If narcissists are to be trusted, then we aren’t. It’s as simple as that. According to them, nothing about us is worth the pixels this article is displayed on. We didn’t see what we thought we saw. We didn’t hear what we thought we heard. Our intuition is pffffftttt. Our heart black. And our tongue? Not only does it spew lies but, according to them, even our tastebuds are wrong, wrong, wrong.
That may seem far-fetched, but why should it? Invalidation is like the Energizer Bunny – it just keeps going and going. It knows no boundaries of decency or normalcy.
If you think about it, invalidation is the perfect Free Pass for narcissists.
They can do anything to us and then say we’re crazy for remonstrating. They can say anything and then claim we’re lying about what they said, misheard them or took the wrong meaning. And it’s beyond easy for them to talk away those pesky emotions their words and actions cause in us. Something about the “lunatics running the asylum” springs to mind.
You’d think they’d leave us something. Perhaps our fashion sense. Maybe our love of classical music without that old sneer about “long-haired” music. Perhaps a golden ungaslit memory. A triumph unsullied by the claim, “You’re sister was so jealous of you.” At the very least, narcissists should lay off shaming us for our tastebuds. Nope!
That may sound weird, but ever since I was a little girl, I was shamed for my tastebuds. It’s a shame that never left me and finally, I have a chance to get it off my chest. Usually, there are plenty of readers who can relate to my real-life stories of narcissistic abuse and invalidation, so here goes!
As a child, I hated mustard. A speck of mustard on my tongue was enough to trigger my gag reflex. It is, after all, an emetic. But no matter how much I asked my parents to order my burger without mustard, they flatly refused (or didn’t have the balls) insisting, “Mustard is good!” This turned a yummy hamburger into a gastronomic nightmare.
Somehow I’d manage to wash down or swallow whole the vile yellow mess knowing that if I didn’t eat my burger, I might be punished. Like that fish sandwich I couldn’t choke down when I was seven. How vividly I remember being left alone in the kitchen for hours, crying mournfully, because I could not, I simply could not swallow the horrible thing. As a punishment for not eating my fish sandwich, my brand-new toy was taken away. After I had been sufficiently punished by its absence from my life, they gave it back. But frankly, I could never play with it without feeling abject shame.
It wasn’t just the Mustard Shaming that invalidated me. Growing up, food was a real issue. I’m grateful it was plentiful and nutritious, even when we were too poor to afford meat. But I’m the first one to know, from recent experience, that just because you’re poor, doesn’t mean the food has to taste bad.
Some of the dishes I had to eat as a child were horrible and I was shamed constantly for hating them. I’d scarf down raw veggies by the handful, but still they called me a “picky eater” when I wasn’t okay with using tomato paste, straight from the can, in lieu of ketchup. The smell of dumplings liberally flavored with thyme (?) nauseated me so badly, I was sent to my room empty-stomached as punishment while they ate supper without me. Being both narcissists and espousing the child-rearing bullshit of Dr. James Dobson, I sometimes think punishment was a kneejerk reaction because kids are automatically bad and good parents punish the slightest infraction. There was no humanity, no empathy, no “Damn! You’re right, Lenora. This recipe is horrible. How about toast and scrambled eggs for supper.” That’s what I would have done if I had parented myself.
Never will I forget a particular dish called Spicy Vegetable Chili. It was spicy…whew! It was vegetabley. But it didn’t taste a damn thing like real chili. Imagine to yourself a dark red broth, so redolent of chili powder that it seers its way down your esophagus. Swimming in this red soup are huge chunks of green peppers, engorged canned tomatoes and, the best part, hot swollen raisins. Can I really be blamed for dreading the cry of “Supper’s Ready”?
The other dreaded dish, besides Potato Soup, was Lentils on Fettuccine. Sometimes, even now, the smell of a fresh feces reminds me of that dish. (I’m not kidding.) To make Lentils on Fettuccine, you simmer lentils until mushy, then flavor them liberally with cinnamon. The noodles are the best part. When the dish was served, I drank cup after cup of skim milk to fill my tummy as well as wash the lentils down hopefully without tasting them, until my parents caught onto my little trick and said “No more milk.”
Even store-bought granola, my breakfast every single day before school, had a secret horror. There was always dirt at the bottom of the bowl. It made my teeth gritty, triggering waves of nausea. I complained about it. They didn’t believe me, of course. Today I realize it was probably dust from charred raisins, but still. What kind of a parent doesn’t care when their child reports dirt in their food! (And speaking of having things jammed down your throat, that happened once too. My jaw were pried open and my Dad’s thick fingers stuck a pill down my throat. I threw up…of course.)
After years of this, I’d internalized the tastebud shame. Although I ever quite believed Spicy Vegetable Chili or Lentils on Fettuccine were actually good, I believed there was something wrong with me and my palate. I didn’t have the Greatness-of-Character to (seemingly) enjoy these dishes the way my narcissists did, scarfing down two and three servings at each meal, encouraging me to also gorge and interrogating me suspiciously “Are you dieting!?! when I didn’t eat to the point of misery. (I was full!!!)
It wasn’t until I married and began cooking for Michael that things turned around. He assured me that, not only were my tastebuds not flawed, but I actually had a good palate!! He raved about my cooking, spurring me on to try new dishes and new cuisines. (My Hollandaise sauces are getting better!)
Most of all, he assured me that it wasn’t me. Although he only ate two meals prepared by my narcissists, that was enough! Halfway through the meal, he feigned being full and refused to eat another mouthful. And those were their best meals! He got lucky. Or as he says, “If those were their best dishes, I can’t imagine their worst.” It was he who taught me that the family’s recipe for beef chili should not be thickened with flour (and I don’t mean roux; I mean loose flour thrown in…hope for the best!). How thrilled I was to throw away family recipes, shredding them with angry passion.
Now I realize that my childish abhorrence of bad cooking upset my narcissists. They resented it because, deep down, they may’ve known that I was right. That their preparation of basically good ingredients was atrocious, disrespectful to the food. After all, I vividly recall one of my narcissists furiously stomping away from the house in a rage after coming home to find thick, gluey, green Pea Soup (devoid of ham hock!) being served for the third night in a row.
Instead of learning to cook well on a shoestring, they attacked me. Shamed me. Called me a “picky eater” which, looking back, was not fair because I loved all kinds of healthy things – fruits, vegetables, eggs, etc. But that’s what narcissists do: shame galore!
Years later, I shifted my work schedule later and later, in part to always come home after supper was over and done. What a relief to no longer be forced to eat the family meals. The day my narcissist blithely offered, “I’ll be happy to cook for you” they were met with a cheerful, “No thanks! That’s okay!” from me. Not again. Never again! Strangely, it was me starting to use their kitchen to cook for myself that led to my release, in a roundabout way. Not only did they once (unknowingly) eat an entire meal (bacon wrapped, garlic infused pork roast) I had prepared for myself, intending it for my work lunches all week, but they were also upset by all the energy it was taking to cook my food. Oy vey! Does the lunacy never stop!?! #sorrynotsorry
There’s a weird codicil to this story. One trait of narcissists is that, while their families may be impoverished, they always look out for Number One. Years later, it came out that while the rest of the family forked down legumes because we couldn’t afford meat, the chief narcissist was secretly buying donuts we could not afford and scarfing them every single day. This was the same narcissist who spent all their free time and energy trying to change the World during the 1980s instead of, oh I dunno, getting a better or a second job we could stop being impoverished and afford both the mortgage and a pound of hamburger. That’s what I would have done.
Although mealtime was a landmine fraught with emotion, I’m grateful I always had good nutrition and plenty of it. I’m also thankful I learned the basics of cooking and baking, although I no longer ascribe to the theory that porkchops must resemble shoe leather in order to be “germ free.” Plus, there were some spectacular family dishes I enjoy making to this day. Cheeseballs. Dill Dip, delicious with raw cauliflower. Pumpkin Pie, perfectly seasoned and handed down through at least four generations. And, of course, Rochester Cookies. Good Lutheran fare.
Well, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it! Now, it’s your turn. Cause I’m not the only one who was shamed for their tastebuds. Think back. What horrible food did your narcissist make you eat and then shame you for hating? I bet you have some doozies to share!
Thanks for reading! To learn more about what I’m writing these days, please visit my website: www.lenorathompsonwriter.com