Bad Gift Giving: One of the hallmarks of narcissists! They may give gifts but it’s usually something incredibly cheap or something they like or what they think we should like because they like it. The most brilliant explanation of it came in an episode of Frasier. I wrote all about it in Narcissists and Gift Giving.
In this set of two articles (click here for Part 1), we’re talking about purging our lives of physical possessions that are tainted with narcissistic abuse, stuff that reeks of bad memories. One of the most emotionally-charged and hated items I’ve sold was the big topaz ring (pictured above) that my parents gave me on my High School Graduation Day.
Why did I hate it so much? Well, first you need to read Part 1 of this article. Then what’s written below will make much more sense!
In 2016, after eighteen years of wearing my graduation ring which never failed to sadden me, I finally sold it. Why? Because it betrayed two things: 1) Mother’s love of money and 2) Mother’s devotion to her own taste, regardless of mine. (Don’t even get me started about the garish floral pants she bought me or the red-and-blue [I hate red!] patchwork dress or the too-tight-green-outfit-and-hot-sweater she made me wear because Grandma bought it!!!)
The topaz ring came after I’d flogged my guts out for twelve years in school, trying to make my parents proud and happy by being the model child and perfect student earning a 4.0 GPA and gracefully giving up everything they told me to give up…friends, extra curricular activities, field trips, band, boyfriends, my first date invite and finally, regular school itself. (Even then, it still wasn’t enough for my dad. I heard he was disappointed with my progress in homeschool.)
On the horrible day I graduated High School, my gift from them was That Ring which cost, if memory serves, about $25 from the Home Shopping Network. It may’ve even been The Daily Special. I dunno.
The topaz ring was given to me after they had squirreled away thousands of dollars for several years, particularly during my two horrible years of homeschool. Sure, they bought a desk, a bookshelf, a computer and some books for my schooling. But they saved on things like my tuition, school clothes, dressy clothes for church, new glasses, new shoes, extra curricular, social events, a class ring, proper professional graduation pictures, etc., etc.
Now, Mom knew for years I’d I salivated over a trillion cut, Swiss topaz ring. Yes, they cost a little more but were so beautiful, with a finesse that big blob of blueness just didn’t have.
Hadn’t I earned what I really would’ve liked instead of what Mom liked!?!
But, I forgot, this is the woman who will…how did Laura Ingalls Wilder put it? “Skin a flea for its hide and tallow.” Or, in her case, would come to begrudge me hot water and natural gas for cooking my food even though I paid rent!
Of course, she bought me a cheaper ring. A ring she (and her pocketbook!) loved and I steadfastly, but silently, hated. It was like wearing a disappointment on my hand. Yet, I faithfully wore it and feigned gratitude and delight for eighteen years. Eighteen years!!!
Finally, following my husband’s excellent example (see Part 1), I sold it in 2016 on eBay to an ex-coworker and watched in delight as the mailman picked up the package and took that Object out of my life forever. Now it brings Signe joy where for me it conjured only bad memories of the hardest year of my life.
Now I look around our home, and peer into my jewelry trays (I ditched the jewelry armoire from Granny too) and the items remaining are mostly narcissist-taint free. They make me smile instead of grimace. That’s what home should be: a solace where nothing jars you. Not a dumping ground for narcissists’ hand-me-downs and bad gifts!
Strangely enough, some of the items I enjoy were gifts from narcissists. But somehow, I don’t see the narcissists when I look at them. The clock, the wall art all hung in my childhood home and now on my walls but they feel “clean.” Somehow, they escaped the taint.
Not everything has to go. Keep the clean items that you “know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
But what if something very valuable and/or replete in family history is tainted for you?? What then?
Don’t do what my mother did! She cut the family tree out of the Swedish Bible and ditched the rest. It should have come to me and I would’ve loved it and cherished it. Instead, she let the “taint” of her dislike for her Swedish father (and her OCD spartanism) cheat me out of my rightful family heirloom.
Instead of destroying things, pass ’em down. Give ’em back. I’ve shipped family heirlooms to other members of the family (the offer is still out there on the Depression glass!) and they treasured them much more than I did. Be creative. Don’t be greedy. Don’t be kneejerk. If the very sight of something pisses you off, a sibling or cousin might treasure it. Think twice before you ship it off to the Goodwill!
Which brings us back to the Thompson coffeetable that opened this discussion in Part 1. Yes, that’s the one. The one Michael pitched off the balcony and watched in delight as it exploded into a thousand shards of glass and timber.
Sometimes you just gotta throw something…as hard as you can…as far as you can. The pain is that profound. Michael did it to his childhood coffeetable. It broke the power of the Evil man who should get down on his marrow bones and thank the Good Lord everyday for giving him such a wonderful son called Michael Thompson.
I did it to the beautiful Edgar Berebi cameo brooch my mother gave me. She said the lady on the brooch with the serene expression and Gibson-girl up-do hair reminded her of me.
Well, I couldn’t see it! What I did see was pressure to live up to some caricatured ideal woman, serene and beautiful, that my mother imagined I was. In truth I was a mass of insecurities, pain, anger, self-loathing. Anything but serene!!!! The brooch was like a burr under my saddle that I just couldn’t shake. Yet I wore it, just to please Mom. I couldn’t bear to see the disappointed look in her eyes.
I kept that damned guilt-inducing brooch for almost twenty years. Just as our move to Northern Minnesota in 2013 triggered Michael to destroy the hated coffeetable, so our move triggered me to destroy the brooch. I threw it in the trash just as hard as I could throw.
And missed…to Michael’s great amusement. (The damn physical world and I do not see eye-to-eye. I haven’t got the manual dexterity God gave a goose. So I think the physical world should respect my best efforts and work with me. Wastebaskets should jump up to capture my garbage regardless of how badly I throw. This, alas, never happens.)
This gave me the pleasure of finding the damned brooch and throwing it away again…just as hard as I could throw. This time, it actually made its way into the wastebasket and from there to the local incinerator/power plant.
What a relief!!! Now I can just be me. No pressure from a damn cameo on a damn brooch that encapsulates some imaginary person my mom imagines I was…but I never actually was. Sorry, Mom. Maybe if you hadn’t raised me in a narcissistic home to be so codependent….!
Now it’s your turn. What items in your home are so tainted with bad memories that you avert your eyes? Feel uncomfortable. Hide them away in spare bedrooms or the attic. Time for a jolly good purge!
I hope we Thompsons have inspired you to purge everything in your home that makes you sad. It does take courage but oh! you’ve no idea the joy that follows. Make room for truly happy things to enter our life by chucking, selling, donating, handing down, burning, smashing or otherwise decimating the bad! Then you’ll have the space and the money for building a happy, narc-free life for yourself!