Inspiration strikes in the oddest places. Memories are triggered when least expected, sometimes in the kitchen.
There’s an urban legend, and apparently it’s true, that three Michelin star Chef Marco Pierre White made a young pre-Michelin star Gordon Ramsay cry! Quelle horreur. Known in the 1980s as the enfant terrible of the culinary world, Marco was renowned for yelling, screaming and swearing at his staff and, five minutes later, calling them “darling” as if nothing had happened. Marco’s response to the Ramsay legend was fascinating. He said, and I quote exactly: “No, I didn’t make Gordon Ramsay cry. He made himself cry. That was his choice to cry.”
For narcissists everywhere this is their battle cry: “You chose to cry. No skin off my nose. No concern of mine. Not my fault. It was your choice to be hurt, to be miserable, to shed tears. I had nothing to do with it. Sticks and stones, y’know.”
Well, I disagree. Passionately. That’s just a cop out. A free pass for those who, like my ex-friend’s mother, actually believe the words of the poem It Matters Not and quote it to their sniffling victims: “It matters not if cherished friends, On whom I lean in vain, Have wounded me by deed and word, And left me with my pain.”
In reality, it does matter and words do have meaning. Hurtful words cause pain, just as they were intended to do. If the victim breaks down in tears, then those tears are not their fault. Not their choice. They didn’t cause themselves to weep.
The person who spoke those hurtful words is to blame.
Of course, no situation is simple and straightforward.There are always “extenuating circumstances” and a “backstory.”
Sometimes harsh words are necessarily to bring someone who errs back to the straight-and-narrow. Or to spur on a slacker. Not all words that bring pain are abusive.
Some people choose to “turn on the tears” to appear weak and helpless. To win sympathy. To control others. To play the victim. Believe me, I know! I come from a family that is always squirting tears everywhere and using them to play the victim and demand sympathy where they deserve none.
Some people can’t help but cry. Tears come unbidden and are uncontrollable. That’s me. But I don’t use them to manipulate. It just happens and I can’t control it. So I dash my tears away and tell everyone to ignore them. I don’t leverage my tears to play the victim.
But tears are normal. They’re natural. Only God knows how many millions of tears have been shed, probably in secret, by the victims of narcissists.
Sometimes, the tears are tears of anger, not of pain.
In Rebel without a Cause, there’s an unforgettable scene where the character played by James Dean confronts his apron-clad father about being utterly humiliated and controlled by the women in his life. The scene was so dramatic and James’ voice was so choked with emotion, he could barely speak.
That movie vividly paralleled a real-life video I found when searching YouTube for videos of actual narcissists behaving badly. A young man defies his father, who he has diagnosed as a narcissist, but he is so hurt and angry, his voice is strangled, nearly incoherent. Like James Dean, this young man can barely choke out any words.
I experienced this myself. Vividly I remember sitting at the head of the kitchen table, Mom on my left, Dad on my right. I’d been sat down for another one of their “talks.” Just hearing the word “talk” always flooded my body with adrenalin. My stomach would clench, my ears start to itch.
While I can’t remember exactly what I was being forbidden to do this time, I remember being so upset, so hurt and so angry that I too couldn’t speak. My throat tightened up, there was a huge lump. I was choked by my emotions.
Expressing myself angrily was not allowed. My parents were allowed to express anger but would only engage in discussion if I quenched my anger and remained calm. If I expressed myself angrily, they would send me to my room to “calm down!” That double standard puzzles me to this day.
Am I saying that Chef White is a narcissist? No. I’ve yet to learn very much about him, but I do know he was known for yelling, screaming and swearing in his kitchens. He admits it. Apparently, that’s par-for-the-course in the Food and Beverage Industry (but it doesn’t make it right.)
Am I saying that Chef Ramsay was up to scratch? No. Maybe he was letting the side down. But we all know he’s a fighter and a great worker who can bear great personal and physical pain. But as the story goes, Chef Ramsay crouched down in the corner, put his face in his hands and sobbed. That betrays some serious abuse was happening.
He’d taken all he could take and then some. What was being done and said to him crossed over all the lines of decency. Basic, common, human decency.
That’s what narcissists do. My mother had a saying: “Some things should never be said.” She was right. Narcissists say the unsayable things, then blame us for responding with emotion. Normal emotion. Valid emotion. Strong emotion. Tears. Anger.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Our tears, our anger, our emotions are an inconvenience to narcissists. They hate facing the normal ramifications that make it inconvenient for them to say and do the unconscionable things they say and do. They want free rein with no ramifications. That’s why they invalidate us at every turn. Why they blame us for having negative emotions inspired by them. Why they blame us for our tears.
When I was in my twenties, I could not allow myself to have any negative emotion until I first Googled it to ensure other people had that same emotion in similar circumstances. Then I could allow myself to cry, to get angry, to feel, express and work through a painful emotion…or try, anyways.
This article is your validation. Narcissists make us cry. It isn’t a choice. It isn’t an option. Tears are essential to work through the pain they cause us and purge those chemicals from our system.
Thanks for reading. For more of my articles where gastronomy-meets-psychology, please click here!