Let’s talk about me and my feelings on narcissism. We can talk about self-aware irony afterward.
You can’t always spot the narcissist at first. Maybe, they just have a lot of great stories involving famous people, maybe you just have a lot in common and that’s why they have to share their own anecdotes every time you mentions something going on with you. But after a while, it’s more than just a quirk or an annoying bit of selfishness. Instead, it’s that the person only sees that world as a hall of mirrors reflecting facets of him or herself. People and situations are reduced to obstacles, tools or goals, and with no thought given to even the idea that they are multidimensional people worthy of consideration on their own merits. It drives me crazy how many of them I meet that are somehow warping the world to fit their default self-centered view.
And they really can be wildly successful, despite personalities that should theoretically drive anyone away.
I had a couple of memorable dates with an almost textbook example. Sure he was incapable of thinking beyond his own desires and treated me like crap, but he was sexy and a genuine rock-star musician. I blame being 22 as much as anything else. I ignored all the red flags. Sure he seemed somewhat self-obsessed, but coming into D.C. for a private concert for the Obamas and their guests, who wouldn’t be a little swell-headed. And his message before he arrived was so romantic.
He said that he was staying at a suite in the Willard and that since there was supposed to be great weather and he was so excited to see me, how about we have dinner outside at Cafe du Parc? And his parting comments made it even better: “I’ll keep the entire evening open so there is no rush for dinner, looking forward to seeing you, I’ve been thinking of you”. I dressed to kill and when I met him, he looked even better than I remembered. He playfully kissed me on the cheek, whispering in my ear how beautiful I looked and he held the chair for me to sit down. European romance.
Not even the great wine could save the next three hours from being the most tedious of my life. “Do you want to hear the story of how I became so famous?” That is not a paraphrase, that’s how he talked. And it went downhill from there. You know how Kanye West sometimes gets mocked for his bragging about being a genius and such? Imagine that, but with much less to back it up and without at least Kim Kardashian to distract from his antics. I couldn’t get a word in as he explained that not only was he the best musician of his instrument in our era, but the best in history.
Oh how I tried to improve things. What are your bandmates like? “They’re okay but the only reason that we’re famous is because of me.” “Tell me more about your childhood, what else were you interested in?” “Oh, my childhood, was amazing, I was so famous and my city is so proud of me.”
I was ready to start looking for the hidden camera, so ridiculous was this conversation. I’m pretty sure if I was replaced by a chimpanzee in a blond wig he wouldn’t have noticed. Those eyes I thought I could get lost in were nothing more than mirrors for him, reflecting his own image in everything he saw. I flagged the waitress and tried my best to marshal my words past the bottles of Dom Perignon in asking for the check. My heels were too high for me to immediately escape and I couldn’t quite bring myself to tell Mr. Rockstar that the end of dinner was not the sign I wanted a “private concert” in his rooms as he suggested.
Once upstairs, I nodded along as he played his guitar. With his eyes closed it seemed more like he was trying to seduce himself than me. When he went to the bathroom to “freshen up,” I seized my chance. By that I mean I seized the bottle of Dom Perignon in his minibar with one hand, my heels with other, and sprinted out of the suite to the elevators.
Drinking straight from the bottle in the company of a wonderful girlfriend 20 minutes later, I could be a little more philosophical about the whole thing. But the events of that evening have stuck with ever since and I’ve met more people who clearly need some kind of empathetic therapy. In some ways, I think I should thank the narcissists I’ve met.