News, social media, YouTube

Big revelations in 2022…

Today’s featured photo kind of spells out how I feel about getting older…

This year is only 15 days old, but some people have already experienced, or at least revealed, some major life changes. And since they are people I know online, I’ve shared in their big news, if only in a small way.

This week, especially, has been one of jaw dropping revelations for some of my friends. Or, maybe it’s more revelatory to my friends’ friends, rather than themselves. I suspect that my friends who have been dropping some truths this week have known for quite some time about their personal bombshells.

Out of respect for my friends’ privacy, I don’t want to be too specific about their big news stories, since none of their tales are mine to tell. I guess this post is more about my reaction to their news… and how it makes me reflect on how things have changed so much. It wasn’t so long ago that I felt like the world hadn’t evolved that much from, say, 1990 until now. But now I realize that it really has become a totally foreign place on so many levels.

There was a time not so long ago when big news would spread via letter to one person, or by telephone, in a newspaper, or maybe word of mouth. As technology evolved, we’d hear news on the radio, or TV, and then eventually cable TV, which had news 24/7 on channels like CNN. Today, we get news from the Internet– especially on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

All three of my friends shared their personal news in Facebook posts. All three “stories” are a very big deal. I’m talking major life changes and, in all three cases, their very identities are evolving into something very different and potentially scary and exciting. I suspect at least two of the three people will lose some friends over their news, or even some family members who can’t cope with the massive paradigm shifts they will experience in the near future.

These three people are people I know on varying levels, both personal and professional. One of my “friends” undergoing a major life change is someone I don’t know especially well offline. We have been in each other’s physical presence a couple of times, but not recently. The other two people are genuine offline friends with whom I also had a professional relationship. One was someone I hired, and the other is someone who hired me. I haven’t seen either of them in person in a long time, either. Geography plays a big part in these circumstances, of course.

Not twenty years ago, I would not be privy to any of the really big news my friends are sharing. For instance, it would have been unthinkable in the year 2002 that I would find out about major life changes from people with whom I didn’t at least have a casual offline relationship. And yet, all three of these people have shared their news with me. I don’t mind that, per se, since I like them. But there was a time, not long ago, when I know that I never would have heard their big news, simply because I’m not that close to them.

Back in 2002, I certainly wouldn’t have found out, say, about a former acquaintance’s new addition to her family, which I only discovered this morning because she still shows up in comments she made in my Facebook memories, when we still regularly “e-versed”. This was someone I did meet offline a few times, and we had a cordial relationship, although I could tell we weren’t really clicking… or, should I say, “clique-ing”– as she was still in a clique that I had left.

Sometime last year, this person finally unfriended me on Facebook. I suspect it’s because we somehow never meshed, and we don’t have much in common, other than having both lived abroad in military communities. I got the sense that she found me annoying, and if I’m honest, I could probably say the same about her.

Nevertheless, I was still initially a little sad about losing a “friend”, but then I mostly forgot about her, since we weren’t that close to begin with. I was suddenly reminded of her again this morning, when I inadvertently saw her current profile photo. It reveals a very prominent baby bump. I’m sure she’s a mother of two by now, and I wish her well. But it still struck me as odd that I now know about this big news, even though we don’t “talk” anymore, and I hadn’t sought out news about her. And it made me realize how social media really has altered so much about what was once “normal”.

Now, we can communicate with literally anyone in the world who is on the Internet, sometimes even when we’d really rather not. Even if they aren’t on the Internet, like my mom, I can still use the Internet to call her phone. I talked to my mom the other day and she said my sister had shown her my Facebook profile picture. Mom commented that she thought I looked “beautiful”. It is a pretty nice photo, if I do say so myself. I had put on a dress, fixed my hair, and put on makeup. Mom lamented that she didn’t have any recent photos of me. We haven’t seen each other since 2015. I said, if she would just learn basic Internet skills, she could see and talk to me whenever she wants. But she won’t do it, as she’s 83 years old, and doesn’t want the Internet to invade her life. Maybe she’s smarter than I am for that, although I don’t think I could function without it as a middle aged person.

I can even find out about stuff I don’t even want to know about… information that I never sought and even find kind of hurtful. For example, back in 2013, a woman I know from my hometown sent me an email about my former “best” friend, who had had a baby and gotten her baby baptized in the church I had attended as a child. This “friend” was someone I once felt very close to, and knew very well. We spent so much time together when we were growing up. But, friends sometimes grow apart, and in the case of this friend, I realized that our “friendship” had become quite toxic.

When my church lady friend had sent me that email, I realized that my ex friend was still Facebook friends with me, but had restricted my access to her page. She, on the other hand, could freely stalk my page all she wanted. I hadn’t noticed that I was restricted, because I had quit talking to her a long time ago, mainly because I usually felt really bad about myself after our online conversations and had decided to withdraw. Then, a mutual friend dropped the bomb on me via email.

There I was, reeling from learning that my so-called, long time “best” friend from childhood had hidden the news from me that she’d had a baby. I told Bill, who then said that this “friend” had behaved very inappropriately toward him at our wedding rehearsal. It was at that point that I blocked her on social media, but even after blocking her, I still found out stuff… from mutual friends, the church lady (who was bewildered that my friend and I had a falling out), and yes, from Facebook memories.

Nowadays, Facebook memories allows users to omit memories from people they don’t want to remember, but that was not an option until somewhat recently. And, at this point, I no longer care if I hear about her or see her on social media. I even unblocked her, because in her case, I simply don’t care anymore. But I cared a few years ago… when the pain was still fresh in my mind. I wasn’t surprised by what she’d done, since I knew she’d done something similar to her ex boyfriend. I might have even excused her by not sharing her baby news. However, when Bill finally told me what she did at our wedding, that was when I really felt hurt, betrayed, and angry, and decided not to have anything to do with her anymore.

In each of the cases of the three people who shared big news with me, and all of the rest of their friends this week, all I feel is love and compassion. As I mentioned before, these are very big life changes they’re dealing with. I also feel great compassion to the people who are close to them in their personal lives, because the life changing news they shared doesn’t just affect them. In some ways, I think the people who didn’t make the big announcements, but are, nevertheless, very much affected by the news, will need all of the hope, prayers, faith, and thoughts they can get.

At the same time, I’m still somewhat amazed that I got their news. I hardly feel worthy to know of it… well, except in the cases of two of the three people, who are both people I still talk to somewhat regularly, and both of whom helped change my life for the better. In one case, I really didn’t have to know… but in the other case, I obviously would know, because their big news literally changes their identity in some very major ways. Like– I could not be friends with this person anymore and not eventually know their news.

I’m sorry if this post is confusing and weird. It’s really weird for me, too. I would like to be more specific… but I just don’t feel comfortable in sharing more at this point. And if I ever do share more, it will probably be later, perhaps in a protected post… when I’ve gotten more used to the idea. And also, it reminds me of the very interesting turns my life has taken and people I’ve either met, or know of somehow… and how sometimes, they share their big revelations with me, whether or not they meant to share their news that broadly.

Social media has made things strange in so many ways… but it’s also allowed us all to meet and get to know people we otherwise never would, and that’s not such a bad thing. Hell, I’ve “met” some interesting people just by writing this blog and occasionally attracting regular commenters. I’m kind of glad I haven’t hit “the big time” like some people have, since not being popular makes it possible for me to get to know people.

This morning, I was watching Fundie Fridays’ most recent video about Kirk and Candace Cameron, and Jen, who runs the channel with her boyfriend, James, mentioned that she was sorry she couldn’t respond to the many emails and private messages she gets. That channel has exploded in popularity, so now she literally can’t keep up with all of the correspondence. On one hand, I think it’s awesome that she’s so successful. But on another hand, there is a definite trade off, isn’t there? Anyway… I do recommend her latest video, especially if you’re as old as I am and remember when Kirk was a “teen idol”. Now he’s just a middle aged twerp who apparently thinks he’s better than you and I are because he’s the right kind of “Christian”.

Jen should do stand up. She’s hilarious.

Anyway… it’s just crazy to me how things are in 2022, and that I can find out “big news” about people, even if I don’t go looking for it. I never envisioned life would be like this back when I was younger. I’m actually delighted that I grew up in a time when people weren’t always online. And I am very glad that I didn’t have to go to school during the age of the Internet. However, I am happy that I can stay in touch with some people and meet people via the ‘net, even if there are some folks I’d like to be able to ghost the old fashioned way. And I’m sure some of them would like to lose touch with me, too…

Well, I think I’ll get back to my latest book, so I can post a new book review. My book reviews aren’t usually all that controversial, except for some of the subject matter I cover. Hope everyone has better weather than we do over here in foggy, damp, chilly Germany. And I hope all of the news you get this week is good news.

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communication, complaints, rants

Back to the chum bucket with you…

We just arrived home a little while ago from our brief trip to the Schwarzwald. What should have been a relaxing break from Hesse turned into a bit of a shit show.

Before I get into the specifics of what happened, I will state upfront that this issue is partly my fault for not unplugging from social media. I really need to break the Facebook habit. It seems to bring me a lot of displeasure and discontent lately. I also need to quit caring about people and things that ultimately don’t matter.

Our trip began on Wednesday. The drama started a couple of days prior, and culminated into a trifecta of toxicity last night. I’ll try to keep it simple…

Last Monday, I got a private message from a woman who used to live in Stuttgart and moved back to the States a few years ago. She was very active in the community when she was here, ran several groups, and organized tours and such. Every year, she helped a vintner in Stuttgart with their harvest. This year, she says she got so busy that she forgot about the harvest. She asked me if I would mind helping her.

At first, I was pretty cool to the idea, because it sounded like I would have to be in Stuttgart. We live three hours away now. I have never met the people she’s been working with, and I don’t want to be expected to go to Stuttgart every weekend for three weeks. But then she said I didn’t have to actually be in Stuttgart to help pick the grapes or anything. So I told her I wouldn’t mind hearing what she had to say. She said we would have a video chat the next day. But then she never contacted me.

Off I went to Baiersbronn. Didn’t hear from the woman until Friday, as we were enjoying a fantastic lunch. She wanted to video chat. I said we were busy, so she rang off. Then last night, she contacted me again, wanting to video chat. I told her today would be better, since we still weren’t home. Then I told her that we had to go get our dogs between 6 and 7 our time, so 7:30pm would work best.

She asked which video chat program I preferred. I told her that I actually hate video chats, so I rarely use the programs. I get nervous on camera. But I have Skype and Zoom, and I didn’t say I wouldn’t do a video chat. I just said I don’t like doing them. She said there was no reason to be nervous… then she said maybe she should find someone else. I agreed with her.

Then she said this was their “livelihood”, so it was “serious business”. And that came off as a bit manipulative and passive aggressive, so it pissed me off. Especially since she came to me for a favor. But as I’m looking at the chat log now, I see she’s put in a bunch of smilies and stuff. Maybe she wasn’t trying to be manipulative and lay a guilt trip, but that’s how it came across. Bill thought so, too, when I showed him the chat.

Then I shared a wonderful article from the New York Times Magazine about Baiersbronn. We decided to visit it in 2018, after I read that piece. I shared it in the wine group I run. One of the members left an “angry” reaction and snapped, “I’m not paying for a subscription to read that!”

I responded that she didn’t have to subscribe. I don’t get commissions from the New York Times. It was just a nice article about the town and its many chefs. I thought it would be a good read for people in the group. But… then I got a comment from someone wanting to know the names of the restaurants… and someone else who linked to a vastly inferior blog post about Baiersbronn. Neither of the comments had anything to do with the article I posted.

Bill commented that people shouldn’t expect to read content for free. Then the woman came back and wrote that the New York Times isn’t a “credible” news source. Guess she’s a Trumper. Either way, though, all she had to do was scroll on, if the link wasn’t useful or interesting. Instead, she basically implied that she doesn’t like the source because of her politics. There wasn’t a fucking thing in that article about politics. It was written during the Obama era. I just thought it was an informative and interesting link…. and I was sharing information. Evidently, that wasn’t okay.

And then, I noticed a “like” from the formerly resident troublemaker. A couple of months ago, this chick, who is a sommelier or something, and runs her own wine group in Stuttgart, was pimping her group in my group. I slightly lost my temper with her and told her that pimping her group in my group was disrespectful. I finally implied that I was going to kick her out. She laid low for awhile, which was nice for me, but recently started posting again. She never posted her own stuff, though. She would just leave comments on my stuff, often in an attempt to make me look incompetent. Or, at least that is how it appeared to me.

A few days ago, I shared an ad from the Stuttgart Sky Beach about an event they’re having. I have no stake in the Sky Beach. I was just sharing information about an event. She posted a link to a competing event in the comment section, writing about why people shouldn’t choose the Sky Beach event. I suspect that she was getting kickbacks from selling tickets to that event. I don’t know for sure, but I do know that she’s hooked up with a bunch of wine sellers and is about making money.

I thanked her for sharing the information, then asked her to put it in a separate post. People can choose for themselves what activity they want to do. She ignored me.

This morning, she added her two cents to my New York Times link… a link to the Michelin site, for the woman who asked about the names of the restaurants. She helpfully added that the Michelin link is “free”.

Maybe I’m crazy… but it seemed to me, that once again, she was trying to make me look incompetent. She has asked me more than once to join her group. If I did that, my group would be redundant, and she would be in charge. I don’t care that she has her own group. I don’t care if people in my group are in her group. But I don’t want to be in a Stuttgart area group, because they tend to be toxic. Aside from that, I know that she promotes things that make her money. I don’t care about making money. I just want to have a group that is friendly and helpful and fun for everyone, including me. I don’t claim to be a wine or food expert. I just want to share information, and I want to do it without having someone posting after me, trying to undermine me.

It was getting to the point that I would cringe when I saw her name pop up. She literally made me feel sick to my stomach this morning. So I decided to kick her out of the group. The decision was a long time coming, and it brought me no pleasure to do it. But you know what they say– “too many cooks spoil the soup…” She wanted to be in charge of my group. She has her own group to run.

Bill pointed out that the toxic chick was acting a lot like Plankton on Spongebob Squarepants. He said I should send her back to the Chum Bucket. I agreed.

I didn’t send her a PM or address her in the group. I just quietly kicked her out and permanently banned her. Then… perhaps by coincidence, I got three new requests to join. I’m wondering if one or more were from her friends. I let two in. The other claimed to be living in Germany, but his profile indicated that he’s a chef who lives in Barcelona, Spain. My guess is that he’s someone she does business with. In any case, he can always join her group. He doesn’t need to be in mine.

I think this chick wanted to be in my group for ideas, new members to spam, and to irritate me to the point of closing the group. I came close to doing it a few weeks ago, but then decided not to when some people seemed to be enjoying the group. I found myself revisiting the idea this morning, as I choked down breakfast. That’s how “toxic” I feel about this woman. Her motives may be innocent, but my intuition tells me that she’s up to no good. I’m usually right about these things. She has her own group, though, and she can run it the way she wants to. And if everybody else wants to join her, that’s fine with me. I’m not trying to make money or be popular. I just want to share information.

Poor Bill had to listen to me complain most of the way home… all of this stuff comes from the neuroses I have from growing up with a very dysfunctional family. I really hate conflict. I don’t like dealing with manipulators. I can’t stand feeling like I have to confront people… especially people who ought to be adults. That woman who posted an angry reaction to a newspaper link got me a bit irritated. I was tempted to kick her out, too… But I know that doing such a thing would probably lead to a lot of high school styled drama.

I really don’t like feeling like a tyrant. I don’t think I act like one. But I think my instincts are right about these situations…

I probably should sign up for a Fuck It retreat in Italy. I need to learn not to engage with these people… and just say “fuck it” and delete the people who get under my skin.

As for the vintner lady looking for free labor, I calmly wished her luck in finding the right person to help her. I think it’s a tall order, but I’m sure someone out there would be more than happy to get involved in her project.

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celebrities, mental health, money, psychology

Britney Spears says, “I deserve to have a life!”

This morning, 39 year old Britney Spears is all over the news. She went to court yesterday to ask a Los Angeles court judge, Brenda Penny, to end the “abusive conservatorship” her father, Jamie Spears, has had over her affairs since 2008 (a licensed professional conservator, Jodi Montgomery, took over direct oversight earlier this year). At this point, Spears’ financial affairs are jointly handled by Jamie Spears and Bessemer Trust. It’s hard to believe 13 years have passed since Britney’s very public mental health breakdown. I was never a big follower of Britney’s career, but I do remember the dramatic news stories and photos of her shaven head. I heard about her impulsive decision to marry Jason Alexander back in 2004, only to divorce him 55 hours later. Clearly, she did have mental health issues at one time. But does she still have them today?

News about Britney Spears. She doesn’t want to perform while her father is still in control. I don’t blame her.

Based on what I’ve read, which is admittedly not very much, it would seem to me that there are grounds to allow Britney Spears more control over her life. I haven’t heard of any other mental health dramas involving her in quite some time. She’s been quietly pushing to end the conservatorship for years. She was even working as an entertainer, at least until 2019. I wouldn’t have expected Spears to be working last year. Practically no one in the entertainment business was doing live shows after March 2020. But she’s clearly still successfully generating money, and people are still interested in her career.

Britney Spears dropped quite a bombshell in her testimony yesterday, claiming that she has an IUD that she would like to have removed so that she might have another child with her boyfriend, Sam Asghari. However, since she has no rights to make her own medical decisions, the IUD remains implanted against her will. She says she’s been forced to take medications she doesn’t want, such as lithium, a mood stabilizer often prescribed for treatment of bipolar disorder. Britney says the drug made her feel “drunk” and unable to carry on conversations with her family. She wants to do therapy at her home, where she might have privacy. Instead, she’s forced to go to another location, where the paparazzi “stalks” her.

Spears also claims that her management has forced her to perform against her will. She claims that she was threatened with a lawsuit if she didn’t do her shows. She says she felt like she was being “trafficked” and should be able to “say no to a dance move”. She’s claimed that she’s been forced to perform, even while sick with a high fever, and she’s been required to enter mental health treatment facilities against her will, based on exaggerated circumstances. Britney has also said that she doesn’t want to perform again, as long as her father is in charge of her affairs.

Finally, Britney Spears says that it makes no sense that she’s trusted and expected to perform at high level shows that involve millions of dollars in investments, yet can’t make the simplest decisions about personal aspects of her life. Frankly, I can see her point on this. It does seem to me like she should have had control over her affairs a long time ago, once the acute mental health crisis had ended. Or, at least she should have had some of her rights restored. At the very least, her affairs should not have been handled by a family member/authority figure like her father, but by a neutral party. But given that, as his daughter’s conservator, Jamie Spears was “earning” $16,000 a month plus $2,000 a month for office space rent, I guess I can see why he’d be reluctant to give up such a sweet gig.

What a mess! And it appears to be mostly over money, which is a real shame.

It’s concerning to read about some of the alleged personal issues Jamie Spears has had that might have made him a poor choice as a conservator in the first place. Lynne Spears’, Britney’s mom and Jamie’s second ex wife, claimed in her 2008 memoirs that her ex husband “verbally abused and abandoned her” and “exhibited erratic behavior.” In 1980, when Lynne Spears first attempted to divorce Jamie Spears, she filed a restraining order against him, worried that he would harass her, particularly if he had been drinking alcohol. Jamie Spears is evidently a notorious alcoholic. Lynne Spears has also spoken in favor of having Jamie Spears removed from his interests in Britney’s affairs.

In 1998, before Britney hit stardom, the family was struggling financially and on the verge of bankruptcy. When Jamie and Lynne Spears divorced in 2002, apparently things got better– Jamie Spears was not that involved in Britney’s life as she rocketed toward fame and fortune. It wasn’t until she had her breakdown that he was suddenly so interested in her affairs. Mr. Spears also allegedly was involved in an altercation involving one of Britney’s teenaged sons. Britney’s ex husband, Kevin Federline, got a restraining order against Jamie Spears, forbidding him to see his sons with Britney.

What especially sucks for Britney is that she is being forced to pay, not only for her own attorneys’ services, but also for the services of opposing attorneys. According to The New York Times:

As the fight drags on, the bills are piling up — and, in a quirk of the conservatorship system, Ms. Spears has to pay for lawyers on both sides, including those arguing against her wishes in court. A recent $890,000 bill from one set of Mr. Spears’s lawyers, covering about four months of work, included media strategizing for defending the conservatorship.

So… it appears to me that a whole lot of people are on Britney’s payroll, and a whole lot of people stand to lose if she regains the freedom to make her own decisions. It’s a really fucked up situation. I feel sad for her, because it looks to me like she’s being abused by someone who should always be interested in protecting her– her father. But instead, it looks like he’s profiting off of her and, perhaps, even getting a charge out of running her life. He’s allegedly referred to Britney as a “racehorse who has to be handled like one.” And at age 68, it’s not as if he’s likely to kick the bucket anytime soon.

Jamie Spears’ lawyer, Vivian Lee Thoreen assures us that Jamie has his daughter’s best interests at heart. She has stated to People magazine, quite nauseatingly, “Any time Britney wants to end her conservatorship, she can ask her lawyer to file a petition to terminate it; she has always had this right but in 13 years has never exercised it… Britney knows that her Daddy loves her, and that he will be there for her whenever and if she needs him, just as he always has been — conservatorship or not.” I don’t know about that… and while my southern mom always called her father “Daddy”, it seems especially inappropriate, disrespectful, and demeaning for a lawyer to address another adult in such a way, as if Britney Spears is just a child who needs reassurance. No 39 year old woman should be addressed like that, or spoken of or to in that way.

I truly hope that the judge in this case exercises wisdom. I don’t know all the details, of course, but from what I’ve read, it’s high time for Jamie Spears to get back in control and support of his own life. He needs to leave Britney alone. And if she really does need help managing her affairs, it should be from someone of her own choosing, who is neutral, professional, and works for her– and in her best interests. That help should not come from someone like her father, who will always have emotional ties to her, for better or worse. He’s not neutral, and from the sounds of it, he’s not particularly mentally stable himself.

No matter what, it sounds to me like Jamie’s time having any say in Britney’s life should end. I’m rooting for Britney. I hope she gets relief very soon. #Free Britney!

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narcissists

She just wanted me around for the “likes”…

This morning, I’m listening to a great video by narcissistic behavior guru Dr. Ramani. She is one of several experts on narcissism that I follow on YouTube. She’s wise, insightful, and helpful, although I probably watch videos by fellow expert Dr. Les Carter more often.

Today, the video I stumbled across is on the topic of regret. I’m writing about it now, because I happened to be talking about this very same topic with Bill before I found Dr. Ramani’s video. Bill and I have both had our fill of interactions with narcissists. And we have both experienced regret in the wake of them.

She’s a very kind woman with good insight and better advice.

In this video, Dr. Ramani says “Narcissistic relationships waste time.” And they do. In my case, one of the most damaging relationships of my lifetime lasted about 33 years. I have countless memories of my time with this person. I grew up with her. The friendship probably died before we graduated high school. If it didn’t die in high school, it was definitely in its death throes when we were in college. But I still hung on to it for years, even though I knew that it was a ghost of the “friendship” we’d once had.

I repeatedly resisted the healthy side of me telling me to break off my ties with her for good. Why? Because we’d known each other for so long. I’d invested a lot in the relationship. I didn’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I hoped that one day, we could be friends again, more like we were when we were kids.

Then one day, it became painfully clear that she wasn’t my friend and hadn’t been for many years. It became obvious that she saw me as a source of supply and a possession… just one more soul on her Facebook friends list count. She wasn’t interested in being friends with me. She just wanted me for the “likes”. How did I discover this? Well, as it so often happens in my life, it was completely by surprise.

In the fall of 2013, I was sitting in my house in Texas when I got an email from a woman who used to sit next to me in the church I grew up attending. Like my former friend, she had known me since I was eight years old. Her husband was in the choir. My dad was in the choir. Her husband and my dad were both graduates of Virginia Military Institute, so they were like “brothers”. My mom was a church organist at another church, and my three sisters were pretty much grown and out of the house. So there I was, eight years old, with no one to sit with in the forced church services every week. And there she was, a middle aged woman whose children were either grown or in boarding school (she and her husband are wealthy). I spent years sitting through church services with her while her husband and my dad sang in the choir. She was my “special friend”, who even took me for summer outings every year.

Anyway in 2013, this lady, then about 80 years old, had known that my ex friend and I had been “besties” as kids. My ex friend was also the maid of honor at my wedding, which church buddy had also attended. So she probably figured I’d known that ex friend had a baby, and had been attending my former church. She’d had her baby baptized there, and apparently forgot that I was raised in that church and still knew people there.

Church friend wrote to me about the blessed event, probably expecting me to already know about it; but it really was news to me. The revelation that my former friend had kept the news of her pregnancy from me put me in a delicate position, since it didn’t seem appropriate to explain to this elderly lady that apparently my “bestie” and I not only weren’t “best friends” anymore, we weren’t even mere acquaintances. And it was she who had made it abundantly clear that we were no longer “friends” with this bombshell news about my ex friend’s baby’s baptism at the church I had attended as a child.

I think what I ended up doing was telling church friend that I hadn’t known about the baby, since ex friend and I were no longer friends. I didn’t elaborate as to why. I later heard that the church lady asked my mom what happened and my mom couldn’t tell her. When she sent more news to me about ex friend, I reiterated to her that the friendship was over, and I think she finally got the message. It was very awkward, though.

After I got that first email about my ex friend’s shady business, I went looking on her Facebook profile. We were still “friends”, but I had noticed some time earlier that I couldn’t tag her in a photo a mutual friend had shared. I didn’t think much of it at the time, because frankly, we hadn’t been chatting much anyway and I had unfollowed her so her posts didn’t show up in my feed. But after I got the news about the baby, I realized that all of her Facebook posts were public and none were about her baby. It was then that I realized she’d put me on her restricted list, which allowed her to see my page, but restricted what I could see on hers to her infrequent public posts.

She did this, even though we’d known each other since we were eight years old and I have actually met members of her family who are long dead– people like her father, her grandparents, and her great grandmother– most of whom have been gone for decades. I doubt anyone else she knows has ever met these people personally unless they are family members. I would have had a lot more respect for her if she’d just unfriended me, or even blocked me. But no… I was “restricted”, so she could keep tabs on what I was doing and still count me as a “friend”.

Naturally, I was hurt, because there was a time when I genuinely thought we were “best friends”. In fact, she was the one who had first declared us “best friends”, way back in the early 1980s. Honestly, even though we were not as close as we once were years ago, if I had known she was expecting a baby, I would have wished her well. But I have feeling that she didn’t want me to know about her baby because she was afraid I’d somehow steal her thunder. I got married before she did and remember that she’d made a lot of mean-spirited, passive aggressive digs toward Bill and me. I think it upset her that I beat her to the altar. I think she was afraid that if I knew she was pregnant, I’d go out and get pregnant too, or something. She is a competitive person who tends to get jealous and insecure about some things.

I went and talked to Bill and it, and he said, “Well… you know, at our wedding rehearsal, she did and said some inappropriate things.”

Then he proceeded to tell me about how she’d basically hit on him while standing in for me at the rehearsal. She looked at him seductively as she reassured him and told him to relax and pretend she was me. After the rehearsal of the vows was finished, she batted her eyes at him and whispered, “Don’t forget your vows, Bill.”

Bill, being a good guy and knowing that she was my long term “best friend”, figured he’d misinterpreted her behavior. He never mentioned it to me. If he had, I think I would have asked her to leave. Because that behavior on the day before my wedding was extremely disrespectful. I know that if I had done that at her wedding, she would have been furious and there would have been ballistic outrage.

After hearing about her shitty behavior at our rehearsal ten years after our wedding and then discovering that she had me “restricted” on Facebook, so she could see my posts, but I couldn’t see hers, I realized that she was most definitely NOT a friend. I was just something to be used… for narcissistic supply, moral support, adoration, or whatever. It was all on her terms. So, although I really wanted to tell her off, I decided the best thing to do was block her on social media and say nothing. And that’s what I did.

About a year later, I got an unexpected message from her ex boyfriend from our high school years, a guy I hadn’t talked to in well over twenty years. He had a book that I had lent my ex friend, back when we were teenagers (also when they dated, although I think they both carry a torch for each other). He wanted to know how to return it to me. It had been well over twenty years and I had already replaced the book, so I told him to keep it.

I’m sure she put him up to messaging me. There’s no reason he would have otherwise. We weren’t close when we used to know each other. I think she wondered if I’d dish to him. I kept it polite and non-committal because I expected he’d return and report to her. This is what’s known as “Hoovering”. Just like the vacuum cleaner, it’s an attempt to suck someone back into a relationship. Narcissistic people never really let anyone go completely. One way to tell that someone you had dealings with is narcissistic is that they “Hoover”. I suspect that her ex boyfriend was unwittingly serving as a “flying monkey”… doing dirty work on her behalf.

A lot of narcissists will try to Hoover.

Several more years passed. Then, in February of this year, I got an unexpected private message from my former friend’s brother. Again– while we were Facebook friends at one time, I hadn’t spoken to him in years and he wasn’t active on Facebook, so I unfriended him. Out of the blue, I got this message, supposedly from him, with an update on ex friend’s life, including news about the daughter she never told me about. I was tempted to respond to that effect– that I hadn’t even known she’d been pregnant, so I figure we aren’t friends anymore. But I’ve learned that the best thing to do is not respond. No contact is essential.

Moreover, I had a feeling that it might have actually been her sending the message. Maybe she got access to his account and sent me the message because I didn’t have him blocked (I did have her blocked at that time). Either way, I was certain that even if it was a message from her brother– not a bad guy, by the way– she put him up to it. And it had NOTHING to do with her wanting to be friends with me. I was just a possession to her. She was just looking for supply. It didn’t need to come from me. It could have come from anyone. She hasn’t changed. Narcissists never do.

I wrote the below passage in a blog post I wrote back in 2013. I sure called it, didn’t I?

Something tells me she will eventually pop up on Facebook again or send me an email to tell me about her baby or whatever other news she feels compelled to share.  Or she’ll want to take advantage of my super long memory or knowledge and she’ll contact me for that reason.  I’ve watched her do it to other people over and over again.” 

But… I would be lying if I said I didn’t regret the loss of the “friendship”, or at least the illusion of the friendship. The truth is, we had many good times together. We spent many days and nights together playing. We went on trips together– shared books, movies, music, and many Saturday mornings playing with our Barbies together. And, at least until we got to high school, we genuinely liked each other, and it felt like a real friendship, even if people close to me didn’t like her and repeatedly warned me about her self-centered behavior.

But then it started to become clear that she just wanted me around to make herself feel better. There was no reciprocity in our relationship. I was doing most of the work to keep the relationship going, and many times, after talking to her or messaging with her, I was left feeling really angry and upset. She has a way of making cutting remarks that are intended to make the other person feel small. She never misses the opportunity. I also noticed that she wasn’t interested in my successes or triumphs. She only liked to see my failures, vulnerabilities, and heartbreaks. And not because she wanted to offer support.

In fact, I noticed that a lot of her friends were people I wouldn’t necessarily put as her “equals”. Most of them were people who had significant problems of some sort– obvious ones. I suspect it made her feel better to have people around who were worse off than she perceived herself. I came to that conclusion because I noticed that she became distant whenever I had successes. She didn’t want to hear about my triumphs, like a real friend would. She only wanted to hear about the bad stuff or, if she was in the mood, to have someone to gossip with and/or badmouth others to. I noticed she generally had shitty things to say about people we grew up with… she accused one woman who was in a happy marriage of being a “Stepford Wife”. She accused another woman who looked youthful for our age as having had cosmetic surgery. She was gleeful as she told me about another “friend” who had gained a lot of weight and seemed to be gaining more. It was just toxic and mean, especially since she claimed to be friends with some of them. I realized that she was probably saying the same nasty shit to people about me, too.

This could be her theme song. This was the cast we saw when we saw Avenue Q in England in 2016. They cleaned up the language in this version.

Personally, I like it when my friends succeed. I especially like it when Bill succeeds. I don’t feel jealous or slighted when he does well at work, nor am I jealous of my friends who are doing well. I like to be around people who are successful. I try to learn from them.

Yes, I have regrets. I’m sorry I wasted so many years with someone who didn’t value me or my friendship. I’m sorry that I wasted time with someone who kept me from making friends with people who were real friends. I’m sorry that I willingly subjected myself to years of her toxic crap. I’m sorry that she was my maid of honor and that she’s in my wedding pictures. I’m sorry that I put Bill in the position of having to wonder how to handle her inappropriate behavior at our wedding rehearsal. I regret that so many childhood memories involve my times with her, instead of times with other people who might be real friends with me today. I regret that her treatment made me a worse friend to other people. I really regret ever comparing myself to her and thinking that I wasn’t as “good” as she was, simply because of the things she said and did to try to make me feel that way. And I’m sorry that my experiences with her make it hard for me to trust people and make new friends.

But I don’t regret learning the truth about her before it was too late. I have the rest of my life to make real friends, and I’d rather be alone than be “friends” with fake people, anyway. Life is short, and it’s often not a lot of fun. However, it’s always better when it’s not spent wasting time with people who just want to bring you down and watch the world burn. I may regret decisions from the past, but I still have a great future to look forward to… if I survive this pandemic, anyway.

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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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