Imagine to yourself the most judgmental person you know. Then double it. They live alone in the rarefied air atop their Ivory Tower of Holiness, staring down in righteous condemnation at those pathetic lifeforms below (i.e. the entire human race). No detail is too small nor insignificant to escape their withering, frigid disapproval.
Yep, that’s my Grandma. But you’ve already met her in my article, Narcissistic Granny: It’s a Multi-Generational “Thang.“
Judging by the thousands of hits on the article and many new subscribers, I’m sorry to report that I’m not alone. Too many of us know someone just like my Grandma. They’re cute, sweet and have wrinkles in all the right places. Unfortunately, they’re also a narcissist.
In this episode we’ll explore the “Granny Two-Step” or How-I-Learned-To-Lie-and-Finagle-Around-Grandma’s-Rabid-Judgmentalism-For-Decades. Whew!
The Granny Two-Step
Disclaimer: The Granny Two-Step is predicated on lying, clairvoyance, being intimidated, greed and “to thine own self being untrue.” Dance at your own risk!
Want to learn it!? Okay, okay! You twisted my arm! Maestro? Music, if you please!
Up on your toes now. Step forward gracefully, one step at a time, threading your way gingerly through conversation with Grandma. Your clairvoyance at fever pitch. Your intuition trembling like a cat’s whisker, sensitive to the most subtle (but usually blatant) judgmentalism emanating from Grandma.
Ooops! Said the wrong thing! Hit a Grandma Land Mine (GLM)!
Quick! Take two-steps backwards, bowing from the waist, clumsily backtracking and trying to convincingly eating your words to get back into Grandma’s good graces. Her opinion of you is paramount. Authenticity be damned!
Now, up on your toes again. Take another step forward. Damn! Said the wrong thing again! Hit another GLM.
(Mother will have some choice things to say to me later about my conversational clumsiness, dang it!)
Two steps backwards, kissing Grandma’s ass.
And that, my dears, is how you dance the Granny Two-Step!
What the Heck?!
“Why,” you ask, “would any sane person pirouette their way through life like this, their stomach tied in knots?” Ah, an excellent question.
Well, mon ami, we didn’t know anything else! As I explained in Part 1…
“To my shy, sensitive mother fell the role of being her mother’s emotional rock. From her infancy, she was trained in the fine art of codependence…For six decades… Grandma had Mom by the “balls,” so to speak…If Mother set a boundary, spoke her mind, did anything differently than Grandma does it, had a unique point of view or otherwise stepped out-of-line by even hair’s breadth, Grandma crushed her… self-esteem…”
Mother taught the Granny Two-Step to both myself and my father. After all, “lookin’ good” to the relatives was paramount due to their non-existent self-esteem and narcissism.
(Hell! If I was going to be seeing my grandparents, I had to go to bed early the evening before so I’d look well-rested and reflect well on my father’s skills as a parent. Really!?!)
But there was another motivation, too. It’s green. It rustles. You can buy things with it. The love of it is the root of all evil. Grandma was generous with it. As they say, “Follow the money trail.”
Where Are the GLM’s? (Grandma Land Mines)
A better question is, Where aren’t there GLMs!?! Every conversational topic, nay, every person is inherently a GLM.
If you aren’t exactly like Grandma, agree with her on everything and do everything the way she does it, you’re inherently a walking-talking GLM. Maybe it’s because you’re a threat to her “perfection.” Maybe it’s because judging others makes her feel superior. Maybe it’s all of the frickin’ above.
All I know is, she feeds off judging other people like a self-esteem vampire. No one is exempt; no one is immune. From her nearest and dearest to friends, neighbors and total strangers, all are GLMs. Sources of narcissistic supply. I call this “clambering on the carcass of other people” in order to raise your own self-esteem.
One particular GLM sticks out in my memory. It’s so stupid I blush to mention it, but it’s an excellent example of what I’m talkin’ about.
We were talking about recycling and I mentioned that occasionally I’d just toss a tiny, 6-oz tomato paste can in the garbage instead of washing and recycling it. Holy crap, y’all. Grandma’s “Thou Sinner” facial expression froze my blood in withering disapproval. “Lenory!” she exclaimed. You’d have thought I’d joined a gang, started dealing and cheated on my husband.
The next time I saw her she made a point of thoroughly washing out a tin can, carefully drying it and tearing up her bad knee struggling down the stairs to the basement to deposit the precious can in her pristine recycling bin.
Well laadee-frickin-da! Tar and feather me, Granny. I ain’t doin’ it. Or better still…disinherit me! (But you already did that when I got married to the man of MY choice, didn’t you!)
Let’s be frank. The Granny Two-Step requires lying. Um, isn’t that wrong!?! (Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another. Lev. 19:11 KJV)
This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. – Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78–82
So if being (conditionally) loved and remaining in this relationship requires me to lie, why am I in it!?!
The Final Straw
My husband is one of those rare people who is honest. Just honest. Michael is just Michael. Heck! I can’t even get the guy to say he wants supper if he’s not hungry! That’s how honest he is.
When we married in 2012, we asked my Grandma to host our wedding in her beautifully decorated living room. Michael’s beloved grandparents had passed away years ago, so I was excited for Michael to have a grandmother again. He was so kind, so gentlemanly to her!
Unfortunately, he made the “mistake” of also being honest with his new grandma-in-law. He didn’t dance the Granny Two-Step. He wouldn’t have danced it, even if he’d known the steps. It requires lying and Michael doesn’t lie.
Unfortunately, Grandma wasn’t having any of it! Time and again, I saw the flash of cold, hard judgmental steel in her eyes as Michael shared with her honestly.
It was the final straw for me. He didn’t deserve to be treated like shit!
I’d been programmed from birth to dance the Granny Two-Step. I was used to being treated like shit, used to being abused. But I’d be damned if anyone abused my man! I’d be damned before I’d teach one blasted step of the damned Granny Two-Step to this good man…who wouldn’t have danced it anyways!
So there was only one choice: No Contact! And I made it gladly, with fire in my eyes. Enough was bloody well enough!
Grandma doesn’t take kindly to strong people who stand up to her. The first time her daughter did it, Grandma faked a heart attack. When I went “No Contact,” she sent to the sheriff to my doorstep. Typical narcissist reactions. Textbook. Quintessential. Downright uncreative. Shoulda’ seen it coming.
But that’s another story, for another day! Please here to read Part 3, “Narcissistic Granny: Faking A Heart Attack & Manipulating Police (Pt. 3 of 3).”
Thanks for reading and, as always, I leave you with an audio clip of the immortal words of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper — my new mantra and possibly my reason for living. (Turn up your speakers!)
Did you like what you read here? If so, I’d be happy to contribute an original story about narcissistic abuse (and its many rotten bedfellows) to your website, too. For details on the “whole package” deal I offer, please visit www.lenorathompsonwriter.com. I promise…you won’t be disappointed!
Recommended Reading: Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Susan Forward and Craig buck. Life-changing book! Parents don’t have to hit you to be toxic, abusive and deserving of No Contact!
For more rants, ravings and reverse engineering of narcissism, please visit www.lenorathompsonwriter.com and don’t forget to subscribe for daily updates by email. Thanks!
This article is for informational and educational purposes only. Under no circumstances should it be considered therapy nor replace therapy and treatment. If you are feeling suicidal, thinking about hurting yourself, or are concerned that someone you know may be in danger of hurting himself or herself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is staffed by certified crisis response professionals. The content of these blogs and all blogs written by Lenora Thompson are merely her opinion. If you are in need of help, please contact qualified mental health professionals.