Food for the Narcissist
There is a “gentleman” who is relatively new to my yoga studio. He came in with a bang, and has put on a show ever since.
He enters the door only when no one else is coming, and he makes sure everyone knows he’s arrived. His body language screams “look at me“. Sometimes he is playing up some positive physical attribute, but lately he is focusing on his “poor me” stature. He is filled with stories, about him, that he foists on all present, forcing them with his words to listen to every last syllable. The one and only question I’ve ever heard him ask anyone was to me, regarding my education, a question designed to discern if I was worthy to be asked out. Turns out I was, and before the words were out of my mouth, “I have a MA in Psychology”, the date request was made. I bet that were anyone to ask him what my degree is in he’d have no idea. All he needed to know was that I was educated.
I have no desire to date….ever. I have even less desire to date him.
My answer was swift and certain – “no, I don’t date”. Period. Not interested. Ever.
After making me explain myself – “what do you mean you don’t date? Everyone dates“, he spent 10 minutes expounding on why he wants to be with someone, he doesn’t like being alone.
Of course he doesn’t like being alone – he knows all his stories. He needs a captive audience to regal with all of his “interesting” life experiences. Except, he has no really interesting life experiences. What a quandry. How does a person, with nothing interesting to tell, command a captive audience for any length of time? Most of us, interesting or not, don’t even try to command an audience, as we are aware that we are no more special, or interesting, than anyone around us.
His second story positioned him to be a woman’s lib type of man. Always looking out for the welfare of women was his claim. How dare men assume women should be in charge of birth control, he feigned. Power to the women, he was onboard and ready to support women 100%. He was all about enabling women to be equal to men.
Until he asked me out. And I said no.
The 1st few weeks after his request I tried to act as if nothing had happened. It is one of my jobs to make people feel welcome at the studio, so I continued to welcome him like all our other students. It didn’t take long for me to understand that this was not a good plan. When he walks into the studio now, every action, every story, every movement is an exaggerated, well choreographed narrative, designed to peak my interest. Lest I sound narcissistic, which I’m sure I do right now, let me qualify this by saying that I was not the 1st to pick up on this. It was co-workers who noted that he walked in looking at me like I was a piece of meat to be devoured. I was so busy trying to modify my reaction to him, to ensure that I not hurt his feelings, I missed the obvious: he has decided to “win” me, and he will do whatever he needs to do. Including making himself pathetic, on the off chance that I respond to a “needy man”. Among his many ploys, he’s done the following:
- coming in extremely early on the days I’m working the desk, then announcing he’s got a fascinating story to tell;
- Lingering, long after all the other students have gone, waiting for me to finish vacuuming (or any of the numerous chores I”ve manufactured to avoid him, which usually take 20 minutes or more);
- asking me, and others, to friend him on FB to “critique” the pics of his children;
- asking me for tea, then waiting for me to make it and serve it to him, even though everyone else clearly serves themselves;
- breaking things, knowing that it is my job to fix them, that we will have to interact. Literally. He has broken the same thing, three times.
You might be reading this thinking “come on, this is normal behavior”, which is what I thought until today. Today I pulled into my parking spot, and he was in the car next to me. He was getting out of his car, extremely slowly, making groaning noises with each movement. It was a bit icey, so I went to get the salt, and began salting around his car. He said “that won’t do any good” and launched into some sad sack story that I walked away from. He trudged into the studio and sat on the sofa, hanging his head, making noises that said “pay attention to me, I’m a wounded boy”. I caught, as I ran away, the beginning of his story of, I suppose, falling. I didn’t stand around long enough to hear. I went into my meditation class and, when I came out, he was still sitting on the sofa, head hanging down in abject rejection, waiting for someone to engage him. Unfortunately for her, lucky for me, one of the studio owners came out of the meditation class with me and had to entertain his story of woe.
Perhaps I sound crazy here but seriously, I’m really freaking pissed off. I know that he’s going to show up when I work (how does he know this? My schedule is often random). I know that when he shows up he’s going to linger at the front desk, waiting for me to make a fuss over him. I know that it will take him forever to hang up his coat and yoga bag, and that, after that is done, he will sit on the sofa staring at me, waiting for me to slip up and look at him. I know that he is going to throw out bait, trying to pull me in. His tactic, before the sad sack soul who showed up today, was a piece of mail he got, introducing a play in a neighboring town. He gave it to the woman sitting next to me at the desk, but we both knew his intent. After giving it to her he sat, boring a hole into my skull with his pathetic, focused stare, waiting for me to bite; waiting for me to ask him about the theatre and give him an entree’ into a potential relationship.
I’ve been frustrated over the past few weeks, knowing he was coming in, eyeing me like a juicy steak he wanted to consume. Today though, he showed up just like my ex, and I was filled with disgust. He showed up pathetic. He has gotten to the point in which the only tactic he can think to use is to make me feel sorry for him. His head drooped, as did my ex’s so often. His shoulders were slumped. The air around him was heavy with the sense that he was suffering, he was hurt, he’d been victimized in some way, and everyone needed to both know and acknowledge him.
This is the number 1 way narcissists reveal themselves. Most of us would never show up that way, regardless of what we’ve been through. I put on a happy face when I show up. Why? Because the last thing I want to do is bring down the energy of those around me. I know that if I show up with sagging shoulders, a scowled face and a sad-sack story, any positive energy in that studio is going out the front door as I enter. I understand, and care, that what I bring to the world impacts those around me, and I work to ensure that impact is not negative.
He though, as with all narcissists, cares nothing at all about what those around him are feeling. It makes no difference to him that his despondent affect sucks the air out of those around him. In fact, he thrives on this very thing! As he sucks the air from everyone else’s lungs, he breathes freeling, reveling in the energy he’s stolen from all around him. This is validation that he is everything; that he is so important, and relevant, his mere presence changes the mood of the room. This is why narcissists are called vampires. They suck the life out of anyone they capture.
My angst around him has been growing, and I’ve been wondering why. Today I understood. He is triggering my memories of the relationship I had with my ex. He is emulating the exact behavior my ex engaged in to keep me trapped. As long as I felt sorry for him I couldn’t stand up to him, so I stayed, and put up with his shit.
It has been a long day, a long week, and, if you asked me right now, what I thought of this situation I’d say it’s bullshit. I’d say it is a dick move on his part to put me in this position, and the studio should kick him out.
The yogic side of me though knows that this is an opportunity for me to figure out how to deal with vampires. In the yogic world challenges are “opportunities”. Situations that make us crazy, or angry, or depressed, represent “triggers”, situations we’ve experienced before. As such, these are the chance we need to change our response and achieve an outcome that is positive and growth oriented.
Tonight though, the yogic side of me is exhausted and impaired. And I am left with anger. I’m angry that this man has made my 2nd home uncomfortable. I’m angry that any man thinks it okay to look at a woman as a “challenge”, to assume that because he wants to date she ought to acquiesce. I’m enraged that he thinks it’s okay to continue “working me” because ……. well, because he wants to.
Gross. I am suffocating.