They were my houseguests for only one night. On my turf. Visitors in my “castle.” Years after their brief and painful visit, I’ve realized just how disrespectful they were. But subtly, oh, so subtly disrespectful as only narcissists can be. If you’re hosting narcissists in your home, let’s just say that you’re definitely not “entertaining angels unawares.”
It all started, well, it started when I met my guests, a husband and wife. We were all codependents together. The dynamics were toxic from Day One, but it took me years to realize it. Before that, I bought into their spinning-of-reality hook-line-and-sinker, only realizing years later what the heck happened!
The wife had this way of quietly insinuating things…almost in a whisper…between you, me and the fencepole. That was her style. I remember she gossiped about her daughter’s relationship skills…completely failing to mention the shocking abuse both her children bore as children. Then she, oh! so subtly implied that her son had struggled with alcohol, undoubtedly to convince me and herself that her husband’s (former) alcoholism was simply genetic and thus neither his imbibing nor his drunken abuse of his children could possibly be his fault!
When I hosted this couple, I’d not realized any of this. So I welcomed them and being a feeder, started making sandwiches as soon as they arrived at our home, just to tide them over until supper. Bacon-lettuce-and-tomato sandwiches as I recall.
This was in the heart of the “carbs are bad” period…which now that I think of it, has never really stopped. So without thinking too much about it, I made open-face BLTs. No sandwich top, less starch, more flavor.
The sandwich was sent back for the cover. In a restaurant, yes, that would be appropriate. But as a guest in a private home!?! How rude, impolite and ungrateful! Of course, I made another piece of buttered, mayo toast, apologizing profusely!
Back then I was completely a Little Nell from the Codependent Country, eager to please and desperate that everyone like me. Yes, that’s right. I was trying to win the approval of my guests in my house. If anything, it was they who were there on approval: not me. But no codependent worth their salt would ever think like that. I certainly didn’t.
Did the disrespect end there? Certainly not! It only got worse.
The next meal I served was chili using my husband’s recipe. A recipe so simple yet so good he once won a chili-cooking competition with it. As I stirred the chili, my guest started enthusiastically washing the very few dishes I had left in the sink.
Now that sounds so nice and perhaps it was nicely meant, but I don’t feel it was nice at all. Why? Because I had set a boundary. I had specifically told her not to wash the dishes and she bashed that boundary. She took over. She violated my express wishes in my own home.
You see, leaving those dishes in the sink had been a triumph for me. I was consciously fighting the drive to appear perfect. The I-must-have-every-dish-in-the-dishwasher-before-my-guests-arrive-or-they’ll-judge-me perfectionism. By violating my don’t-wash-my-dishes-boundary, she had validated exactly what I was trying to recover from: my perfectionism. My dishes: my house: my rules. My ignored rules.
As I stirred the delicious chili, my insouciant guest casually took control. “We like,” she whispered, “our chili with beans.”
Regular readers will know from my article Narcissistic Invalidation: Every Your Tastebuds Are Wrong, that if there’s anything I hate, loath and abominate, it’s beans. But dutifully I scrounged in the cupboard and dumped a can of (disgusting) kidney beans in the chili, as per her wishes.
Did the disrespect end there?
Don’t be ridiculous, darling.
Dessert brought even more disrespect!! I simply served Neapolitan ice cream. Surely, I couldn’t screw this up!!! As I handed a bowl of ice cream to my male guest, I was “thanked” with a huge guffaw of belly laughter right in my face.
I was shocked. Confused. Hurt.
“What’s wrong?” I asked sincerely. “Isn’t it enough ice cream?”
He just laughed harder. No words, no explanation. Just laughing in his hostess’ face!
That was pretty much “it.” I turned on my heel and busied myself in the kitchen, fighting back the hot tears of confusion, hurt and anger. The townhome had an open floor plan so there was no privacy to compose myself. My husband’s jolly good about noticing these things, so he came and put his arms around me and asked “What’s wrong?”
“They’re laughing at me,” I whispered, “and won’t even tell me why!!!”
Then my female guest again invaded the kitchen. According to her, I was being laughed at for giving such large servings of ice cream.
Did she apologize? Make it all better? Heck no!!
“You’re too sensitive,” she said. It wasn’t enough for her to bash my boundaries, send back food, tell me how to cook, now she was shaming and insulting her hostess!!!
I made an early evening of it and, frankly, completely failed to follow through with my plan of rising early to make waffles for our guests. I was exhausted. And, frankly, the waffles probably wouldn’t have been good enough for them anyways! Screw ’em! By the time I came down the next morning, they’d made toast for themselves and were packed, ready to leave.
What a relief!
The shocking part is that I didn’t realize what had happened until years later. Years! Subtle and frivolous as it may seem, the disrespect that occurred was huge. Guests should be on their best behavior…not demanding, not running the show, not bashing boundaries and definitely not mocking and criticizing their hostess.
I’ve long accepted the Good Lord did not give me the gift of enjoying hospitality. After entertaining guests like that, I’m absolutely positive I was entertaining narcissists…not “angels unawares.”