When you read a post on a blog, an article in the news, a book, a tweet, or look at the cover of a glamour magazine, browse Instagram, Facebook, watch a video, TV or a film, do you see people?
When you look in the mirror, or at a photo of yourself, do you see a person? Or are you just seeing the bits you don’t like, treating your body like a thing which needs fixing, and not seeing the soul within looking back at you with your own eyes alive with thought and feeling?
Do you think other people do that too or is it just you?
Do you feel as though you’re a person who is a people?
Are other people persons too?
“All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.”
― Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me
It took me a long time to see myself as a person who is part of the collective known as people.
Does that sound strange?
Can you relate to it?
What are you thinking right now… and will you share it as is in a comment on this post, unfiltered, unedited for public approval, consumption?
Don’t worry, I’m not going to judge you for not commenting.
I’ve only just started commenting on other blogs myself even though I’ve been part of the blogging community for several years now and feel comfortable here.
I did comment a few times in the past. One of my very first comments on another blog’s post was a long rambling mess and after that… I didn’t want to do that again! The blogger was fine with it, but I wasn’t.
Since then (until now) if I commented on someone else’s post I felt the need to edit the thought I wanted to express via comment until it was a stiff and meaningless shadow of its former self. Afterwards I would worry about it, wishing I could delete it, that I hadn’t said anything… so I stopped saying anything except on my own blog in my posts and in the comments on my posts (took me a while to figure out that I needed to reply to comments on here, not leave people hanging… although I’m sure some commenters wished I had left their comment without a reply).
If I did risk sharing my thoughts as is on another blog… afterwards I would repeatedly go over and over it in my mind telling myself that I was an idiot, too weird to live in this world of people… who knew how to be proper people, proper people who could interact properly with other proper people, who knew the proper things to say and do.
That wasn’t me. But who or what was me?
“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.
This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”― Albert Einstein
Then something snapped and clicked inside of me… and no, I’m not a proper person now, saying and doing things properly, but neither are other people.
I’m still the weird, strange, crazy mistake-making mess that I’ve always been, but now I realise that everyone else is that too, just in their own way (don’t worry, you’re not just like me… for a moment there you panicked, didn’t you)… and I really like being me now, and being a person who is part of the collective known as people.
[while I’m writing this there’s a tiny distressed buzzing sound coming from somewhere close. I think it’s a fly caught in a spider’s web, but I can’t locate its precise location… it’s been driving me a bit nuts, but the moment I decided to include it in the post, it went silent, it might be dead. I wonder if it’s a metaphor…!?]
Before I go any further into this post journey, I’d like to pause and pay homage to the person who inspired this ramble through the countryside of human life.
Melanie of Sparks From A Combustible Mind, read the post I wrote yesterday – Men – and shared it in her post : Man O Men… Thank you very much, Melanie, for sharing 🙂 In her excellent post she took a tangential roam through the thoughts, feelings, and associated experiences within her which had been provoked by reading my post.
One of her shared stories reminded me of the following clip from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which is one of my favourite sketches of theirs. I saw the film when I was about 7 yrs old… it was my first introduction to world politics (I already knew about family politics, although this added to that), and it left a deep impression. Particularly the bit where the character yells: Help, Help, I’m being repressed!
Melanie asked in her post four questions. One of those is the inspiration for this post and is also the source of the title of my post.
Does our self image get so wrapped up in outward appearances, that we lose sight of the fact that we’re all PEOPLE, regardless of outward ‘markers’?
I commented on Melanie’s post and mentioned to her that I would be using her question in my post… I also mentioned that I might end up discussing narcissists.
One of the reasons I have struggled with seeing myself as a person, and being part of the collective known as people, is because my parents were narcissists.
Narcissists see themselves as special, they are not one of the people they are above the people – superior superiors, superhuman.
If you are a member of a family ruled over by a narcissist, especially if you are made from their flesh and blood, then you are not allowed to be one of the people.
You are kept isolated on Mount Olympus. Kept away from mere mortals. They are gods and you are their progeny, you must not be sullied by mere mortals.
You are not a person, you’re a thing, an object they own, an extension of them like an arm or a finger which they might use to point at someone beneath them. What you are is all about who they are, who they need for you to be for them to be who they need to be…
…which in my case meant I was the portrait of Dorian Gray hidden in a dark attic getting uglier and more horrible by the second while they remained as Dorian Gray, perfect, beautiful, powerful, with no regrets.
If there is more than one progeny, two for instance – one child will become the golden child (the good one, the hero, Icarus) while the other child becomes the scapegoat (the bad one, the villain, Pandora). These two will be pitted against each other, fighting in the arena to entertain and empower their parents.
If you think that you do not know a narcissist, have never met one or been affected by the dynamics involved… think again.
The seven deadly sins of narcissism described by psychotherapist Sandy Hotchkiss:
Shamelessness – Shame is the underlying factor in all cases of unhealthy narcissism. In a healthy person, shame is processed in a normal manner, whereas narcissists have difficulty processing this feeling in a healthy way. Narcissists also tend to inflict shame on other people, a concept referred to as projection.
Magical thinking – Narcissists tend to perceive themselves as perfect and flawless. The distorted thinking and illusion that causes narcissists to feel this way is referred to as magical thinking.
Arrogance – Arrogance and a disregard for other people’s feelings are typical characteristics of narcissism. Narcissists often have a low self esteem which they try to relieve by insulting or degrading others. This helps to re-inflate their ego when they are feeling deflated or lacking in worth.
Envy – Due to their sense of being superior to others, narcissists may feel insecure when faced with another person’s ability, which they may try to belittle by demonstrating contempt or dismissal of it.
Sense of entitlement – A sense of being perfect and superior means narcissists often expect to receive favorable treatment and for people to admire and agree with their opinions or actions. Failure to comply may be perceived as an attack on their authority and superiority. A person who flouts their authority is often considered to be a difficult or awkward person by the narcissist, who will proceed to demean them or their opinion, especially in front of others. Defiance can also trigger anger in the narcissist which is referred to as “narcissistic rage.”
Exploitation – This refers to the narcissist’s tendency to exploit others and show no regard or empathy for their emotions or interests. This often occurs when the other person is in a subservient position, where it is awkward or impossible to resist the narcissist. On some occasions, this subservience is only assumed rather than real.
Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism via News Medical Life Sciences
Lack of boundaries – Most narcissists fail to understand their boundaries and recognise that other people are individuals rather than extensions of themselves. Those who support the self-esteem of the narcissist are expected to always do so, with the narcissist failing to recognize the independence of the other person.
If you have been following the news in recent times and have been affected by one particular person who regularly manages to grab the headlines with their attention seeking antics…
For a narcissist, negative attention is more valuable than positive attention. Negative attention has more fuel to feed the seeker of attention. Negative attention is like a roast dinner with all the trimmings, rich gravy, stuffing, roast potatoes, brussels sprouts, etc. It is filling and satisfying (momentarily) for a bottomless pit of greed and need. Whereas positive attention is like eating a healthy energy bar.
… you might have noticed that they have split the big family over which they preside into a golden child faction and a scapegoat faction, and these two factions are fighting in an arena to the amusement of the great father narcissist, who is much entertained and empowered by the chaos and confusion.
He reminds me so much of my father… it’s uncanny.
One of the things which narcissists are very adept at doing is appearing glamorous to others, to their audience, to their worshipers, to the little people below Mount Olympus (don’t they look like ants from up here).
To a narcissist appearance is everything – if they look it then they are it. They love wearing the latest status symbols because that impresses them and others, and is a quick way of saying – I’m better than you, look up to me!
They are also very skilled at bewitching you with their glamour – the magic enchantment of their charm, or the spells they cast in the form of diversionary tactics.
All they have to do is make you angry and poof! you’re lost in a cloud of smoke, stumbling around in a house of mirrors.
All of which leads me to…
The Weekly Prompts’ Word Prompt: Glamorous This week’s word prompt comes with some added extras in the form of two sets of questions – one for the ladies and one for the gentlemen.
Ladies – Do you ever feel glamorous, and did you feel glamorous when you were younger?
- Do you prefer smart or casual dress?
- Do you make an effort with yourself when you are at home, and is it important to make an effort?
- What about your other half does s/he make an effort?
Gentlemen – Do you think your other half is glamorous?
- Does your other half make an effort for you?
- Do you make an effort with yourself?
- Do you prefer smart or casual dress?
Melanie also asked in her post – Man O Men… – the question: Do we as a society have a tendency to HAVE to categorize people into genders?
SueW of Nan’s Farm, who is one half of the two genies behind Weekly Prompts, and who put together this week’s Word Prompt: Glamorous, wrote a wonderful and personal post, with beautiful photographs, in reply to the prompt: Playing the Part
Certain elements in SueW’s story reminded me of my mother, and her relationship with my father.
My father was an artist, and for a while in his career he was much sought after by society. The way he painted made women want to be his muse, many pursued him, many were very beautiful, and some succeeded in becoming a muse for a moment, for a painting or two.
My mother was an actress (she appears briefly in a 1950’s Hollywood film, so young, so innocent looking) before she married my father.
She had followed in the footsteps of the female side of her family which included a thespian (whose father was a clergyman and whose brothers were in the armed forces) who became an actress during the days when it was considered to be a job akin to being a prostitute. My mother adored this ‘Aunt’, as she was a formidable woman – that’s what and who my mother wanted to be.
Shortly after my parents were married my mother gave up her career aspirations and focused her attention on helping my father with his career (which included ignoring his many affairs). She worked hard to be the beautiful and powerful woman behind the successful self-made man.
My mother always dressed up, even when she was stuck on Mount Olympus wrecking her nails doing the gardening, sweating over a hot stove, scrubbing, cleaning, and fixing the generator. When she woke up in the morning, the first thing she did was to ‘put her face on‘. In other words she would apply a layer of make-up over her actual face. She did it even when she had the flu and couldn’t get out of bed.
My father eventually left my mother for a woman who was a Hippie and didn’t bother with make up or any of those ‘old fashioned’ ideas of being a woman. She wasn’t as beautiful as my mother, she didn’t help my father with his career, she didn’t bother too much with housework, but she did look after my father when he had his first stroke (she said that it happened on the very day that she’d decided to leave him for good… so she stayed and cared for him until he died over a decade later).
My mother, like many women whose husbands leave them for another woman (although technically my mother left him first because she hated being stuck on Mount Olympus), wondered what the other woman had that she didn’t and drove herself a bit mad obsessing over it (he hadn’t left her before for all those other women, women who had been far more attractive than this woman).
One of the things the other woman had was freedom, she was a free spirit who did as she pleased and treated the men in her life as lucky to have her in their life… she could leave at any moment.
My father met her while she was the mistress and muse of a married with children artist friend of his. That artist friend died suddenly from a heart attack, and my father inherited a mistress.
Nothing my mother did to try and get my father back ever worked to get him back… but I don’t think my mother really wanted my father back, what she wanted back was her youth, was all the time, the days, the years she saw as wasted on him.
If only she’d never met him, no matter how glamorous a life they led during the honeymoon phase and golden years of their relationship and his career. If only she’d continued pursuing her career, as an actress, perhaps as an opera singer, maybe as a musical star… but instead she was left with nothing. With burdens… regret… fury.
“Vile and ingrate! too late thou shalt repent– William Congreve, The Mourning Bride
The base Injustice thou hast done my Love:
Yes, thou shalt know, spite of thy past Distress,
And all those Ills which thou so long hast mourn’d;
Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d,
Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d.”
From observing the relationship between my parents, and getting sucked into the sturm und drang of it all (my conception was due to my mother trying to fix what was broken in their life together… my birth and I failed to fix anything, and apparently only made things worse but there was no button to press to rewind), from watching my mother applying make up relentlessly, religiously and ritualistically, from listening to her miseries, from viewing my father sail off into his many distances, and getting to know quite a few of his mistress-muses (one was an au pair)…
By the time I met my partner… I didn’t wear make up except every now and then for fun, I wore what I wore and wore it again and again, and the efforts I made were more about getting to know him as he was and letting him see me as I was.
One of the first things I said to him when it occurred to me that he might be interested was – I am very weird… he seemed to like that about me.
We’ve been together for over 20 years, we’ve been through a lot together, we’ve been through many stages of relating within our relationship including the one where you’re not sure why you’re still together, we live and work together and spend pretty much all of the hours in a day every day together.
We both wear what we wear, look how we look, every now and then we may dress up but only for fun or because it is necessary for an event hosted by others.
We’ve got one of those coming up soon, I mentioned to my partner that I might buy something new at the local charity shop… he said why? then said he might buy me something online as he did the last time we had to get gussied up, which was lovely but is a bit tight atm or I’d wear that again.
Clothes either fit me or they don’t, I don’t change myself to fit them. I used to change myself to fit clothes, I used to change myself to fit in with other people, fit into their narrow uncomfortable shapes for others… not anymore. Been there, done that, effing hate the scratchy too restrictive T-shirt.
The efforts we both make for ourselves and for each other is to be true ourselves and thus true to each other.
I often look like I’ve only just rolled out of bed, continued to roll through a pile of clothes and was dressed by static cling, kept rolling cleaning floors as I go, rolled all the way down the stairs and landed on my head. And yet my partner still smiles with his mouth and eyes when he looks at me and tells me I’m beautiful.
And I smile right back with my eyes and mouth and tell him he’s gorgeous because he is to me regardless of the fact that he often looks like a pirate who has just come back from a raid on a fleet of warships and is a bit ragged and peckish after the scrap (I find that look very sexy, rawr!).
My partner is the only person I’ve ever met who just understood me without my needing to explain or excuse myself. He helped me to love myself as I am. He listened and heard. He saw and showed me how to see. He never judged even when he didn’t understand wtf was going on with and within me. He was patient, kind, strong, generous with himself. And so much more…
I owe him a lot. And I repay the favour in my own weird, strange, crazy, mistake-making messy way.
I try to pass that on through my blog, my posts, my comments, my replies…
I am finally really happy and comfortable with myself as I am, it’s been a long time coming and I was never sure if I’d get there but I kept going, and I love it when others feel comfortable enough around me to share who they are as they are with me…
Thank you for sharing, it means a lot to me!
“In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.”― Thurgood Marshall
Those moments when while reading a post on a blog, an article in the news, a book, a tweet, or looking at the cover of a glamour magazine, browsing Instagram, Facebook, watching a video, TV or a film, we see a person, the people behind the words, the story, the image…
Those moments when we look in the mirror or at a photograph of ourselves and we see the thoughts and feeling in our eyes talking to us, telling us about the person, the people we are…
Those moments we connect human to human, person to person, people to people…
and know that I am you and you are me and yet I am me and you are you…
what treasured and valued moments those are!
And now for a song released in 1982 (how things have changed…?…!…):
Featured image is Triumph of the Deputies from the Humours of an Election series by William Hogarth