambush, and not really in a state to be talking to them at that hour. It was about 10:00 on a Friday night and I’d had a couple of beers. Dad was smoking a cigarette when I opened the door to the place I had considered my home for about nine months.

Former Armenian landlady accused me of not paying rent one month. She said her father had accused me of stiffing him. I was outraged, of course, because he showed up every month on the first day, ready to collect the money. And of course he was paid. I could not even fathom how she thought I could live in a place where I wasn’t paying rent. There was a record of me getting the money from the NGO where I worked. I asked the ex landlady to check the records. Her response? “I don’t have time to do that. How do I know you didn’t just spend the money?”

I could have asked the same thing about her father, who did very promptly collect the rent without fail and very faithfully got paid. I kept a daily journal when I was in the Peace Corps and I actually noted the days when he came, not because I didn’t trust him, but because I habitually journal about mundane things like that. I still do that today, as you can see.

As for my Armenian landlady, I was beyond offended by her gall and, still being a young, inexperienced renter in a foreign country, I couldn’t believe her sense of entitlement and unfairness toward me. She had worked for the Peace Corps and knew full well what the organization is about, yet she still felt fine about trying to rip me off.

She had plenty of time to let herself into my home and wait for me, but no time to do a simple check like finding out if she’d been paid. She had no problem accusing me of stiffing her for a month’s rent, and she probably figured that because I was a “rich” American paying what we’d consider “cheap” rent, I would just pay her to get her off my case. I think she also mistook my tendency to get emotional as a sign of weakness. Well… she could not have been more wrong about that. I went on the fucking warpath, as I tend to do when people push me past a certain red line. She quickly found out that she had made a major miscalculation of my potential reaction to her dishonest ploy and had completely misjudged and underestimated me.

Armenian landlady and her father finally left the apartment when I had a panic attack in front of them. At the time, I had severe issues with anxiety and depression and I would sometimes hyperventilate and cry uncontrollably. I was so completely shocked and horrified by her aggressive and completely unwarranted accusations that I had a big meltdown. They didn’t know what to do, so they left. Fortunately, panic attacks are no longer a problem for me– now, I just get super pissed off and resolved to set things right.

I eventually recovered my senses, called one of the Peace Corps administrators, and explained what happened. We arranged for someone Armenian from the office to be there when I handed over the keys to the apartment, to make sure that I didn’t get harassed as I was trying to leave the country. And no, Armenian landlady did not manage to shake me down for another month’s rent, but I left Armenia with an angry and depressed mindset. I was flabbergasted by her nerve and left with a bitter taste in my mouth that I had spent over two years of my life trying to do something good and was accused of theft for my troubles.

Many years hence, I had a landlady who “didn’t have time” to send a four word email or text to let me know when she was coming over so I could be prepared for company. Bear in mind that in most developed countries, landlords aren’t supposed to simply drop by without notice. They’re usually required to give 24 hours notice before they show up. Bill and I were initially pretty laid back about her habit of dropping in– or really, I was, because I was mostly the one who dealt with her. But she’d caught me undressed, sick, busy, or asleep one too many times and I was fed up with the intrusions, among other things.

Bill politely and reasonably asked her to let us know before she came over (so I could be awake, properly dressed, and we could make sure there weren’t any doggy landmines in the backyard). We weren’t even asking for 24 hours notice, but she was offended that we had the nerve to ask her for ANY notice to come to HER house (which was also OUR HOME). She wrote back that she “didn’t have time” to send us notice– as few as just four words “I’m coming over now”– so I could be ready to receive her. She actually refused to do it, because she “didn’t have time”. We still have the email with her refusal to comply with that simple request, along with all of the others she sent that indicate her huge sense of entitlement and propensity toward double standards when it comes to her renters.

This is what gets me about these types of people– folks who are entitled, high-conflict oriented, and narcissistic. If the shoe was on the other foot, they would be absolutely up in arms if someone told them they “didn’t have time” for them or to honor a simple request. Narcissistic types will go off about that– how dare you NOT bend to my will?! How dare you NOT have time to do my bidding?! I am ENTITLED. You are not.

When Bill was first married to Ex (when she only had her son from her first marriage), he asked her to look for a job because they were struggling to pay their bills. Ex got very offended and said she was going to mark all of the stuff she’d brought to the home as hers. She was so upset and put upon that Bill would ask her to look for work, even though it would benefit everyone if they could more easily pay their bills. She “didn’t have time” to work. Ex did later work when more children came along, although her work history has been a bit checkered.

If I had told any of my former landladies that I “didn’t have time” to go pick up the rent money for them, they would have been extremely upset with me. If I had told my Armenian landlady that she couldn’t just let herself into the apartment whenever she felt like it, she would have been furious with me. She might even cite that she “didn’t have time” to tell me she was coming over and that she was entitled to the convenience of being able to drop in whenever it suited her, regardless of my plans. I wasn’t worthy of the consideration. I will grant that it would have been hard for the Armenian landlady to let me know she was coming over in 1997. At the time, cell phones weren’t widely available and landlines were notoriously unreliable. I could call the United States more easily than I could call across the street. But she still let her kid eat my pudding and leave the dirty dishes for me to clean up and she was still waiting for me to come home one night inside the apartment. She was entitled– it was HER apartment before it was MY home, and I was paying her a lot for the privilege.

Ditto to the fact that an awning that one of my ex landladies neglected to have fixed by a real repairperson could have seriously hurt or even killed me when it fell. She had no regard for the fact that my life could have been in danger because she “didn’t have the time or money” to call a real repairperson instead of getting her husband to do a free patch job. Instead, she felt “entitled” to force us to buy her a brand new awning, even after taking an insurance settlement. She failed to realize her own neglect and disregard for our safety and was focused solely on money she felt she was owed.

However, when we objected to her coming over to oversee the chimney sweep and check the smoke alarms, she was quick to lecture us about our “safety”. We weren’t objecting to the chimney sweep’s visit or the safety checks. We were objecting to her need to come over to our home and harass us. There was no reason for her to be in attendance for the chimney sweep’s visit. She just wanted to exert control. She had no time to send a quick text or an email to tell us when she was going to do yard work or clean the gutters, but she had plenty of time to hang around the house when the chimney sweep visited. She also had no problem demanding that I make coffee for repairpeople, even though she was overseeing them and had set up the appointments. Incidentally, the coffee always went untouched, so that was like money down the drain. OUR money… not hers. Hmm…

Likewise, she had no issues detailing the smallest of complaints about our “shortcomings” as tenants– issues that no one else has ever had with us. But she didn’t feel the need to hold herself to the same standards when it came to properly accounting for the condition of the house when we moved in and out, how she was billing us, or adhering to basic laws designed to protect tenants and their privacy. She clearly expected that we would simply let her get away with these oversights because it’s much easier and less expensive to give in to the fuckery than hold her accountable. WE were expected to be perfect, but she “didn’t have time for that”, nor were we worthy of that standard.

I’ve gotten to the point at which when I hear someone telling me that they “don’t have time” for something that is a simple and easily fulfilled request, or they “don’t have time” to respect a basic boundary, or they “don’t have time” to take care of something that involves someone else’s comfort, health, or safety, particularly when that person is someone who is especially vulnerable in some way (a child, someone who is sick or disabled, or an elderly person), I realize that the person is going to be a major league asshole and abuse their power over others. I can pretty much count on it.

Generally speaking, it’s best to just walk away from these types of people, although most of them dearly need to be taught a lesson by a visit from the karma bus. I seem to drive the karma bus fairly often… it seems to be my lot in life. It doesn’t make me very popular with these types of people… That’s too bad for them, isn’t it?

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Duggars, Ex, narcissists

“He’s just a little boy… let’s not condemn him to a life of fundie drudgery yet!”

Yesterday, I was hanging out in the Duggar Family News Facebook group when someone shared a cute picture of two of the Duggar grandchildren. I believe it was a picture of Josh’s second daughter, Meredith, and Jessa’s eldest child, Spurgeon. I think both kids are very cute, but Spurgeon appears to be especially adorable, despite his unfortunate name, which alternately reminds me of sturgeon or spooge. A lot of the people in the Duggar group called him “Spud” for short.

Anyway, I posted that I think Spurgeon is super cute and will be a “heartbreaker” when he gets older. Innocent enough comment, right? It’s the kind of thing people often say about attractive children. I didn’t realize what I wrote was controversial, but apparently, it was.

Here’s the conversation that ensued:

I was a bit non-plussed that my original comment, that I think Spurgeon is a “cutie” and will be a heartbreaker, turned into a prediction of the boy’s future. Spurgeon is only four years old; he turns five in November. And yet people in the Duggar group are already condemning him to a lifetime of being his grandfather’s “slave”.

“Here’s you some candy…” (actually, I have seen the candy challenge done by a lot of Mormons, too.)

Frankly, I find that thought very depressing. People in the Duggar group follow the pregnancies of the Duggar children with intense devotion and seem to cheer whenever a new pregnancy is announced. However, it seems that a fair number of them believe that the offspring of the Duggar “kidults” are doomed somehow. What a sad and limiting thought that is. Basically, a large group of people strongly believe that these kids have no minds of their own and no ability to make their own choices.

And yet, here’s Jill Dillard, wife of Derick Dillard and once considered the biggest Kool-Aid drinker of the bunch. She’s sending her son, Israel, to public school. She has a nose piercing, wears pants, and has even been photographed wearing shorts, sleeveless tops, and swimwear. Yes, it’s true that she and Derick are no longer welcome to come to the Duggar compound uninvited, but they are clearly making their own choices.

Jeremy and Jinger Vuolo, likewise, were able to escape Arkansas and live on their own out in California. They’ve been married a few years now, yet Jinger is only on her second pregnancy. She wears pants, has cut her hair, and colors it. It’s obvious that Boob no longer completely runs her life.

And finally, there’s Joy Anna Forsyth, who married her husband Austin a few years ago. Austin makes his own money flipping houses. It looks like they’ve largely removed themselves from the hopelessly dull Counting On series and are putting up their own videos on YouTube, for which they probably get paid directly.

I think these two might be living their own lives now.

But even if I’m wrong about Jill, Jinger, and Joy Anna, and their lifestyles are still completely under Boob’s control, I still think it’s within the realm of possibility that Spurgeon or any of the other Duggar grandchildren will bust out on their own and make their own choices. It’s happened in many families that are mini-cults.

Look at the people who have managed to escape Warren Jeffs, and other FLDS sects. I know I read a lot of books by women who were once sister wives– Irene Spencer’s excellent book, Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist’s Wife, comes to mind. She was the second wife to Verlan LeBaron. Her sister wife, Susan Ray Schmidt, wife number six to Verlan, also wrote a book called His Favorite Wife: Trapped in Polygamy. I’m sure many people thought that Irene and Susan were trapped for life in the Colonia LeBaron FLDS polygamist nightmare, but they weren’t. They escaped and made new lives for themselves. There is absolutely no reason to believe that any of the Duggar grandchildren or children can’t also escape. In fact, if I were a betting woman, I would bet there will someday be a scandalous tell all about life as a Duggar. I bet there’s already a book in the works as I type this.

If there’s one thing I have learned from Bill’s experience with his hyper-controlling, narcissistic ex wife, it’s that people who are caught in these kinds of controlling groups DO sometimes wake up and take control over their own lives, even if the source of control is a close relative. My husband’s daughter did not speak to him for many years, mostly because her mother told her not to and she’d been fed a lot of lies. A lot of people thought it was hopeless that Bill would ever speak to his daughter again, let alone know his grandchildren.

I always somehow knew younger daughter would eventually come around. I figured she would do it before her older sister would, simply because she had a stronger personality. But I knew it would happen someday that she and Bill would speak again. I’m grateful that my initial predictions weren’t completely what came to pass. I figured she’d get in touch to spite her mother, because I was under the mistaken impression that she was just like her mom. I thought that she would try to use Bill, like her brother did. It turns out that, as far as we can tell, she’s much more like Bill, which is a wonderful blessing.

I still have hope that older daughter will also come around someday… but if there’s one thing Bill and I have BOTH learned, it’s that being “disowned” is not the end of the world. Yes, it’s extremely hurtful to be cast out, but the pain is definitely survivable. Some people truly would rather go through the pain of being disowned than surrender their free will to someone else. Many people are determined to make their own decisions in life, and choose to break out of extremely controlling family systems and do what they want. There is absolutely NO reason to believe that one of the Duggar grandchildren won’t do that.

Boob can’t control them all forever, and who’s to say that someone even more narcissistic or toxic won’t come along push him out of power? There are simply too many of them. Even Fred Phelps, creator of the damnable Westboro Baptist Church, was eventually ousted from his own family created church fiefdom. It takes a lot of energy and strength to control people, and the older and weaker a controlling person gets, they more likely it is that they’ll eventually be pushed aside by someone younger and stronger. Everyone– even Jim Bob Duggar– has a match. Moreover, most of us have never met the Duggars and only know about them what we’ve seen on TV and read in the media.

I truly hope that any of the Duggar children or grandchildren who want to live life on their own terms will eventually be able to do so. I refuse to sell any of them short. I disapprove of making predictions about how a child will turn out, particularly when the child is as young as Spurgeon Seewald is. He’s only FOUR. A whole lot can happen in fourteen years, when Spurgeon will be considered an adult. Let’s give him a chance to grow up a bit before we make predictions about his future.

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complaints, language, psychology, rants, religion

“Fike you!”

You might say today’s post is a bit of a rerun. It involves a certain relative of mine who has been “trying to clean up [his] vocabulary.” In his quest to quit cursing, he’s taken to replacing letters in certain swear words in an attempt to “improve” his language. Why he feels compelled to do this, I don’t really know. I can only guess.

I know I’ve written about this before. In fact, I’m just now looking up when I last wrote about this topic. I see it was exactly two months ago to the day– June 30, 2020, when I wrote about how my cousin referred to “chicken shot” instead of “chickenshit”. But that post was about a memory I found on Facebook in which he and I had butted heads over a National Rifle Association ad. This cousin– I routinely refer to him as “Timmy”, although that is not his real name– got into an argument with Bill and said that his argument was “chicken shot”.

Naturally, I rolled my eyes at that, since I think it’s a waste of energy to clean up one’s language in such a way. Words and language usage do matter, of course, but I personally don’t believe in “bad” words. All words, even the really offensive ones, have a legitimate usage somewhere. Every word can be used in a non-offensive way. That includes the infamous “n-word” that gets people riled up. Try reading a slave narrative without encountering that word. Try listening to Stevie Wonder’s brilliant song, “Living For the City” without that word. Even certain episodes of 70s era sitcoms employ the n-word in a way that is useful. Sometimes the right word really is one that shocks and offends. Aside from that, I have a serious problem with black and white thinking on almost any subject, as well as issues with authority. So when it comes to language use, Timmy and I will probably always butt heads.

But never mind the n-bomb. I don’t want to get into that discussion today. I want to write about my cousin’s use of the non-word, “fike”, and how it makes him seem kind of “fake” to me now. And that makes me sad.

Um… we all know you meant to say “fuck”. Just fucking say it already!

I don’t understand using a non-word like “fike” when it’s clear that one actually means to say “fuck”. In this instance, Timmy wasn’t even swearing. It’s not like he was saying “fuck you” to someone, trying to debase them. Even our sweet grandmother, a woman I never once heard utter a “bad word”, sometimes quoted her mother, who would swear on occasion. In my mind, Timmy wasn’t cursing in the above example. He was quoting someone else. Mind you, he also referred to using a weapon on someone who was cursing. Frankly, I prefer someone who swears, to someone who is overly casual about using weapons. Isn’t it a bit “fucked up” that Timmy writes that he would have shot more of them for using “bad language” and taking pictures? But he wants to clean up his “vocabulary”… Hmm…

Seems to me that if you change letters in a word so that it no longer spells the bad word, but it’s obvious that the bad word is what you really meant, you’ve actually accomplished nothing in your goal of “cleaning up your vocabulary”. The thought was still there, and we all know what your intent was. If Timmy really wants to upgrade his vocabulary, he should say something else or use a different, but legitimate, word in the “bad word’s” place. But I suppose that’s too much to expect from someone who thinks that guns are less offensive than four letter words are.

You see, Timmy used to be a lot of fun. Yes, he got into trouble a lot, mainly because he drank too much, got into fights, and brought his guns into places he shouldn’t have. He’s a bit of an adrenaline junkie, too, and I think that influenced him to put himself in situations that made life more difficult for him and his loved ones. But when he was younger, he was free-spirited and loving. I remember him as kind to me when I was a little girl. He used to be one of my favorite relatives. I rarely got to see him when I was growing up, because he grew up in Texas and I grew up in Virginia. It was rare that his parents would bring him and his brothers to Virginia for our annual Thanksgiving shindig.

Years later, when my uncle retired from full time work, he bought a home in Virginia and resettled there with his wife, who passed away about ten years ago. Timmy and one of his brothers followed their dad east. I got to see and know my cousins more… at least the ones who came east. For awhile, Timmy was still fun. But then one day, he publicly declared himself an alcoholic and found religion (although I’m not sure he’s found Jesus yet). And now he’s drunk on religion instead of booze. I’m glad he quit drinking. His drinking legitimately got him into trouble. But it seems that he’s now traded alcohol for being a religious wingnut.

I find Timmy hard to talk to nowadays, mainly because he’s adopted this holier-than-thou smugness and seriousness that he didn’t used to have as much. He won’t say words like “shit” or “fuck”, and he’ll get upset when someone curses on his Facebook feed, but he’s ruder than ever in the way he talks down to people. I’ve seen him do it to Bill, but he is especially condescending to women– particularly women he thinks are too liberal. It’s clear to me that he looks down on people who are liberal and thinks he’s “smarter” than they are, to the point of not being willing to listen respectfully to what they have to say and learning from them, even if he disagrees.

Bill and I were talking about this yesterday. Bill thinks that sometimes, when people decide to change their lives by giving up vices such as drinking alcohol, they feel like they have to make amends for everything “bad” they did in the past. They worry excessively about offending God somehow, and they start going into overdrive, trying to become “better” people. But they don’t really recognize or change their behaviors, nor do they realize that by trying not to offend a perfect being (God), who should be above being “offended”, they annoy everybody else. They just change their obsession to something they think is more acceptable. In Timmy’s case, I think he traded boozing, cussing, and partying with being really pious, to the point of being obnoxious and insufferable.

I know that people involved in addiction recovery have a term known as “dry drunk” syndrome. Basically, it refers to a person who has stopped drinking or using drugs, but is still engaged in the negative behaviors and psychological maladies associated with their addiction(s), except for the drinking and/or drugging itself. One thing I’ve noticed among the alcoholics in my family is that they tend to be very controlling, overbearing, angry, and smug. That quality doesn’t go away when they stop drinking, although if I’m honest, I’m not entirely sure that any of the alcoholics in my family ever permanently gave up the sauce. I know my dad was never able to. But they know they have a problem with booze, which only adds to the guilt, frustration, and “demon” load they’re already bearing.

One thing I’d like to tell Timmy, though, is that carrying weapons and “shooting” people who swear and take pictures is not Christlike behavior. It’s all well and good that he wants to clean up his vocabulary. If he really means it, that’s commendable. But I would much rather hear him let loose with a blue streak of cursing than see him champion gun rights people who have no qualms about shooting people they think are “punks”. And to be very honest, I suspect that Timmy has certain people in mind that he wouldn’t have issues with dispatching somehow. He would never admit it, of course, but I know he holds certain people in disdain. Again, it’s not very “Christlike” behavior, nor is it an admirable attitude. I’m sure God appreciates that one of the world’s flock has decided to say “fike” instead of “fuck”, but I’m sure he’d rather Timmy cuss than be violent. But I suppose not taking take the Lord’s name in vain is easier than not wanting to be violent.

Anyway… I know that Timmy really meant “fuck” when he wrote “fike”. And seeing him write “fike” is annoying, especially when he claims he’s only trying to “clean up his vocabulary”. As a self-identified English language snob, I wish he’d simply find a more creative but legitimate way to say what he means and mean what he says. And I wish he’d stop glorifying guns as he proclaims his love for Godliness. It’s just a load of horseshit… or “chicken shot”, if he prefers.

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Duggars, narcissists, politicians, Trump

What the Trumps and the Duggars seem to have in common…

I’ve been reading Mary Trump’s new tell all book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, all about growing up Donald Trump’s niece. I’m probably about halfway through it at this point. I also fell down a couple of YouTube rabbit holes yesterday. I found this lady’s Duggar centered channel…

Okay… it’s not actually Duggar centered. But she does have a lot of Duggar content.

Without a Crystal Ball is run by a dark-eyed, light-haired woman named Katie Joy. She has videos about a lot of shows, but I found her because she does a lot of Duggar videos. Somehow, YouTube knows I’m a sucker for Duggar videos.

As I was reading more of Mary Trump’s book this morning, it dawned on me. JimBob Duggar is probably a narcissist. So was Fred Trump, Donald Trump’s father. So is Donald Trump. You can see by the way these men handle(d) their business that they are extraordinarily controlling, and they think they know more than they actually do. They don’t take counsel from other people, and those who are in their sphere know better than to cross them.

About an hour ago, over breakfast, I read a passage in Mary Trump’s book about how she had wanted to go to boarding school. Mary’s parents, Linda and Freddy Trump, had divorced, but even before their divorce, they were pretty much governed by Fred Trump, right down to Freddy’s being pretty much ostracized and disowned for deciding to be an airline pilot instead of going into the family’s real estate business.

The decision to allow Mary Trump to go to boarding school was to be decided by Fred Trump Sr., not Freddy Trump and his ex wife, who were Mary’s parents. Freddy served as a living warning to Fred and Mary Trump’s other children, not to cross Daddy. Freddy managed to get his father to consent to allowing Mary to go to boarding school (which was paid for with Freddy’s trust fund). The day before she was to go off to school, Mary went to her grandparents’ house to say goodbye to her dad. He was staying with his parents because, since the failure of his career as a pilot and disastrous stint in the real estate biz, Freddy had become an alcoholic. The alcoholism was so bad that it had destroyed his health. He got very sick and, with nowhere else to go, was forced to live in his old childhood bedroom.

When Mary reached the familiar back door to her grandparents’ house, she was greeted by her grandmother, who said her father wasn’t there. She was acting awkward and weird. Mary noticed, but didn’t press. Grandma Trump said she’d have him call her. Freddy never did call. Two weeks later, Mary was told she needed to call home. Her grandfather basically told her nothing was wrong and that she should call in the morning. Not believing her grandfather, Mary called her mom, who told her the sad news that Freddy had died of a heart attack at age 42.

When it came time to bury Freddy, Mary tried to let her elders know of her father’s final wishes. He had not wanted to be buried, and was very adamant about that. She had also wanted to see her dad before he was cremated. Not only was Mary denied the right to see her dad one last time, but after he was cremated, Fred Trump buried the ashes, despite Freddy’s wishes not to be buried. And when it came time to distribute his personal effects, Mary got nothing. Her brother, Fritz, got Freddy’s Timex watch.

So what does this story by Mary Trump have to do with the Duggars? Well… I have heard and read from many sources that Duggar kids go against their father’s wishes at great risk. Derick Dillard has gone against JimBob quite publicly and he and Jill quit Counting On, and Jeremy Vuolo has whisked Jinger away to Los Angeles. Sources reveal that both couples are a bit on the outs with Boob. Jill and Derick, for instance, are not allowed to go to the Tinker Toy Mansion without JimBob’s permission or presence. Jill had once been Daddy’s “favorite”. Now, she’s an outcast, but it looks like she’s embracing a more mainstream lifestyle. Same thing with Jinger. However, it appears that freedom comes with great cost.

I think Derick Dillard may contribute to Boob’s inevitable downfall.

If you’ve been reading my blogs over the years, you know that my husband was kept from seeing his daughters for many years, due to their narcissistic mother’s insistence that they disown him. In March of this year, Bill finally saw his younger daughter. It had been fifteen years, and younger daughter, now 26 years old, is finally able to make her own decisions. She seems to have come to terms with the idea that if she wants to live her own life, she may have to do so without contact with her siblings who are still on their mother’s side.

This is a common tactic narcissists use to stay in control of their relatives and others who are close to them. They handle the money, the major decisions, and set things up so that if you go against their wishes, disaster will strike. Or, even if disaster doesn’t have to strike, they train their relatives so that it seems like there will be a disaster that will befall anyone who leaves the fold. It’s not unlike being in a cult. That perception of impending doom can be very powerful. It takes a lot of courage and will to leave a narcissistic family system. It basically means you have to strike out on your own. And if you come from a really powerful family and have limited access to money or transportation, that can be an extremely daunting task.

In Freddy Trump’s case, being Fred Trump’s son meant that he couldn’t get loans, because his father was buddies with all of the powers that be at the local banks. That meant that instead of buying himself a nice house in Long Island, he was forced to live in a shitty, slummy apartment building owned by his father, that his father refused to fix. It meant that instead of doing the work he wanted to do, Freddy Trump was forced to work for his father, doing work that didn’t interest him. The hopelessness of it, along with those Scottish genetics from his mother, probably contributed to his severe alcoholism and eventual early death.

Jim Bob Duggar is probably not as powerful as Fred or Donald Trump, but he does have a lot of power. He owns many properties in Arkansas, has plenty of lawyers and money to pay them, and has trained an army of children, over half of whom are now young, healthy, strong adults. He also has their spouses, many of whom were kind of brokered into the Duggar family by their parents. It takes a certain type of person to marry a Duggar child… someone who will toe the line.

However, it’s plain that Boob failed to notice that Derick and Jeremy, and probably Austin Forsyth (Joy Anna’s husband), aren’t going to take his shit forever. But JimBob clearly sees as people in his family as slaves. He tries to “own” them. I can see that getting out of his clutches isn’t an easy endeavor, especially as the adult children have children of their own. Those children and their total dependence on their parents make it much harder for the Duggar adults to escape Boob’s narcissistic clutches and strike out on their own. There are a few exceptions, though. I think John David pretty much tells his dad to buzz off when he feels like it.

I’m mostly enjoying Mary Trump’s book… some of it is very sad, though. I get the sense that the malevolent streak in the Trump family doesn’t even so much come from Friedrich Trump, who ironically died in the last major world pandemic, back in 1918. He got Spanish Flu. It seems to me that the real culprit of the Trump nastiness came from Fred Trump’s mother, Elizabeth Christ Trump. She was the one who really got the business going, and, according to Mary Trump, she treated Fred’s Scottish wife, Mary, like dirt.

I’m sure it was tough for Mary Trump to decide to write this book. She basically reveals her family’s dysfunction for all that it is. Her Uncle Donald is, for now, one of the most powerful men on the planet, and he is royally fucking things up. It’s probably very embarrassing for her. She seems like a good and decent person with empathy and, in fact, it appears that most of the Trumps aren’t terrible people… just a few of them who have that malevolent, narcissistic streak that compels them to enslave and exploit people. I’m sure that Mary Trump might even fear for her safety after having written her book. I think she was brave to do it.

Likewise, I hope Derick Dillard or Jill, or someone else in the Duggar family spills the tea about JimBob. But then, I have seen his type enough times to recognize the behavior. I know he’s a narcissist and that his family members are mostly neatly under his thumb. I even remember someone on their reality show– can’t remember which one– saying that you don’t say no to JimBob. If you do, you might live to regret it. He’s a bully.

As for Without A Crystal Ball… I don’t know if I’ll keep watching her videos. I just happened to stumble across them a couple of days ago and they fit with today’s post. Hopefully, I’ll be able to review Mary Trump’s book soon.

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