book reviews, narcissists, politicians, politics

Reviewing Mary Trump’s Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man…

I decided not to write a new post this morning because I was eager to finish reading Mary Trump’s brand new book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. Released a couple of weeks ago, slightly ahead of schedule, this book, written by Mary Trump, the daughter of Donald Trump’s older brother, Freddy, was bound to be a fascinating page turner. Having just finished reading this afternoon, I can confirm that this book is quite a shocker for those who don’t know anything about malignant narcissists. Unfortunately, for those of us who have been exposed to malignant narcissists, it just confirms what we already know about 45.

Although I have not been compulsively reading all of the books that have come out about Donald Trump, I did decide that I wanted to read Mary Trump’s book. Why? Because not only is she Trump’s niece, she’s also a doctoral level psychologist, having earned a Ph.D. in psychology from Adelphi University. As a trained clinical psychologist, she’s surely run into her share of narcissists… and one of the most famous and most toxic of them is her uncle, her father’s younger brother, Donald John Trump, who happens to be the POTUS right now. Hopefully, Americans have come to their senses and will do their part to get him out of the White House in November. This is a very serious situation. If he’s not voted out, I truly fear for the future of the United States.

Before Mary Trump became a psychologist, she studied English. She has a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University and a master’s degree in English from Columbia University. So, not only does she know about psychology, she also knows how to write. And although lately it’s been my habit to fall asleep when I read, I did find her account of growing up Trump a real page turner.

Just in case anyone is wondering, yes, Mary Trump voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. She was despondent when her uncle became POTUS, knowing that he was in no way fit for the job. And yes, she does an excellent job explaining how and why Donald Trump should have never been considered presidential material. But she also explains how and why he ended up in the position he’s in. This is a man who has lived a life like the emperor who got new/no clothes. He’s been enabled by people his whole life, and they have contributed to his grand delusions that are so harmful because they alter his judgment and make him blind to reality. Most of all, he simply doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about anything but money and his own interests.

I’ve looked at a few of the reviews on Amazon. Many of them are positive, because a lot of people are bright enough to see why Trump is terrible for America, but they also recognize that Mary Trump’s book is a very good read because it offers a unique look at who Trump is through the eyes of one of his relatives… who also happens to be a trained clinical psychologist. The negative reviews, not surprisingly, are dismissive, not very insightful, and clearly written by dyed in the wool Trumpers. For instance, here’s the best rated positive review.

Now, have a look at the “most helpful” negative review…

I don’t know who “Sheryl” is, but she clearly admires people who are abusive sociopaths and doesn’t recognize a harmful person when she sees one. And sadly, she has a lot of company.

Mary Trump starts at the beginning, as she explains how it is that a German couple originally from Kallstadt, in the Kingdom of Bavaria (now part of the Palatinate, located about an hour from where we currently live) wound up in the United States. Friedrich Trump came to the United States at the age of 16 because he didn’t want to do military service for Germany (sounds like someone else we know). He worked hard in the United States and made some money, then went back to Kallstadt, married his wife, Elizabeth Christ, and took her back to the United States, where they had a daughter named Elizabeth.

When Friedrich’s wife, Elizabeth, missed home, they tried to move back to Germany, but Bavarian officials stripped Friedrich of his citizenship because he had not done his military duty. The young Trump family, with Elizabeth then four months pregnant with Donald Trump’s father, Fred, moved back to the USA. Fred Trump and his younger brother, John, were born in New York in 1905 and 1907 respectively. John Trump went on to become a famous scientist. Fred Trump, born with a head for business, went into the real estate game with his mother, Elizabeth, after Friedrich Trump died of Spanish Flu in 1918.

According to Mary Trump, Elizabeth Trump was ruthless, and had a thirst for making money, which she shared with her older son, Fred. In fact, for all of the contempt the Trump name has, I have the sense that it was really Fred Trump’s mother who started the chain of fuckery that has resulted in Donald Trump being the 45th president of the United States. Trump’s paternal grandmother was also a piece of work.

Fred’s wife, Mary Anne MacLeod Trump, came from the scenic Isle of Lewis in Scotland. She’d come to America because all of the young men in her small town had gone off to fight in World War I. The ones who weren’t killed were coming home by sea when, just a mile off the coast of the harbor, their ship hit rocks and sank. Most of the people on board died, and Mary’s family told her that if she wanted to get married, she’d need to leave town. She went to America to work in the homes of wealthy people and, perhaps, find a man to marry and have children with someday. She met Fred Trump, and instead of being hired help, she was the lady of the house. But that didn’t stop her mother-in-law, Elizabeth, from coming over wearing white gloves to check on Mary’s housekeeping (there must be something in the Bavarian water).

Fred and Mary went on to have two daughters and three sons. Their eldest son, Frederick (known as Freddy), was Mary’s father. He had married Linda Clapp, who was a flight attendant for TWA (Trans World Airlines). Freddy Trump had very briefly been a pilot for TWA, going against his very overbearing father’s wishes and not going into the family business. Because he made the decision to try to live his life on his own terms, Fred Trump treated his namesake like shit. And Donald Trump, his second eldest son and fourth child, stepped into the role as heir apparent.

In gripping prose, Mary Trump explains how Fred, and to a lesser extent, Mary Anne MacLeod Trump treated her father, who died of alcoholism at age 42. She also explains how she and her brother were basically screwed out of their inheritances as they were expected to stay loyal to the family. When Freddy Trump died, apparently so did his children’s connections to the Trump family. Mary and Fritz Trump got medical benefits through the Trump family and their signatures were needed so that Fred Trump’s will could go into probate. But Fred Trump disinherited them. Their father’s twenty percent of the Trump fortune was redistributed to the rest of the family. Why? Because Fred Trump didn’t want Freddy’s ex wife, Linda, to have access to any of the Trump fortune. And the rest of the siblings wanted to cut Mary and Fritz out because– well– they’re greedy people with no empathy.

I wrote a post yesterday about how the Trumps and the Duggars have things in common. Well, Mary Trump pretty much lays it out how family was treated. There was no love or camaraderie in that family– except for money and power. And Donald Trump was basically molded into the monster he is today by his parents, especially his father.

I was shocked by some of the stories… yet I was also not shocked, given that I know the type of person Trump is. This is a family entirely driven by greed– so much so that they didn’t care about each other, let alone people who worked for them, rented from them, or otherwise had business dealings with them. All of their “friends” were people who could do something for them, especially people who had powers that could be exploited legally. For example, Maryanne Trump became a judge, not necessarily because she was a brilliant prosecutor, but because she could help the family out legally. Anyone who didn’t do what Fred Trump wanted them to do was ostracized, yet still expected to be loyal. And those who weren’t loyal were treated with extreme contempt. Sadly, if you want to break free of the Trump cult, you have to expect that you’ll be cast out completely, in all ways. And if they suddenly start being “nice” again, that’s the time to be the most on your guard.

Fred Trump didn’t seem to like anyone… except for Donald, whom he carefully groomed in the ways of screwing over people for his own gain. However– as Mary points out– there is an important distinction between the two men. Fred Trump had a genuine head for business and making money. Donald Trump does not. His father and his father’s powerful friends propped up Donald for many years, bailing him out when his ludicrous business ideas turned to shit.

Trump is now surrounded by yes men and men who are much smarter than he is, yet know how to stroke his ego to get exactly what they want. His ego takes precedence over everything, which is why he is unfit to be the president. He doesn’t care about running the country. He doesn’t care about anyone but himself. And people like Vladimir Putin and Mitch McConnell are know what to say and do to get Trump to do what they want.

Both Fred Trump and Donald Trump like young women. Even into his 90s, Fred Trump made a habit out of carrying around a photo of a half naked girl who may very well have been younger than 18. Likewise, Trump enjoys young, beautiful women… and won’t hesitate to “grab ’em by the pussy” if they let him.

I have never made it a secret that I despise Donald Trump. For me, it was very easy to see why he was not fit to be dog catcher, let alone president. But Mary Trump’s book lays it out in black and white and confirms a lot of what I know, but also includes some passages that were eerie, because they were the same kinds of things Bill heard from his narcissistic ex wife and a narcissistic colonel with whom he went to war and who was later very publicly and well-deservedly fired for abusing troops. Toward the end of the book, as Mary Trump was winding up her conclusion, I read a passage aloud to Bill. It was about how Donald Trump has “suffered” and how, if you want to be in his good graces, you’d better agree that he’s “suffered”, or he will do his best to get revenge. It was the same kind of shit he heard from his ex wife and his wartime boss, both very damaged souls indeed. But Ex and former boss are not running the country… and really, neither is Donald Trump. He is just filling the POTUS role until we get someone more competent in charge.

Seriously… I know many people have fallen hook, line, and sinker for Trump’s bullshit. I think they will very extremely embarrassed in the future. It will be akin to being a Hitler supporter. And they won’t want to read Mary Trump’s book, because they think she’s just bitter, jealous, and petty. But, I promise you… if you know anything about narcissists, the behaviors she writes of are uncannily similar. These folks seem to have the same playbook. They’re bullies with no imagination, and no souls.

One last thing… I found Mary Trump’s book interesting for an unrelated personal reason. It turns out Fred Trump was a big fan of Norman Vincent Peale’s. It so happens that Norman Vincent Peale’s son, John Peale, taught me philosophy at Longwood University. I recently reposted a review I wrote of John Peale’s book about being raised by his famous father. I did not have a good experience in John Peale’s class, although apparently, before he experienced serious health problems, Dr. Peale was a much beloved professor at Longwood. When I had him, I didn’t even know who Norman Vincent Peale was, and I never found out until a friend, whose parents also loved Norman Vincent Peale’s books, told me who he was. Anyway, Norman Vincent Peale’s famous advice was to think and be positive. Mary Trump called him a “charlatan”. I don’t know that I’d go that far… but apparently, she’s bitter about Peale because Fred Trump took his advice to heart and “thinking positive” was Fred Trump’s answer for everything. And “thinking positive” is not always going to work. Sometimes, you have to face reality and do what needs to be done, lest a disaster strike.

I think Trump’s presidency has been one long, horrific, surreal disaster and I hope to God we’re rid of him soon, before he destroys the country. I know some people think that’s hyperbole, but honestly… if you haven’t spent time with a malignant narcissist, you don’t realize just how incredibly destructive they are. And Donald Trump and his ilk are off the charts in being malignant narcissists. So I urge those who want to know more about who Donald Trump is, and how he came to be who he is, to read Mary Trump’s book. She’s not full of shit or affected by “sour grapes”. She’s written the truth.

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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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narcissists

Assholes at the wheel…

This morning, Bill told me kind of a funny story about one of his former Army bosses. This guy was legitimately an abusive asshole. Almost everyone thought so. He had a reputation that reached far and wide among everyone who knew him. Woe be unto anyone who had to work directly for him, because he would put those guys through hell. Bill experienced it firsthand in a war zone.

The sad thing was, guys like Bill’s former boss were frequently rewarded for being assholes. Nice, reasonable, compassionate guys like Bill were often seen as weak leaders. However… Bill’s asshole ex boss was eventually very publicly fired from his job weeks before he would have been a general, so there’s definitely a fine line of how far the asshole routine can go.

Years ago, when we lived in northern Virginia, Bill’s former boss used to visit the “slug line“. The slug line, for your information, is a place where commuters needing a ride into northern Virginia or Washington, D.C. could wait for someone to pick them up. It was a win/win. The riders would get a ride into the city and the drivers could use the “high occupancy vehicle” (HOV) lanes without risking a ticket. If you’ve ever experienced D.C. area traffic, you understand why that’s a good thing.

So anyway, this former boss of Bill’s… I’ll call him Zeus (clearly not his real name)… had a habit of showing up on the slug line to pick up people he knew. There were certain guys he targeted. He didn’t pick up just anyone. He’d get guys who worked with him or were in the Army. Then, he’d spend however long it took to get to the city berating the guy. He’d deliberately provoke arguments with them or get them involved in a stressful discussion about work.

Now… the guys didn’t have to ride with Zeus. They could take their chances that someone else was going their way, although that might mean they’d be late, or it would take a lot longer to get where they needed to go. More often than not, those poor dudes would suck it up and ride with Zeus, who usually outranked them and got off on harassing them.

Bill went to war with Zeus and experienced that kind of abuse 24/7 for about six months. He used to call me from Iraq and tell me stories… I knew it was really bad when he said his boss reminded him of his ex wife. I was pretty pissed off about that, too, since I didn’t want my husband to come home from deployment with mental issues other than what he might get from being at war. I do remember telling Zeus that if he got Bill killed, I’d be coming after him. He was a bit taken aback by that, since most wives didn’t speak to him in that way. But hell, I don’t care… The Army never issued me a paycheck. He never let Bill forget what I said, although to his credit, he did make sure Bill was never put in really dangerous situations.

Zeus loved to play little sadistic mind games and deny his people a break from his very special kind of narcissistic abuse. My husband is extremely kind and patient, but even he has his limits. After awhile, Bill started adopted little habits to deliberately irritate Zeus, who would force him to take his meals with him and deny him days off. Bill eventually became a bit passive aggressive, and then got more actively aggressive. At one point, Zeus sent Bill to Qatar for a three night “vacation”, which basically meant going to a small U.S. post there, sharing a room with a guy who snored a lot, and weathering 120 degree heat. But at least in Qatar, Bill could visit the markets and have an allotted two beers a day at the bar.

I will never forget the sight of Bill at Ronald Reagan International Airport in August 2007. He was in his uniform, fresh from the war zone. When he saw me, he looked absolutely overjoyed. He almost knocked me over with a big hug. It was like a movie moment. People stood around and watched our reunion… and then we went home and did a lot of fucking for about a week. After that, we had to pack everything up and move to Germany the first time. Great God Almighty, he was free at last! But it was kind of a short lived respite.

Zeus wasn’t done screwing with Bill after their war time experience. In February 2009, we were enjoying life in Germany. Bill had just gotten home from a “TDY” assignment somewhere. It was Valentine’s Day weekend, and we were headed to Chodovar, which is a cool beer spa in the Czech Republic. I was all excited about that… and then Bill got a cryptic email from his war buddy. It turned out he’d fucked with Bill’s career and recommended him by name for a job at Fort McPherson in Georgia. Fort McPherson was slated to close, so a move there would mean another move very quickly. We ended up being there for just 16 months before we had to move to North Carolina for another 28. Plus, we were loving Germany, and didn’t want to leave. I was really upset with Zeus.

Fortunately, although the chain reaction of three moves in five years was a big pain in the ass, it wasn’t all bad. In Georgia, we lived in a nice town and adopted our adorable and much missed Zane, the wonder beagle. Bill also learned how to brew beer, and we made some good friends. Then we moved to North Carolina, where we picked up Arran, and got to meet even more friends. Our year in Texas wasn’t so bad, either, although I was delighted to move back to Germany. It’s crazy how that worked out for us, and I’d say about 90% of our second experience here has been fantastic. Some of you know about the other 10%… but even that wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

Zeus went on to lead a large battalion of 750 people to Iraq a few years later… and he spent the whole year of his deployment egregiously abusing people. He was especially tough on anyone who didn’t appeal to his sense of aesthetics. I remember hearing about how he’d go through the trash cans of guys he thought were too fat, dig out any sweets wrappers he saw there, and show them to the entire group. He hated dealing with women, and would either outright dismiss them or be very insulting to them. This was even though he has daughters of his own. He would not allow female doctors to examine him, for instance. I have a female childhood friend who is now a colonel and she had dealings with him. She said he was a complete asshole to her, too.

About six weeks before Zeus was to come home and be promoted to general, his mother died. He went home on emergency leave. While he was gone, people in the battalion he was regularly abusing started working to get him relieved of command. They made complaints and offered proof of the abuse– there were 74 complaints lodged against him and two congressional inquiries. And by the time Zeus was back in Iraq, he was very publicly fired. There was a long article in the Army Times about him and everything. It was very embarrassing.

Guys like Zeus seem like they win a lot, just for being assholes. Nice people tend to let assholes get away with a lot more than they should. Frankly, I think Bill should have complained about the way Zeus behaved when they were in Iraq. It was the first time for both of them, and a lot of people saw how Bill was treated. A couple of people even spoke up about it… but when you’ve been an abuse victim, which Bill and I have both been, you get taught not to speak up when you really should. It’s a tough habit to unlearn.

One thing that Bill and I have been learning is that sometimes, you have to sound the alarm. Maybe if Bill had said something about his former boss, that guy wouldn’t have had an opportunity to harass such a huge group of people in Iraq. Being at war is tough enough when your boss isn’t a narcissistic creep. Maybe if Bill had stood up to his ex wife, his daughters wouldn’t have experienced as much hell as they did being raised by their mother. I can also think of times when I should have been a lot more assertive, although in truth, I tend to be better at that than Bill is. I have a much shorter temper.

It’s easy to cop out of standing up to bullies. Sometimes it seems like it’s more trouble than it’s worth. But not standing up to bullies is implicit permission for them to keep being bullies. We’re trying to change our habit of not speaking up more loudly when we should, so that major catastrophes can be avoided and other people don’t have to suffer. Sometimes, you have to let people reap the natural consequences of their bad behaviors. And sometimes, you have to put the wheels in motion… not unlike Zeus did in the slug line, when he’d pick up guys to harass on the way to work.

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Ex

You took the part, that once was my heart…

so why not take all of me?

The first time I heard the classic jazz song, “All of Me”, was back in the 1980s when Steve Martin, Lily Tomlin, and Victoria Tennant made a goofy movie by that name. It was about a very wealthy but bitter, nasty, dying woman (Tomlin) who wishes to transfer her soul into a young, beautiful, healthy woman’s body. The young woman who volunteers (Tennant) is a criminal who doesn’t believe the soul transfer will work. She figures she’s about to inherit a beautiful home with horses and money. Through a twist of fate, the rich woman’s soul ends up in Martin’s character. Adding to the conflict, besides the obvious inconvenience of sharing one’s body with another soul, is the fact that Martin’s character can’t stand Tomlin’s character. It’s classic 80s cheese, but I love it because Martin and Tomlin are so great together. I also love the song, “All of Me”. I even love to sing it. Maybe I’ll get around to doing another version today.

I love this… I’m actually sitting here with tears in my eyes. It’s oddly moving to watch Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin dance with with wild abandon, especially since Victoria Tennant was once Steve Martin’s wife. I think Lily and Steve have more chemistry. Maybe that’s why Martin and Tennant eventually split.

I think the song “All of Me” would make for a good theme song for any story involving someone with narcissistic personality disorder. People who have NPD require that everyone in their sphere give them everything of themselves. But, narcissists don’t give anything in return. They simply take and take until their victims have nothing left. And then they accuse their victims of being “selfish” when their victims finally object to the abuse.

My husband hates Shel Silverstein’s book, The Giving Tree. He also hates a number of popular songs from the early to mid 1990s. Why? Because his ex wife used them as teaching aides to him about what kind of man she expected him to be. She was never satisfied with who he was. She always wanted him to be someone else. And every time he tried to change for her, she criticized him. But Ex wasn’t satisfied with simply being unhappy. She had to ruin songs like “To Really Love a Woman” by Bryan Adams and “Strong Enough” by Sheryl Crow. She’d take the lyrics to those songs and use them as “teaching aids”– examples to Bill as to what kind of man he should strive to be. Even when Bill tried to be what Ex expected, she wanted more, and was unfulfilled. Nothing was ever good enough. Nothing appeased her.

But, if Bill had done the same thing to Ex, she would have objected strenuously and accused him of abuse. Somehow, she gets a pass because she had a very fucked up childhood. Bill’s childhood was also a bit fucked up, but he has parents who love and cherish him, while Ex’s parents were truly abusive. Bill had the experience of meeting Ex’s adoptive parents, as well as her stepfather, and he confirms that they were not good people. I can’t deny that Ex was abused when she was growing up by the people who should have protected and cherished her. And that experience, no doubt, helped turn her into who she is today.

Of all of the parental figures in Ex’s life, her adoptive father, whom she didn’t know until she was seven (!) years old, was probably the best of the lot, although that doesn’t mean he was much of a dad. He was in the Merchant Marine, so he was away at sea a lot, and Ex’s mother had an affair with Ex’s stepfather, who turned out to be a sex offender. Ex’s adoptive parents got divorced when she was too young to remember. She spent the first few years of her life thinking her stepfather was her dad. And then her mom had a baby with her stepfather, and Ex’s sister was treated differently because she was a blood relation. Stepdad sexually abused Ex, but left his bio daughter alone. Meanwhile, Mom would do things to sabotage her children, like get them drunk the night before they took the SATs. Yeah… not good people.

Add to the fact that Ex already felt rejected by her natural parents, whom she later found out had conceived her in an affair. Ex’s bio mom was married, and her husband didn’t want to raise another man’s baby. So instead of divorcing her husband and raising Ex, bio mom put her up for adoption, and Ex landed in a terrible situation.

Unlike Ex’s current husband, Bill got to know all of these folks (with the exception of Ex’s biological parents), and he verifies that at least this part of Ex’s narrative is mostly true, even if a lot of the other stuff she says is either outright lies or distorted versions of the truth. Ex’s mother was as bad, or possibly even worse, than Ex is.

I remember one time, Bill called his ex wife’s house to speak to his children. That was back when there was still some hope that they would come to the phone. He heard his former mother-in-law’s voice for the first time in many years. The children, unsurprisingly, weren’t available. This was during the active parental alienation phase, when there rapidly decreasing chances that Bill’s kids would talk to him. He was sad that he couldn’t talk to his children. At that time, he’d included his ex stepson, whom he had always regarded as his son. However, he was chuckling as he hung up the phone. He turned to me and said, “Wow… I bet #3 is in Hell right now…”

“Worse than usual?” I asked.

Still laughing, Bill said, “Ex’s mom answered the phone. You want to talk about a social engineering psychopath? If she’s in that house, he’s got to be in Hell!”

I responded with an evil laugh, “And your daughters are around puberty age, too… That means lots of hormones.”

For a moment, the prospect of #3’s situation kind of made us both feel better, although Bill had always wanted to be there for his daughters, even when they were struggling with teen angst. But thinking about #3 trying to deal with Ex, Ex’s mother, a resentful adult stepson, two teenage girls, and two little kids, one of whom has special needs, brought on an extreme case of Schadenfreude for us. Frankly, #3 has always been a colossal asshole to Bill. Bill has always been a gentleman as much as possible to everyone, and he always tried to treat #3 with respect, even when #3 and Ex invaded his Bill’s dad’s house for the disastrous Christmas gathering of 2004. Instead of responding in kind, #3 repeatedly treated Bill with contempt. And so, we didn’t and still don’t have a lot of pity for his situation. We figure he deserves it for being such a disrespectful asshole.

Over last weekend, when Bill was visiting with his daughter, he learned Ex’s adoptive mom, whom I’ll call “Granny”, had moved in with Ex for the last few years of her life. This wasn’t the first time Granny was living with Ex. She had a long habit of glomming on to family members, claiming to offer free childcare, while she drained their resources and abused everyone with her sociopathic ways. At the end of her life, she had significant health problems and was still a heavy smoker. At one point, she even accused the children of stealing her cigarettes. That’s quite a statement, given that they were practicing Mormons. She also brought a loaded gun into the house, which Ex didn’t know about until after Granny died. Given that there were small children living there, that was a potentially very dangerous situation for everyone.

It’s possible that Ex felt “drained” by her parent figures, so maybe she figures she’s “owed”. She went through a terribly abusive childhood, so it’s “okay” for her to abuse other people. Maybe someone like Bill is irresistible, because he’s so safe. Bill is an extremely empathetic person who tries hard to be forgiving and understanding. He isn’t violent or the slightest bit abusive. So maybe she saw him as “safe” to project all of her shit upon… I’m sure she thought Bill would never leave her, not just because he’s incredibly loyal, but because she knew how much he’d been hurt by his parents’ divorce and how much love and empathy he had for his children.

In a way, in Bill, she had a perfect victim. She probably looked at him and thought he was someone she could mold and control, because he’s very eager to please others. It never occurred to her that what she was doing was horribly abusive. Even if it had occurred to her, I doubt she’d care.

I don’t know what it’s like to be Ex. I don’t know if she’s really a hollow person, or if there’s a lot of pain and misery inside of her. I only know the aftereffects of being exposed to her. How? Because I know a lot of people who have spent time with her. They’ve all reported the same devastating symptoms of narcissistic abuse. And they’ve all reported feeling much better when they were able to get away from her, even if they were completely drained and on the verge of destitution. She could take everything and still demand more, with no thought about how she was hurting the people she took from. She has no empathy. And as someone who has never met her, but has been exposed to several of her victims, I too, have experienced the ripple effects of her narcissistic abuse.

Aside from acting like a bottomless pit and taking until her victims wither away, Ex sees anyone in her world as a possession, to do with what she pleases. That’s why she was so afraid that Bill would “steal” his daughters from her, even though his daughters are their own people and can’t be “stolen”. That’s why she accuses me of “stealing” Bill, even though Bill was divorced when we met. She was sure he’d come crawling back to her. She’d convinced him that no other person would ever want him, and even though she treated him horribly, she had some very powerful “bait” in her trap– Bill’s daughters and, to some extent, his dad, stepmother, and sister. Fortunately, Bill isn’t by any means a stupid person, and though it broke his heart to lose contact with his children, he knew that in reality, he hadn’t lost everything and was much better off by himself. And though we hadn’t met in person at the time of his divorce, he was already talking to me, and he had his job with the Army. He also had his wonderful mom on his side. So he was able to rebuild, although it took a long time and he still has some issues to overcome.

Last night, Bill told me that he doesn’t get angry. Or, he does get angry, but he doesn’t stay angry. I, on the other hand, have no issues getting and staying angry. Bill said he was actually a little envious of my ability to stay pissed off. That surprised me, because although I don’t think anger is a useless emotion, I do know that being angry with no resolution can be destructive and painful, although not being able to express anger can also be problematic. I guess Bill has a very different kind of “anger issue” in that he can’t express anger in a way that is healthy and validating. It’s like he’s either afraid to express anger or simply doesn’t know how.

Anger can be wonderfully energizing and motivating. Channeled properly, it can lead to necessary change. But I get angry and stay angry, mainly because my anger often never gets properly resolved. As an abuse victim myself, I’ve learned to stuff the anger until I can let it out in a safe place. However, I’m now so full of it that it still fizzles out. I have this fear of confronting people assertively because when I was growing up, being assertive often led to being abused. This isn’t to say that I’ve never been able to assertively express myself when I’ve been angry. There are some people, like Bill, with whom I can be assertive with no fear. But to other people– especially overbearing authority figures– I often have a hard time being properly assertive. My anger tends to be either expressed too aggressively, or too meekly. In contrast, Bill barely expresses anger at all… except when he’s in traffic.

Besides that, a lot of people have trouble being assertive themselves, so even if I tried to be assertive, there’s a good chance the other person is incapable of that. And so, my tentative efforts at being assertive are met with verbal abuse, which I can no longer abide. Like I said… I am full to the brim of abuse– saturated with years of being yelled at and occasionally hit for being who I am. So now, when someone is like that with me today, my reaction is usually over the top, and I stay angry for much longer than I should. That kind of anger is not very healthy at all. And yet, Bill says he’s kind of jealous that I can be that way.

If anyone has a right to be angry, it’s Bill. I think that I’m angry on his behalf, because I see how he’s been treated and how people have been quick to assume that because he’s a man, he’s automatically the guilty party. So it’s almost like I have a double dose of anger– my own from shit from my past, and Bill’s, because Bill doesn’t get angry… or stay angry. We’re quite a pair, aren’t we?

Well, I figure this post has rambled on long enough. It’s a bit more personal than I was expecting it to be, but who knows? Maybe someone out there can relate. Or maybe someone thinks this saga is like a soap opera. Recently, I haven’t felt the need to write so much about Ex, because she hasn’t been bothering us personally. But, as I mentioned earlier in this post, Ex is a special kind of toxic and, kind of like genital herpes, she’s pretty much impossible to totally get rid of, even if we’re now asymptomatic a lot of the time. Every once in awhile, we still have the occasional unpleasant flareup, and this is one of those times. I suspect it won’t be the last.

Time for me to sign off and do some reading… I hope everyone enjoys their Friday and stays safe from the Coronavirus.

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Trump

General Mattis becomes the “Meryl Streep” of generals!

As the world watches Donald Trump’s ridiculous daily antics, this morning I got the opportunity to hear former Secretary of Defense General James Mattis speak. Mattis is a retired Marine general, and he is very well respected among most veterans of every stripe. I have never met Mattis myself, but I can tell from listening to him that he is a great leader. He balances strength and resolve with care and appreciation for his followers. I can easily tell why so many veterans– particularly Marines– really respect this man.

Donald Trump hired Mattis to be the Secretary of Defense in January 2017, and he lasted until December 2018. Mattis was probably one of the only people Trump appointed to his cabinet who was actually competent. In fact, Mattis was so competent and suited for the job that he realized he couldn’t do it properly with Trump as his boss. So, instead of sticking around and messing things up by following Trump’s orders, Mattis decided to resign. Although he responsibly gave Trump plenty of notice when he decided to resign, Trump responded to the general’s decision by ousting Mattis immediately, completely dismissing what Mattis did in the almost two years he served in his role as Secretary of Defense.

Mattis, God bless him, wasn’t at all crushed by Trump’s sudden dismissal. In fact, I’m sure he was relieved to be able to go sooner than he planned. It sucks to have to deal with supreme narcissists like Trump. They are completely unreasonable and have no regard for other people. If you aren’t completely with a narcissist’s agenda, you are completely against them, and they declare you an enemy. Narcissists are terrible bosses; they aren’t capable of delegating authority and they don’t work well in teams, because they don’t cooperate. Trump has a LOT of enemies, and I’m sure most of them have suffered greatly at his tiny orange hands. Good for General Mattis for handling Trump with so much wit and aplomb. I’m sure working with 45 was a daily trial, and I commend Mattis for doing his best and staying for almost two years. I consider him a true patriot and a hero.

As a veteran, Mattis has no doubt met a lot of people like Donald Trump. Obviously, General Mattis knows exactly how to deal with these people. It’s a skill I’m sure he’s had to hone over decades in a career that is rife with people who are in the business of war. Narcissists are attracted to positions of leadership. In fact, most leaders have some narcissistic traits because otherwise, they’d never survive the role. But while good leaders draw the line at being confident and having great self-respect, toxic narcissists like Trump and his ilk go beyond that line and use other people to push their agendas. It’s very damaging, and sometimes even dangerous, to be in close proximity to these types of people.

“I’m not just an overrated general; I am the greatest– the world’s MOST overrated!” Mattis reminds everyone that Trump also called Meryl Streep an “overrated actress”. Meryl Streep is, of course, fucking brilliant.

There are many, many narcissistic, power hungry types like Trump in the military. Bill went to war with one of them– a colonel who was slated to be a general. I remember getting phone calls from Iraq and listening as Bill compared his boss to his former wife. I knew things were seriously miserable for him when I heard that.

Bill’s ex wife put him through many years of hell, mainly because she refused to cooperate, collaborate, or compromise, and would not listen to reason. Even though she had never served in the Army, she used to try to tell Bill how things are run in the Army. She would unilaterally make major decisions about things like household finances and family planning, and took “my way or the highway” stances regarding her decisions. She would never include Bill in her plans, so he would be perpetually kept off balance. Here are just a few examples of crazy, self-defeating things she did:

  • She traded in his car without his knowledge and bought two new ones.
  • She once bought a house in very poor condition because she thought it looked like one she’d seen in a snow globe.
  • She used Bill’s pay stubs to get a mortgage, which she let go into default after they divorced.
  • She insisted on handling all of the finances, then royally fucked them up.
  • She stopped using birth control without telling him, resulting in a “surprise” pregnancy when they could ill afford a new baby. She later claimed her birth control “failed”.
  • She used the money for their mortgage to take a trip to the LDS temple.
  • She bought new furniture, carpeting, and landscaping while Bill was away at Army training, even though his job was temporary.

Bill could never argue with his ex, because she was so domineering and controlling, and he was so kind, considerate, trusting, and empathetic. She’d wear him down with the usual narcissist’s bag of tricks– yelling, insulting, giving him the silent treatment, alienating the children and his parents, threatening, and even engaging in physical and sexual abuse. When I met Bill, his ex wife was happily taking all but $600 of his monthly pay and had him convinced that he totally deserved this wretched lifestyle. She made him believe that the failure of their marriage was entirely his fault, and that God would never forgive him for leaving his family, even though SHE had presented him with divorce papers and was shacking up with her current victim in the house she’d bought without Bill’s consent. Bill lived for TDY assignments, because it meant he’d get per diem pay, which he could save up to pay his bills. Fortunately, that job required a lot of travel.

Life with a narcissist…

Then Bill started dating me, and I helped him change his mind about letting his ex wife take all of his money. He stopped giving in to her ridiculous demands and took back his power. It’s taken a long time and a lot of effort, but Bill has almost completely recovered from his time with his ex wife. His finances are vastly improved, and he has work that he enjoys and at which he excels. Even one of his previously estranged daughters has started talking to him again. But it took many years to get to where we are.

When Bill told me his boss in Iraq reminded him of his time with his ex wife, I knew things were really bad in the war zone. Bill wasn’t that worried about being “at war”. Instead, most of his stress came from dealing with his narcissistic boss, who was doing his best to drive him crazy while they were in a war zone. He would do things like force Bill to hang out with him when he should have been resting, insult him in front of his peers, force him to practice golf when he had no interest in golf, and make personal, disparaging comments about Bill’s likes and dislikes. Naturally, I was furious about what his boss was doing, because war is hard enough when all you have to do is fight the enemy. It’s much worse when a so-called comrade and leader gets his kicks by being a complete asshole.

Fortunately, the story has a happy ending. Bill survived his time in Iraq, and we moved to Germany the first time. Bill’s war zone boss interfered with Bill’s career while we were in Germany, which forced us to move back to the States a year early. However, Bill did well enough in his first Germany job and subsequent positions that he was remembered after he retired from the Army. In 2014, when Bill left the Army, he was quickly hired to come back to Germany. As for Bill’s ex boss– he was very publicly fired from the Army in 2011. He never did pin on as general.

Although Trump is the king of malignant narcissists, he’s also very foolish and incompetent. This week has been particularly cringeworthy, as we’ve watched Trump crumble in the face of potential impeachment. He’s made some ridiculous and embarrassing mistakes in his dealings with other world leaders. And while there are still a lot of people who remain duped by him, I’ve seen some hopeful signs that some folks are finally waking up to reality. And people like Jim Mattis, who is probably one of the few people who don’t have a problem cutting Trump down to size, are voicing their contempt for the so-called “stable genius”. A lot of Trump supporters also support Mattis, so it’s good to hear someone on “their side” shining the sunlight of reality on who Trump is and why he’s so horrible for the world.

I have some hope that we will survive the madness of Trump’s presidency. I hope that people are jarred out of complacency and will vote. I just filled out my absentee ballot last night. It’s not for a major election, but watching the shitshow of the past few years has reminded me of how powerful and important voting is, even if I do it absentee in a state where voting against Republicans seems futile. This is a practice run for next year. I don’t know if we’ll still be in Germany in 2020, but I will likely be voting for everyone BUT Republicans. Unless, of course, General Mattis ever decides he wants to be president and runs as a Republican… I might consider voting for him. In fact, I will continue to vote for decent human beings over big names, unless the people behind the big names have truly done something great to deserve their big name. Trump never achieved anything without screwing someone else over… so I predict that someday, we’ll be calling him the world’s most overrated president. And given that so many already think he’s a complete disaster, I’d say being called an “overrated president” is really saying something. He’s overrated for being called the worst president, EVER.

General Mattis is absolutely right. It’s not really an insult to be compared to someone like Meryl Streep. Trump may think Mattis and Streep are “overrated”, but they have both proven their greatness. As Mattis said, “I earned my bone spurs in battle. Trump earned his in a doctor’s office.” On his very best day, Trump isn’t fit to scrub the shitstains out of Mattis’s shorts. And Mattis has proven that by the graceful and skillful way he’s handled himself post Trump.

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