Discover more from Love Letter Day X
Please do not cancel me because I am not doing enough. Cancel me because I'm a narcissist.
I don’t believe that someone goes through what they went through with me and does not feel what I felt, at all. I am in disbelief. How could you keep talking like nothing happened?
I haven’t thought about this inner dialogue in a while, but recent social media activity triggered memories of a sequence of awful conversations with a friend who repeatedly said they were scared of offending me, intimidated by my ability to communicate when they were just quietly being themselves. I continue to believe this platonic recalcitrance is an act.
Gaslighting comes up a lot when I tell my friends about these conversations, and I can sense the grimacing that happens when one reads the G-word. It feels like Whole Foods pychology. It is too simplistic, feminine. And the way it sounds like zeitgeist jargon makes it difficult to utter without appearing like that Steven Buscemi “how do you do fellow young people” meme.
Kristen Dombek wrote as far as I’m concerned, THE book on this complex notion—The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism. Jia Tolentino wrote an excellent review of that excellent book, if you want a short walkthrough.
But these are all asides. I noticed a coincidence this morning, after the social media feeds continued to trigger me. I noticed that I was choosing to concentrate on the frustration of dialogue and pleasure of diagnosis rather than my own anger and resentment. The only reason I noticed this was because I have been noticing others doing what I was doing—ruminating to the point of harm. There was a whole other realm of much more prescient social media discourse where we were describing outrage—the war in Palestine.
I was specifically told through a social media account targeting Asian Americans that we ought to be ashamed if we weren’t doing everything in our human power to stop the genocide. I was uncomfortable with the direct action it recommended, as the action was not in the primary path to the improvement of the information ecosystem. It was not even a solicitation to put a sign in the front lawn. It was a campaign to call out the people who did not.
After parsing the request with a friend, I realized that the statement “we are ashamed of the Asian Americans who do not stand up,” was a personal statement. All I needed to focus on was:
We are ashamed.
Shame is really rough for Asian Americans, lemme tell ya. And I know it would seem obviously to be a bugaboo for all peoples, but there’s a real pungence and toxicity to shame in our communities. So how ironic then, that here was an Asian American brief leading with a preternaturally Asian American shame tactic, leveraging the stereotype of stereotypes: that failing to perform with perfect and complete adherence to the highest performance standards of the resistance movement could trigger cultural ostracism.
I acknowledge that I feel constantly (CONSTANTLY) like I am not doing enough. I will do better, I hope. But I wondered to myself if the campaign would be open to hearing me suggest less shameful language and as I considered the alternate universe of discourse, I turned this inquiry back on my own feeling of being gaslit by a friend and campaigning for so-called absolution. I was uttering The Thing to myself this whole time, was doing the same thing this whole time, and hadn’t even recognized the solipsism. I wasn’t actually asking for answers. I didn’t need my friend to change their mind. I was saying: I am fucking mad. That is all that matters. The bewilderment was an intellectualized reaction to being upset. I was angry. I am angry, still.
I am angry. I am ashamed. I do not want to believe what is happening.
Those are the feelings. Those are the facts.
I understand why the diagnoses of personality disorders are important strategies for unpacking how people operate within the font of a particular emotion. And I am beginning to understand when even the most intelligent strategies become coping mechanisms. Capitalism loves a successful coping mechanism (*drags from a cigarette* that’s another story for another day). I’m also actually relieved this work is not a calculus of empathy. I am not trying to see anything from the other person’s point of view. I am actually focusing my initiative on caring for and sympathizing with the only person I can control.