It would be funny, if it weren’t so tragic. It would be amusing, if it weren’t so maddening. In my experience, all narcissists do one weird thing: they believe themselves to have a skill they don’t actually possess and pursue it doggedly.
Dare to tell them the truth and watch them double-down, entrench, deny, bluster…and then prove they can do XYZ by doing it again…with even more tragic results.
On the “lite” end of the scale, I know a narcissist who can’t juggle. But it doesn’t deter them in the slightest. Most weekends will find them on their back patio, solemnly engaging in some form of juggling…balls falling everywhere in a blur of hands, grabbing and throwing and missing and missing and missing.
As Jane Austen put it, “What do we live for but to make sport for our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn.”
But this narcissist sees nothing funny about. They’re a juggler, by George! Not a comedian!
Their neighbors would beg to differ.
The Opera Singer?
Have you seen the 2016 movie Florence Foster Jenkins. If you haven’t, find it! Watch it! It’s brilliant and heart-rending!
Florence Foster Jenkins was renowned in the opera circles of the early 1900s for one reason and one reason only: she was THAT spectacularly BAD but it didn’t deter her from “singing”in the slightest.
I first heard of Florence Foster Jenkins years ago when Minnesota Public Radio aired a scratchy 1940s recording she paid to have made and then distributed to her friends, bless her heart! She warbled, shrieked and screeched all over the place. As Wikipedia says: “The historian Stephen Pile ranked her ‘the world’s worst opera singer … No one, before or since, has succeeded in liberating themselves quite so completely from the shackles of musical notation.’ ”
This did not dissuade her in the slightest, in fact, Meryl Streep as Florence Foster Jenkins remains steadfastly deaf and willfully blind to her operatic badness. There are moments of doubt but her sycophants, pitying her syphilitic state, lie to buoy her ego and she dies happy.
Bless her heart.
What is it about narcissists that draws them to the written word?
What is it about narcissists who cannot write that convinces them they’re the next Shakespeare?
I could earn a pretty penny as The-Editor-to-Narcissists-Who-Can’t-Write if I weren’t so traumatized from having done it already in my twenties. You don’t so much edit as completely rewrite ergo you’re actually their ghost writer.
On second thought, no one would hire me. Most narcissists are so self-deluded that they fancy themselves not only gifted writers but so brilliant that they don’t need an editor.
Rule #1 of Writing: Everyone needs an editor. I need an editor. I haven’t got one, but I need one.
Narcissists are no exception. The narcissists I’ve had the great misfortune to edit should be jailed for crimes against the English language. Shhhh. You hear that? It’s George Bernard Shaw rolling in his grave.
One narc author insisted on modifying each noun with no less than three adjectives, all beginning with the same letter of the alphabet as the noun they modify. Gag me with a participle! The worst part is that it must be genetic. I catch myself doing it too!
Another narc author wrote exactly as she spoke: incoherently. No, no, no. I think her writing was worse. You could kinda dope out what she was trying to say but not what she was writing about.
Yet another narc author self-published a novel that was without exaggeration horrendous in every way. The worst part is that this so-called author teaches writing to young, impressionable minds.
Yeah, tell me about it!
Running on for almost four hundred pages, this, this…no, I cannot bring myself to use the word “author.” Let’s go with dreamer. Yeah, dreamer is good.
As I was saying, for almost four hundred pages this dreamer narrates for us the sordid soap opera unfolding in their fevered imagination. It’s like reading the storyboard of a very bad, very slow, B movie with glaring plot holes and a storyline that makes about as much sense as The Big Sleep. Delete 25% of the words in this so-called book and it’ll improve about 5%.
Then suddenly, in the final chapter, all the loose ends (and they are legion!) are brutally tied up in a neat, little bow…that makes no earthly sense. I lost tooth enamel I was grinding so hard while reading this, this, this…thing.
Don’t even get me started on the punctuation! Just because you know the grammatical use of a semicolon, does not mean they should be sprinkled throughout each and every page. Frau Riley, my dear grammar and German teacher, taught us that semicolons, like mustard, should be used delicately. A soupçon here and there.
But again, the victim of this narcissist taking up their quill is adjectives. Fancying themselves so advanced that they can shake off the shackles of logical adjective/noun pairings, the dreamer tortures, tortures, us by using the wrong modifier with the wrong noun. For four hundred freakin’ pages!
And In Conclusion…
Our modern culture tells children, “You can do anything you want to do. You can be anyone you want to be.” And the millenials, bless their hearts, are something of a narcissistic trainwreck because of it.
Sorry, Honey, but no. You can’t do anything you want to do. You have certain strengths, certain skills, certain talents. Play to them; not against them.
You may want to write as I want to paint, but that just ain’t happenin’! The Good Lord did not see fit to put an artistic bone in my body and I’m okay with that! I accept it, graciously, and compensate by buying way too much art at thrift stores. Where does one go to buy more wall space?
The Good Lord did not give Michael the gift of writing. He can speak eloquently but somehow it gets terribly garbled when he tries to write it down. So he doesn’t try. He accepts his lack of the gift of writing gracefully and plays to his strengths, solder iron in hand. The man is a savant when it comes to electronics, especially vintage electronics. But he can’t write any more than I can solder.
In my experience, it is a trait of narcissists that they stubbornly believe they posses a skill the Good Lord did not see fit to give them and insist on wielding that non-existent talent to the misery and torture of themselves and everyone around them.
But what about the talents they do possess? The world is poorer for narcissists ignoring their real skills, forgotten like a Matchbox truck half-buried in a sandbox. What a slap in God’s face!
How much nicer the world would be if narcissists with verbal eloquence would leave off trying to paint and help negotiate World Peace. How much richer the world would be if narcissists with the gift for economics would give up on writing the Next Great American Novel and instead tackle the National Debt.
Dear Narcissists! Please play to your strengths…not against them. We will all be the happier for it.
Thank you for reading! If you like what you read, please check out my newest blog, Reluctant Cook Cheap Foodie where we explore the art and science of cooking from my perspective, that of a very unwilling cook!