family, memories, musings

“Little lady”– my big fat ass…

Yesterday, I went on because I felt like singing a few pop songs. SingSnap has gone through a major overhaul since December 2020. Adobe Flash was retired, so the owner of the site had to completely revamp the system. It’s still a bit wonky, so I don’t find myself wanting to participate there as much as I used to. Every day, they put up a list of “featured songs”. If you sing those songs, it’s more likely someone will watch or listen to your videos and leave comments. Of course, the whole song catalog is also open to those who pay for a membership. It’s just less likely that anyone will comment.

The new site has changed the way users can find the featured songs. It used to be that a person could just choose certain genres and see the lists of songs that way. Now, they’ve made it so you have to wade through many pages, and they don’t always put all of the available versions of a song up. So one of the featured songs may not be the best version available.

I had some trouble finding songs to do yesterday, which is unusual for me. I have eclectic tastes. But I did finally find a few selections. I sang a few songs, briefly finding myself irked that one commenter kept calling me “little lady”. I’m sure he meant no harm, but I find it grating when someone who doesn’t know me calls me cutesy pet names. At the same time, I was genuinely thankful for the comments he left, which were definitely positive, even if I haven’t been a “little lady” in many years.

I mean, if the guy knew me personally, I don’t think he’d see me as a “little lady”. I’m definitely not “little” or “dainty” in any sense of the word, unless you’re talking about my height, hands, ears, or feet, which are kind of “little” (especially my ears). I’m also not that ladylike. I typically use language that would make a truck driver blush. I also fart, belch, and take massive beer dumps in the mornings. Sorry… it’s the truth. So if that guy actually knew me, he’d probably think I’m not much of a “little lady”. However, I was born with a singing voice that sounds kind of sweet and feminine. Maybe that’s why some people (mostly men) on SingSnap call me things like “kiddo” (cringe) or whatever.

I was about to click off the site yesterday when I noticed a Gershwin duet that was open. I don’t often complete duets because I can’t bear to listen to off key singing if I’m not in a bar or something. Finding a good partner on SingSnap often involves listening to some pretty bad singing that, for me, is not pleasant to listen to. I was cursed with “absolute pitch“, which makes me unusually sensitive when things are off key. Some people have a condition called “misophonia” and can’t stand to listen to people chewing loudly or smacking their gum. I don’t know that I have “misophonia”, but I do know that bad singing is like nails on a chalkboard for me, so I can’t stand to search for talent on SingSnap. Just writing “nails on a chalkboard” makes me cringe and grind my teeth as I think about how that sounds!

However, there are some legitimately good singers on SingSnap, and I happened to find one yesterday on the first try. When I find someone who can sing well, I like to pair up. So that’s what I did… and, in fact, this duet was rather unusual, since it featured me on camera. I HATE being on video. I don’t like the way I look on camera, and most days, I don’t have on any makeup or even wear a bra. That was the case yesterday. I decided to do a video, though, because the guy who presented the male half of the duet had done such a charming job, reacting to the lyrics. It seemed wrong to just do audio.

Maybe I could have put on a bra and fixed my face and hair… but I decided to just put myself out there, as/is… I really enjoyed singing with this guy, Eric, although I couldn’t bear to practice the song until it was just right. I’ve also never heard the recorded version that featured Frank Sinatra and Natalie Cole, so I was winging it. I played the duet for Bill, who got visibly moved… but even though I wasn’t watching the video and cringing at the way I look on camera, I was mentally critiquing myself. It strikes me this morning that maybe I shouldn’t be doing so much of that. Incidentally, I used a screen shot of our duet as today’s featured photo, but it makes me cringe to look at it. I’m all flushed because it was hot and I was a bit sweaty. I do have an air conditioner in my office, but I don’t like to run it when I record things. It’s pretty loud.

But hell, I’ll bet most of the people watching the video wouldn’t be offended by it. I was having fun. No, it’s not perfect or ready for a record company, but it was a few minutes of me doing something that is healing for me and brings me joy. I was letting it all hang out, not so focused on self-critique. I was able to share it with my friend, Andrew, who is also on SingSnap. A few others viewed it and if they had negative comments, they kindly kept them to themselves.

So why am I so hypercritical of myself? I think I was trained to be hypercritical by growing up in a family system that was focused a lot on image and what other people think. Many problems were “swept under the rug” in the name of avoiding conflict. Conflict would inevitably arise anyway, often after people had been drinking… and well, I remember a lot of fights, especially within my immediate family. I don’t like fights today, and go out of my way to avoid them, because it takes me a long time to recover from them. I was criticized a lot, though, and I think I internalized much of the criticism.

I am not a perfectionist about most things. I don’t keep an immaculate house, although contrary to what my ex landlady thinks, I’m not a filthy person, either. I don’t turn myself out dressed to the nines, nor do I put on a false persona of who I am. What you get is what you see, most of the time. But I can be a perfectionist about some things, like making music or writing blog posts. Even on a karaoke site, which is supposed to be fun, I can’t bear to put up recordings that aren’t close to being perfectly done. And I don’t do videos much, because I get too self-conscious about my looks and it throws me off. Putting up a duet video with me on camera was kind of a big deal. It was such a big deal that I shared the video on Facebook and tagged Andrew, who might be one of a few people I knew would appreciate it.

I grew up in a system where people were constantly telling me what was wrong about me and rarely offering positive feedback. My parents often disapproved of me for being loud, obnoxious, opinionated, and obstinate. My mom openly and very frankly told me that her friends didn’t want to hang out with her because I was such a terror. My dad would get angry with me for being outspoken about things. As I aged, we didn’t get along very well because he seemed to think I’m an asshole… and the feeling was mutual. At least I never slapped him or gave him enraged beatings when I got mad at him, though. I know he loved me, and I loved him, but he was very critical of me and didn’t seem to cherish me.

Other people would criticize me for all manner of reasons. I got bullied at school, and it wasn’t until we’d lived in Gloucester awhile before some of my peers started to accept me more. It was hurtful, and it made growing up difficult and painful, although I was fortunate enough to find some good people who were kind to me. Unfortunately, I also found “The Home of the Whopper“, a man who was kind and paid attention to me, but also showed me porn when I was about ten years old. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that a lot of people don’t like me. Even supposed loved ones don’t seem to like me that much. Or, at least that’s how it seems to me. There was a time when I would try to appease people who didn’t like me for who I am, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that those people would never understand or appreciate the effort. It’s not worth it in the long run to try to be someone I’m not, and frankly, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with who I authentically am.

The one person who cherishes me is my husband, Bill, which is a wonderful thing. But it would have been nice to have had that when I was growing up. Knowing how loving and kind Bill is makes me very protective of him and intolerant toward people who mistreat him. That’s why I was so angry at his daughters for so long. I understood on an intellectual level why they were so estranged. But the one contact he had from them, back in 2006, were awful letters that their mother forced them to write and practically dictated to them. In older daughter’s letter, she wrote that she wanted an “every day daddy”. She claimed that #3 was her “everyday daddy”, and he helped her when she was “stressed out”. We later discovered that her claim that #3 was a good dad to her was utterly false. It was just another one of Ex’s facades.

Really, what I wanted to tell older daughter was that I had an everyday daddy, and it was definitely not what it was cracked up to be. My father owned his own business and ran it out of our home. My mom also worked out of our house. Consequently, I had an unusual amount of time with both of my parents. They weren’t, and aren’t, bad people, but they always treated me like an imposition. My mom told me she hadn’t wanted me, and my dad was often disappointed in me. He didn’t protect me, either. My sisters treated me like I was incompetent or a brat, or they would chastise me for things like the way I laugh, my humor, or the way I looked. They didn’t appreciate me for who I am and told me so often. They made it clear that they wished I would change, even though I’m not a bad person. I’m just “different”, I guess… as we all are.

But what older daughter didn’t know is that she has a wonderful “everyday daddy”, and all she ever had to do was reach out to him, especially since she’s an adult now. Given a chance, Bill would have cherished his daughters and loved and protected them. He would have supported them in following their dreams and given them opportunities to grow. He is a wonderful dad and the best husband I could have ever asked for. He loves me for exactly who I am, and I’m pretty certain he loves his daughters in the same way. It’s too bad that only one of them recognizes that and is ready to accept what he can give them. But such is life.

Maybe I should just be grateful that my parents valued me enough to raise me to adulthood and support me enough that I was able to find the right partner in life. Because if they had just shitcanned me at 18, I’d probably be a completely different person. I probably never would have joined SingSnap, either, because I might not have ever learned to sing (I started in college) and I might not have had the time or the money to hang out online all the time. I might be waiting tables or struggling through community college… or maybe I would have had kids and be dealing with completely different problems.

I probably should just be happy to have Bill, instead of falling down this rabbit hole of self-absorption, ruminating about things I can’t change. I’m naturally kind of a free spirit, and people have told me that I shouldn’t be that way. But I can’t help it. So sometimes, I’ll record myself on camera with no bra or makeup and put it out to the masses. And people will think I’m loud, obnoxious, opinionated, or whatever else… Not everyone will like or appreciate what I do or who I am. But at least some people do… and I am fortunate enough to have one man who definitely does. I saw it in his eyes and heard it in his voice as he saw his “little lady” with a big fat ass singing braless and makeupless on SingSnap this morning. He definitely doesn’t expect me to be perfect… he loves me for being the mess I am and for sharing life with him.

musings, narcissists

Love me for what I am…

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Carpenters’ music. I know some of it is super schmaltzy and borderline insipid, but they did have quite a few poignant songs that resonate decades after they were recorded. For some reason, I was reminded of a song from 1975 called “Love Me For What I Am”. The first time I ever heard it was on YouTube. Someone made a school project about anorexia nervosa and used “Love Me For What I Am” as background music. I can’t find that specific video now, but I was struck by how perfect the song was for Karen Carpenter, who famously suffered and died from years of anorexia nervosa.

Karen Carpenter sings her version of the blues.

Anorexics often become obsessed with perfection to the point at which they completely lose touch with reality. They might focus on one part of their body that isn’t quite right, losing sight of the fact that they have become emaciated and extremely unhealthy looking. For years, there was a theory that anorexics got the way they are because someone else had expectations for them that were too high. Nowadays, I think the theories have changed regarding why a person develops an eating disorder. It’s no longer automatically attributed to the pat hypotheses of yesterday– absentee father, demands for perfection, or not wanting to grow up. The truth is, people develop eating disorders for different reasons.

Although “Love Me For What I Am” seems like a perfect plea from someone suffering from anorexia nervosa, I think it’s actually more appropriate for someone in love with a narcissist. If you pay attention to the words, which were written by John Bettis and Palma Pascale, they describe a whirlwind romance that slowly develops into a hypercritical hell. Narcissistic people frequently give their love interests “the rush”, flooding them with positive regard and lovebombing them into believing perfect love has suddenly bloomed.

What makes this song different is that most people involved in this type of relationship lack the self awareness to see what is happening. As Karen pleads for her lover to “love me for what I am, for simply being me”, she might as well save her breath. Narcissists aren’t capable of that kind of love and they almost never change. They only love themselves… and even that “self-love” is kind of iffy and not very genuine.

The words go:

We fell in love
On the first night that we met
Together we’ve been happy
I have very few regrets

The ordinary problems
Have not been hard to face
But lately little changes
Have been slowly taking place

You’re always finding something
Is wrong in what I do
But you can’t rearrange my life
Because it pleases you

You’ve got to love me for what I am
For simply being me
Don’t love me for what you intend
Or hope that I will be

And if you’re only using me
To feed your fantasy
You’re really not in love
So let me go, I must be free

If what you want
Isn’t natural for me
I won’t pretend to keep you
What I am I have to be

The picture of perfection
Is only in your mind
For all your expectations
Love can never be designed

We either take each other
For everything we are
Or leave the life we’ve made behind
And make another start

You’ve got to love me for what I am
For simply being me
Don’t love me if what you intend
Or hope that I will be

And if you’re only using me
To feed your fantasy
You’re really not in love
So let me go, I must be free

I decided to record this song today. I recorded it four or five times. Sure enough, I was focused on perfection. Even as I listen to it right now, I am not totally happy with it, even though I know it’s pretty good for amateur hour. We waste a lot of time trying to achieve perfection, which is mostly impossible to reach. That is especially true when you’re trying to record vocals live on the Internet. You get static, distortion, or the timing is thrown off because of the instability of the Internet connection. When I want something more perfect, I use Garage Band, which has its own issues. But at least when I use Garage Band, it’s done offline and I get more clarity.

The funny thing is, it doesn’t even really matter how perfectly I record it. Not that many people bother to listen to what I record. The desire for perfection is for me, because like a lot of people, I don’t like to hear the sound of my own voice. I can’t simply enjoy the fact that I have a voice– good or bad– and have the ability to use it to communicate.

The Carpenters were always good for emotional, introspective songs. They also did “I Need To Be in Love”, which I also decided to do this morning. This one, I sang in one take. It’s probably not close to perfect, but I’m somewhat happier with it, even though I didn’t get the rhythm quite right, and the mic goes in and out. I guess it’s close enough to perfect for me. Actually, it’s not. I had to do it again… and it’s still not quite right.

I’m not a perfectionist about everything, only certain things, like music and writing. Some people are perfectionists about every aspect of their lives, particularly regarding other people. They have a fantasy of how things should be and they try very hard to make other people buy into their vision. It’s enough to drive an innocent person crazy. I may drive myself crazy trying to hit a note in just the right way, with just the right emotion or inflection, or choose the right words and phrases to get my point across in the best way. But that focus is not on someone else; it’s only on me. I don’t tend to care that much about what other people think, in the grand scheme of things. I mean, if you insult me to my face, it will hurt my feelings. But I don’t go searching for other people’s opinions about me… and I can’t abide hypercritical people.

The more videos I watch by Les Carter and the more Internet posts I read from people being driven crazy by narcissists, the more it seems like it’s an epidemic that is damaging or even ruining other people’s lives. My husband spent years with a woman who didn’t value him for anything more than what he could do for her. He tried to love her for who she was, but she couldn’t reciprocate. She blamed him 100% for all that went wrong in their relationship. She couldn’t love him for who he was.

I know so many people in this predicament. It’s not just lovers or spouses, either. Narcissists are everywhere and involved in every kind of relationship, from boss and subordinate to landlord and tenant. These are people who cannot accept responsibility for who they are. They won’t admit mistakes or accept defeat, at least not without a tremendous fight. They portray themselves as long suffering victims, even when the facts point to the opposite. So, as eloquent and plaintive as Karen’s singing is, a narcissistic person will never love her for who she is. It’s not in them. They’re always looking for flaws and defects, much like an anorexic is always looking for one part of their body that is “too fat”. They can’t get past the distortion that allows them to simply accept and trust another person and allow them intimacy.

The people I have known who were narcissistic usually had difficult childhoods. At least two of the known narcissists in my life didn’t have access to their biological mothers. It’s probably a coincidence, since I know not all adoptees turn into narcissists. The ones I’ve known didn’t have good relationships with their adoptive mothers, either, and exhibited feelings of anger due to being abandoned. But I will admit that I haven’t spent much time studying this link, at least not at this point. True narcissistic types have never learned empathy. They somehow stopped developing emotionally when they were still children. They have to be right at all costs, and will stoop to very low levels to achieve what they think is the upper hand.

Still, I have to admit to loving Karen Carpenter’s take on narcissism in the song “Love Me For What I Am”. She’s taken other people’s lyrics and injected them with heart and soul. One would have to be made of stone not to be moved by her emotional reading. Sadly, a lot of narcissists are like that.

Interestingly enough, my husband Bill doesn’t like Karen Carpenter’s voice as much. He says she’s too technically “perfect” for him. He doesn’t hear emotion in her voice. I think he hasn’t listened to enough of her deep cuts… or maybe we just have a difference in opinion, which is alright, too. Some of the Carpenters’ songs are truly cringeworthy, even if Karen could sound good singing the phone book. Just my opinion, of course. Some people feel that way about Barbra Streisand, who impresses me more when she acts than when she sings.