Archive for the ‘Flagrant Ideology’ Category

Disarming the Narcissist – Case Study 1: The Birthday Party

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018
Narcissus by John William Waterhouse width= Balloons Zena Warrior Princess

Like many Narcs, the one with whom I share a daughter, likes to use the kid as a creepy excuse to impose his presence on me and pick fights. When I wriggle out of it, he takes me to Court. As you can imagine, this is a cripplingly expensive situation for yours truly. But Family Court is a joke, just like the rest of the so-called American Justice System, and the lawyers and judges all make way too much money off it being ineffective to bother changing anything. So most of the time, you must take matters into your own hands, and do so with the precision of a surgeon so as not to damage the kids or your reputation before the Court.

When it was time for my daughter’s 4th birthday, and subsequently her first REAL birthday party with her whole preschool class, the Narc of course wanted to co-host a party. Because I don’t party with people that are incessantly suing me, I declined, which is when his Narc lawyer got involved and the fun began. Kids’ birthday parties are like the caviar of Narcissistic Supply for an NPD dad. Especially if they can get an organized schmuck like me to plan, prep and pay for everything. Ha.

I’m including actual emails, with identifying information removed and names replaced. Here’s a key:

[Yours truly] …………………………. That’s me
[A**hole] ……………………………… My asshole ex
[our daughter]/[dear daughter] …. Our daughter

The Narcissist baits you, but don’t give in

Ever since I left him, the Narc has become superdad, and in true superdad fashion, emailed me a month before the kid’s birthday to see what “our” plans were. Luckily, I had not yet planned anything, so the stakes were flexible.

My firm, detailed and unemotional response citing past visitation patterns and the custody agreement we’d been drafting for the prior year:

The Narc’s Slimy Lawyer

Whenever the Narc knew I wasn’t backing down I’d hear from his attorney. His attorney, whose suits never matched, who’s “office” was at WeWork.com (one of those office-sharing places), and whose personal assistant was his mother. And who would look at me like he wanted to fuck me during settlement discussions. He once had to gaul to invite me to do a “settlement talk” without his client present – just him and me. Sheah.

What follows is the long-winded, contradictory email from this slimeball to MY lawyer, suggesting that I’d better spend time with his client if I want to see my kid at ALL on her birthday, or they’ll file a motion:

Shakespeare was totally right when he said “First, we must kill all the lawyers”. They will lie and threaten even when they know their client is the asshole in the situation. Cuz they’re getting paid to. So I had a predicament.

Don’t let them see you sweat

A year prior I probably would have shot back a hot, retaliatory email, which would have escalated into a lot of other emails, which Narcs love to bring to Court to show how unstable you get after they’ve carefully wound you up. This time I decided to be a little smarter.

My response (sent to the Narc only):

Let them think they’ve won

Mind you, no party has been planned at the Museum — in fact, no party has been planned at all. Have you seen Hitchcock’s Family Plot? I love scenarios involving hiding things in plain site as something else. The Narc wants a fight, so you must give them a fight — but rig it.

As expected, the Narc can’t let me get away for a second. We MUST attend the whole party together. Phhhbbbt, so what? It’s a pretend party — and there is no spoon.

Meanwhile, I sent out invites to the real party, which I planned for the same day, just a few hours earlier, at my place.

It’s Never Enough

No matter how much you compromise, they will always push for more. So stop compromising. At this point I’m just fucking with him, which is way more fun when you don’t have any skin in the game.

The thing I find most interesting about the above email is his apparent view that court is somehow disconnected from our ongoing rapport and his lawyer just “does his own thing.” So of course I should be able to happily hang out with someone who is suing me. WTF??

This could go on forever, but I have a kid’s party to plan.

See you at the party, and in Court. Douchebag.

It’s taken me a long time to learn, but Court is just the thing he does to threaten me when I don’t do his bidding in real life. Court is not a place to negotiate, because there is no negotiation – why would the Narc ever negotiate with what he sees as his property? The Narcissist sees the Court as a tool with which to punish your disobedience — not as a forum to resolve disputes. Expect to go when you’ve been naughty, and be able to innocently explain yourself to the judge. Or better yet, embarrass him, so he’ll keep his fool mouth shut, in and out of Court. No one retells stories where they’re the butt of a joke.

I waited until the Narc asked before giving the time and location of the fake party:

You know what his response to that was? To send me $500 via banking app. HA. It’s like I’m his kiddie party concubine and I’m getting a doggie treat for good behavior. More like icing on the dogshit cake I’m baking him.

Day of, I was preparing my place feverishly, and the babysitter was scheduled to pick up my sweetpea from her father’s. In addition to being stressed out about organizing a kid’s party, I was nervous about something going wrong with my plans and her father figuring it out, potentially ruining her first real birthday party with a nasty fight. The morning of, I carefully drafted, but did not send, an apologetic cancellation email. The guests arrived as I was frantically inflating balloons from a helium tank. My babysitter had cooked up a storm of Moroccan food. Presents were ripped open anywhere and everywhere and thrown asunder. We sang Happy Birthday, and as the train of guests approached her with the lit-up cake in my hands, my little one beamed with proud anticipation, clasped her hands, and inhaled like an opera singer commencing her solo before blowing out the flames. Cake was had, and my apartment looked like a bomb hit it.

A few minutes before 4pm, I received a panicked SMS

I pulled up my prepared draft email on my phone, and hit send:

Then I grabbed the girl, told her to say goodbye and thank you to all her friends that came to the party, hopped in a cab, and headed to the Museum with my heart in my throat. I anticipated a fight.

Holy cow, Narcissists are gullible

When we arrived, he and a few other people were waiting in the lobby. As soon as my daughter entered, a little girl exclaimed “Birthday girl!” and she went off to bask in the attention while I contended with her father. With wide eyes, he asked if I was ok. I clutched my stomach, made a face, and wearily uttered “yeah, I’ll be alright, but I really gotta go.” as I backed out the door he asked about the cake. I responded that it was consumed by the few concerned friends and neighbors who hobbled the last minute gathering for her. He was disappointed, but with a face of purest concern, told me to feel better. I stumbled out and walked home, utterly dumbfounded that the stupid fuck bought it.

The Narc’s Wounded Ego

Of course, it wasn’t long before lil miss was talking about the big bash mommy threw for her. A week later, I got the email informing me he’d figured it out.

It really succinctly outlines his Modus Operandi towards me: If you do not spend time with me, I will take your baby away.

But I was so high on my win, I was bulletproof. And I had learned an important lesson about how to deal with Narcs. Don’t confront the beast head-on. You’ll just lock horns, which is exactly what he wants. Instead, tell him what he wants to hear, and then go around him.

While he was on vacation I spoke with his father and his brother and the babysitter, all of whom agreed with me: sending my little girl to stay with the new parents of a two-week-old, who lived a couple hours car ride away, through the weekend, was a terrible idea and she should stay with me if her father is going on vacation.

It took me a couple years and many thousands in legal fees to learn that reasoning, crying, screaming, and getting a restraining order isn’t going to do a damn thing. Instead you must make the stalker think that you are where you are not and that you are not where you are.

Once I figured that out, it became like a game. He’d ask if I was bringing our daughter to her friend’s birthday party (scheduled during my weekend with her), so I’d say we were upstate, and then ask a few friends to report on whether or not he had shown up before I decided to go (because what kind of creepy dad would show up to a kid’s party without their kid, right?). Same thing with field trips, but I ended up missing more of those. Doctor’s appointments were fun. If he insisted that we go together, I’d schedule it with him, and then call back and reschedule for earlier in the week. Then day of I’d text him to say there was an earlier cancellation. He would drop everything and bike over the bridge in the summer heat… only to get there long after we’d left the office and descended into the subway. I’d offer a shrugging apology and then suggest he take her to the next one – by himself. Because NORMAL parents alternate with that shit instead of treating it like some kind of bloody DATE.

Eventually they get tired and stop bothering. Curt graciousness and your continued lack of company offer little in the way of Narcissist Supply, or fodder for the Court, and they don’t REALLY want to put in the work of attending birthday parties, fieldtrips and doctor’s appointments with the kid – it’s just an excuse to hoover and terrorize you.

Don’t let them see you sweat.

On Hiring Male Escorts

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016
david B was not the first professional I’d been with. The first was J, whom I’d met years before, in London, at my first orgy. I didn’t hire J — we took a liking to each other at the party, and he informed me as we chatted, that he did escort work. I’m sure if I was supposed to pay he would have said so, but if I’d had to I don’t think I’d have been interested.

Some ten years later, I sought out B in the midst of my separation from my daughter’s father. Like anyone going through a divorce, I was an emotional wreck – too much of a wreck to manage dating or be dateable. I’d rebounded into a couple of exes, with mixed results. I wanted to get off, and get off well, but without any emotional obligation to anyone, or pressure to go further than I was ready to.

So I browsed backpage.com for a few months before mustering the gumption to contact B. His profile had caught my eye a few times, and with time I observed updates to his photos, details – at one point the addition of a website. This struck me as a sign of safety – for in this age of digital paper trails, should he be an axe-murderer, the profile would surely disappear after having committed anything suspect using it. Right? I didn’t know. I decided to send him a message requesting to book a massage.

He responded via email and then we moved to text message. He wanted a photo of me, which I sent. His messages appeared cautious. It got me thinking – in a society where their profession is illegal and socially ostracized, they have just as much reason to be scared. Having lived in Holland during my twenties, where the sex-workers have a union and healthcare, this saddened me. It was also comforting to know the person on the other end of the transaction was just as nervous. We arranged that I would come to his apartment for an hour-long appointment. As I recall it cost around $180.

On the day of, I texted a couple of friends that I was going to do this, and that if they didn’t hear from me by 6pm, they should call the police and send them to the address I’d been given.

Whenever I start to do something that unnerves me, I tell myself with each step “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. At any moment, you can say no and turn around and leave.” These were my thoughts as he buzzed me into the building.

It was like visiting any other friend’s place. The building was nicer than the one I lived in, but not immodest. Warm tones, decent light and lots of original woodwork. He was talkative, to a slightly nervous degree. He had a massage table already open in the center of his living room, one wall of which, was entirely mirrored. We discussed what I wanted, which was simple enough – a massage with release. I told him I’d never done this before. He said don’t worry, he was going to make me comfortable. I liked him. He was attractive, though I wasn’t all that attracted to him. I trusted him well enough to stay.

He left me to get undressed, which I did, and I laid down on the table. I think he asked if I liked the music but I don’t remember. He began with a massage. It was good. Not the best I’d ever had, but nice enough. It was platonic to begin with, and gradually became more erotic in quality and where he was touching. About 30 minutes in was when things really got going. He went down on me, which I was not expecting. He retrieved a conveniently located glass dildo, which I was also not expecting. I watched us in the mirror. I came several times.

We laid in an embrace on the table in the aftermath of my orgasms. I relished his lack of demand for anything, and for once, not reciprocating felt not only justified, but expected. We talked. I told him about the break-up, my difficult ex, being a single mom and all the subsequent stress. He remarked that I just needed to come, really really hard.

He left the room to let me get redressed. When he returned, he did not ask, but I took out the money and put it on the counter and confirmed with him that it was accurate. I didn’t tip. I probably should have, in retrospect. I was working but in plenty of debt and in the midst of a separation. I also felt, a little culpably, that I ought to be able to get away with it. Years before, when hanging out with J in the hot tub of that little spa in London, I’d asked about his orientation. His response was “Well, straight generally, but bi[sexual] for work.” I realized there isn’t really a market for heterosexual male escorts. The majority of clientele are male. B confirmed this as we chatted after – he had a few female clients, but most were men. Being an attractive and fit woman, I imagined that a session with me with no strings attached could hardly be considered grueling work in the eyes of most men, straight or bi, escort or not.

I left the building elated, relaxed, and triumphantly giddy. I was so relaxed that I forgot to text my friends, until I noticed a second message from one, saying that if she didn’t hear from me in 10 minutes she was calling 911. All’s well that ends well.

It was fun, and I’ve thought frequently about doing it again, but since that time, I only went back once, on the following Valentine’s morning, before rolling into the office with a smug grin. It has it’s pros and cons, like anything. It definitely made me feel a lot better about not having a lover on Valentine’s Day (or “Lupercalia,” as I prefer to call it, in the way they once did before the Church sanitized the amorous filth of the old Pagan holidays). As a single parent, it’s appealing as another solution to time-management in this extreme, daily marathon which leaves little time for dating. Anyway, I’ve never been fond of dating. I much prefer meeting people through work or extracurriculars, when smoldering attraction blossoms out of accidental familiarity. Purchased gratification definitely pales in comparison to THAT, so when I have a crush, my interest in escorts wanes. But I’d say I prefer this simple service to dating, online or otherwise.

The thing that deters me, is the awkward process and questionable safety. I could contact B again, but he ultimately he isn’t quite my type, and besides, what’s the point if one doesn’t go for a little variety? But every time I think of going back online to browse profiles and agonize over whether or not I’m going to be into the person, or like the way they smell, or whether or not it will be good, or safe, I throw up my hands. What I would prefer is a setting a little more like a salon, where one could select from a catalogue of screened men, or better yet, where there’s a few dozen meandering a wet lounge or game room or garden, such that one can see, smell and touch the merchandise before requesting a private room for a massage. It seems appropriate that this would be a place where one could get hair, nails, and facials done, and serves excellent tea.

The main obstacle of course, is the illegality.

Most of us take for granted the protection under the rule of law we enjoy at our jobs. Escorts and their clients don’t get to partake in this protection, and subsequently must operate furtively, while exposing themselves to undesireable risks. It’s pretty absurd, given that the transaction, between consenting adults, does society no harm. One could easily argue that marriage is merely the same transaction but under a contract involving a ring and a house instead of cash. Or that it isn’t much different than one person buying dinner for another preceding intercourse, or the pebble that one penguin offers to it’s would-be mate. After reading the Kama Sutra I felt quite convinced that the only difference between a wife and escort is that one is full-time and the other freelance — which is of course, a personal choice, and subject to change with circumstance.

I find others quick to argue that sex-work is dehumanizing and abusive, and that it encourages human trafficking — how can I possibly compare it to that sacred institution of love? Is it as sacred when it’s Russian mail-order brides or Middle Eastern children sold into marriage to pay off family debts? I know too many women that stay in bad marriages because they simply cannot afford to leave. The titles are different, but the abuse and objectification looks much the same. Like ownership of one human being by another. On the flip-side, and a lighter note, there are many great love stories involving concubines. Both Jesus and Siddhartha shacked up with brilliant whores.

Like seemingly all social problems, it boils down to income disparity. Were the income disparity between men and women the world over not so great, the sexual repression that comes inherently coupled with economic oppression would not be present in marriage or prostitution, and women would not feel compelled by financial necessity to enter into any transaction involving their bodies that is contrary to their health and happiness.

So I’d like to live in a world where I can go get head while getting my nails done, on the condition that sex-work is well-paid, well-respected, and well-regulated, and the plethora of living-wage jobs and social services mean that the choice to sell sex is not a last resort, but truly one choice among many, to which one can always turn on one’s heel and say “no.”

Chakras and Architectural Space

Monday, October 27th, 2014
Jung believed that when a person dreams about their home, it’s a direct metaphor for the psyche.[1]

In our waking lives, the home as a reflection of self hardly requires of a jump. Regardless of whether you prefer the terms of Architectural Psychology or Feng Shui, it’s plain across rhetoric and culture that our structures are as much a canvas for expression as they are determinants of our mood, health, and relationships.

I started thinking about the architectural significance of the chakras while living in a house with a dozen other adults. My partner at the time and I had bought the 4-story, 4-unit home with the idea of architecting something more inclusive, supportive and dynamic than the traditional nuclear family. As we worked to create a sense of community in the evolving patchwork of private spaces, public spaces and roommates, I poured over blueprints of schools, hotels and ashrams — while trying to figure out why it just wasn’t working.

Living with anyone can be difficult. I once heard a comedian say that there are two choices: loneliness, or irritation. Most of us in the western industrial world first experience non-familial cohabitation when we are but adolescent maggots blindly feeling our way through relationships, careers and life, and simply too broke NOT to have roommates. Armed with little in our conflict-resolution toolbox, we hobble our way through differences, or throw up our hands to resignedly despise our roommates. So we work hard, earn more money, and eventually move into a half-decent studio or one-bedroom, to more properly begin our next quest: settling down with a romantic partner, maybe to have children, but especially so as not to die alone. And once we do, whether it’s married or living in sin, we receive a shocking reminder: living with anyone can be difficult.

Now, obviously it’s not all bad, or we wouldn’t bother at all. Coming home to a gaggle of roommates watching a movie, or a lover who’s cooked you a meal, or your little one rushing at you with open arms, can be heaven. And it’s hell to clean their hair out of the shower drain, discover someone has eaten all your organic imported chocolate, or be kept up by your neighbors having loud sex the night before your presentation. Depending on the nature of the relationship, some activities are more easily shared than others, some transgressions tolerated more than others.

According to the Vedas, there are 7 types of relationships corresponding to the chakras. Or perhaps better put, our relationships are ruled by certain chakras, some more than others. If our social realities are also ruled by the daily structures we physically inhabit, what is the relationship between architectural space and the chakras? How can our homes be designed to create a socially harmonious flow of energy exchange that bonds and comforts, without crowding or irritating?


Click to enlarge

The sketch above is a brief summation of the chakras and areas of a typical western home with which I thought they corresponded. I’d be interested to see a cross-cultural chakric breakdown of dwellings, but for now, I can only write from my experience living in the US and Europe.

The progression from the first to last chakra suggests a continuum from highly private, intimate and subjective, to shared, public, and objective. The highest chakras connect us to a great number of beings. The lowest connect us with fewer, in our most intimate relationships. Changing diapers or having sex are things we share with a special few. We’re likely to share a meal more casually – though probably not with just anyone. Books and lectures connect us with a great many, across time and geography. Our spiritual pursuits connect us with everything. Relationships ruled by the lowest chakras require a higher level of trust and shared values than those ruled by the higher chakras.

When I talk to people about communal living, one of the first things they blurt out is that they would need their own bathroom, and sometimes, but less often, kitchen. I noticed while living in a house teaming with other adults, how annoying it could be to share these amenities with others that aren’t intimate familiars or who didn’t share the same values (like cleanliness). Anyone with a toddler knows how messy that first chakra can be, and a private toilet for parents and child is more likely to be comfortable for a budding family and everyone else. Sharing a kitchen is something I usually enjoyed, whether it was making coffee in the morning or breaking bread in the evening — provided it was happening with people that followed a similar diet to myself. By the same token, I noticed that I almost never got to know people with whom I did NOT share a bathroom or kitchen, and it was an odd kind of estrangement, despite being a mere staircase away. There was a common area on the top floor, but it instigated only superficial contact when we threw parties. There were occasional conflicts in how it would be used and maintained — people wanted to cordon off studio space for their disparate crafts, and once after performing a major impromptu childproofing sweep, I unwittingly earned the ire of a childless roommate that didn’t like the new furniture arrangement.

My conclusion was and is that in domestic relationships, shared resources and shared values are critical to constructive, harmonious, long-term social bonding. If the group shares a common pursuit, be it parenting, painting or pilates, they are more likely to find parity in their preferences for the arrangement of space and allocation of resources. It’s a surprisingly far cry from the kind of Marxist theories that were partially responsible for my initial pursuit of a community-oriented living situation. According to Engels, labor is the basis of all relationships:

“the development of labour necessarily helped to bring the members of society closer together by increasing cases of mutual support and joint activity, and by making clear the advantage of this joint activity to each individual. In short, men in the making arrived at the point where they had something to say to each other.”[2]

This is not to say that parenting, painting and pilates are not laborious, but these days, the thing we do for a living isn’t necessarily the thing we value or define ourselves by. It can be, but not always. Gone is the tribal work-collective, where we labored together for shelter and sustenance, along with it’s collectivist habits. In its place is the nuclear family and the office, each with their fair share of shortcomings, each in flux.

The following diagrams represent a few layouts driven by consideration of the chakras as the driving design factor. Public and private spaces are organized around individual needs for privacy surrounding lower-chakra activities and inclination towards social connection surrounding higher-chakra activities.


1. Rough beginnings with NY as my context. Space in NY is scarce, and one is often boxed into a rectangle. Inhabitants have the option of one or two-bedroom units, all of which spill out into the central shared areas.


2. Pie in the sky: This circular layout offers some more flexibility in combining and separating spaces. For example, if a couple has a child, they could eventually expand into the next unit fairly easily, or two families could spread across 3 units, with the central unit shared by the kids.


After designing the second one, I realized that it’s not unlike the arrangement of many old European squares, with a central meeting point surrounded by restaurants, and residences tucked away on the upper floors.


Square in Komarno Slovakia.
Image from album.sofeminine.co.uk

Square in Prague.
Image from prempoint.blogspot.com


A friend of mine pointed out that my design is also similar to a kibbutz. [3]



Steve Jobs was occupied with the redesign of the Apple Headquarters up until his death in 2011 and envisioned a circular ring of open workspaces, surrounding a greenspace. The layout of amenities was designed to create happenstance social interaction between colleagues.


Rendering of Apple Campus 2

There are of course, infinite possibilities, and every social group will develop it’s own coda on what should and should not be shared. If there is to be fluidity between the chakras, between the private and public, collective and neo-liberal, the space must be easily combined and partitioned. For this reason I included a lot of pocket doors to allow spaces to be opened and closed frequently and liberally with minimal spatial interference. Soundproofing is critical, which means 6-inch walls between units and soundproof doors. The provision of individual bathroom and the most meager of kitchen facilities allows each unit has to operate autonomously, with an incentive to use the more elaborate shared kitchen and living areas. All of this is to reflect the reality of the modern self: independence and solitude are available and well-supported if desired, but joining forces with others is a more complex and enriching way to navigate daily life.

While the socioemotional benefits are appealing, the economic reasons for a redesign of the family that scraps our current architectural conventions are far more compelling. There is no shortage of skepticism on the subject of communal living (which I suspect is a relic of McCarthyism), despite the fact that the nuclear family is a post-industrial phenomenon, historically too impoverished to exist before the wealth of modernity made it possible. I still consider it impoverished. After nearly going bankrupt when my daughter was born, the need for co-located collaborative family support became glaringly apparent. Two-income families are buckling under the cost of childcare, and having a child in the US increases one’s statistical chances of bankruptcy three-fold.[6] Teaming up for childcare swaps or nannyshares with the immediacy and ease of knocking on someone’s door is just one way families could ease the financial burden of starting a family. While living in the house with a group of adults, I discovered that 10 people can very easily and comfortably share one vacuum-cleaner, one juicer, one iron, one printer, one broadband internet connection, various power tools — I’d estimate roughly a 50-75% reduction in common household expenditures (accounting for the need of a higher-quality appliance or service to handle the increased load). The equal marriage rights movement has opened the question of what a “healthy” family looks like – to which there are many right answers. The rate of marriage continues to decline, as women’s income goes up. I don’t suggest that we should attempt to return to collectivism; We are postmodern, we are neo-liberal, we have personal property. But this doesn’t mean we need to be alienated, isolated and artificially impoverished in our two-bedroom, one-or-two-parent households.

I believe our homes can be run with the efficiency of our profit-oriented organizations, by operating on industrial principles like specialization, professionalization, economies of scale and co-location. Replace co-workers with a group of moms (or dads, to be gender-neutral, but to be fair and give credit where credit is due, it is vastly more moms that I witness exhausted and overwhelmed by the demands of career, housework and childcare). It begins to look something like Adam Smith’s pin factory: While one makes breakfast, another pops out to the store to get more coffee, another watches the kids (who are busy entertaining each other, and subsequently require less attention from their adult caregiver), another cleans up, and the last one takes a shower — blissfully uninterrupted. Imagine a home where there’s always an extra set of hands to hold up one end of a shelf while you drill the other side, and help with moving a piece of furniture is never further than a knock on a door or a call across the courtyard. This is not to suggest that it’s all roses. There will be differences and disagreements, and these will require commitment, the right tools, and daily work to resolve — just like a marriage.


Sources:

1. Man and His Symbols. Carl Jung, 1964. (Ed.) Dell Publishing

2. The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man. Marx, K., 1895. Progress Publishers, Moscow

3. Kibbutz & Archipelagos. 2010. www.deconcrete.org

4. Why Our Ancestors Built Round Houses – and Why it Still Makes Sense to Build Round Structures Today. Rachel Ross 2012. inhabitat.com

5. Towards Collaborative Community. Paul S. Adler & Charles Heckscher, 2005. www-bcf.usc.edu

6. Interview: Elizabeth Warren – The Two Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke. Books of Our Time. Dean Lawrence R. Velvel, 2004. www.youtube.com