Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Disarming the Narcissist – Case Study 2: The Narcissist’s Asshole Attorney

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

“I’ll take a reasonable lawyer with a crazy client over a crazy lawyer with a reasonable client any day.”

These words of wisdom were uttered over coffee one midtown afternoon by my friend C. She was relaying HER attorney’s advice, as I was pouring my heart out over the nonsensical, twilight zone custody case I was embroiled in with my Narcissist ex.

Newsflash: It’s NOT About the Kid

It took me a year and a half and $50K in legal fees to figure this out. The crazy thing is, the Narc and I don’t disagree on a lot of parenting principles, even in the course of settlement discussions. I’d say we fight about as much as most married people do over child-related decisions, maybe even less. The difference between us and the other fighting parents is that he needs to file a motion and howl at the judge about what a terrible person I am whenever we disagree or I evade his attempt to use the kid as a creepy excuse to hang around me. Why? Well, he was raised in an Arabic Muslim household for one thing. And there he was abused by his stepmother, and subsequently developed a personality disorder. I was his property, and once I left the house I was out of his control. So custody of our daughter was the way he was going to punish me for my disobedience.

Yes, he is a total piece of work. But his attorney was far, far worse. Because this guy had a license to practice law, the ability to translate my exes creepy requests into plausible-sounding demands, and no skin in the game – except that he could make more money, the more he stirred up our conflict. I realized that the business of being an attorney was not unlike the business of being a web developer. The newbies short on work will attempt to sell the client on a lot of BS they don’t need so they can inflate the billable hours. And those of us that know what we’re doing and get more work than we really want — we’re just trying to get you and your project out of our hair while minimizing the amount of ongoing maintenance it will need (aka, “keep it simple, stupid”). The $200-300/hr lawyer will make mistakes, stir up conflict, and drive your case to trial. The $500-700/hr lawyer will push you towards a deal and save you thousands in misery. The catch is, you don’t get to choose both lawyers in this sticky foursome. I had the high-priced, googleable attorney who took the high road and looked for mechanisms to avoid conflict, while he had a younger, more aggressive attorney that seemed desperate to prove something — what, who knows. An attorney whose ill-fitting suits never matched, whose office was at WeWork, and whose personal assistant was (wait for it…) his MOTHER. When push came to shove my attorney did pull some very good moves, and her advice was filled with insightful observations about human nature and conflict. But in many ways I felt like yet another proof of the old adage that nice guys finish last, and she too would at times be blindsided by the sudden 180 the other side would do after we’d made headway in negotiations. You need an attorney that has enough clientele that she’s not interested in billing you up the wazoo (which means she IS the sort that negotiates to keep you OUT of court — these are highly sought after), AND who can spot the kind of opposition that wants to prolong the fight. And when she does see it, she must ruthlessly push for the exposure and high costs of a trial.

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What It’s Like When Armed FDA Agents Raid Your Place While You’re Getting the Kids Ready for School

Monday, February 11th, 2019


I think there were 8 or 10 of them. Most of them wore beige, bulletproof vests. Some vests said FDA. They had guns, but left them in the holsters. I hadn’t actually noticed until my roommate said her son later told her they had guns.

My roommate had answered the door. I was downstairs with my daughter, helping her select a different dress when I heard a man’s voice. I got up and walked through the kids’ room to see a beige and black clad man with a crewcut coming down the stairs. He asked for me by name. He asked if anyone else was down there besides us, emphatically and repeatedly. I said no. I followed him upstairs.

In the kitchen he informed me that they had a Search and Seizure Warrant related to the distribution of pharmaceuticals without a prescription over the internet. I don’t remember if I nodded or perhaps I said “ok.” In the movies, people scream at the monsters, but in real life, we get quiet in the face of terror.

My daughter was still in her underwear. One of the men asked if we could put some clothes on her. The the beige and black agent – let’s call him Agent P, was the apparent mouthpiece for the group of men milling about my apartment. He explained that they would conduct a search the entire premises. Wait — they weren’t all men. In the stream of puffy crewcut, midwestern faces, there was a black woman, S. She had an interesting name and demeanor that I liked.

I don’t remember the next 40 minutes clearly. In my head it plays out like a jumble of disconnected vignettes. Agent P asking my roommate, if she could get the two kids to school so I could stay. Another agent asking if that was what I was wearing to work, adding that if I needed to change, then Agent S (the token female) would accompany me to my room — and if I needed to use the bathroom she would accompany me there too. They wanted to ask me some things, someplace private. I remember explaining to them that I had work meetings I had to get to in the morning but otherwise could take the rest of the day off. Agent P told my roommate that she had signed for some of the packages. She nodded with a confused frown. I felt terrible. I interrupted to tell him she didn’t know about any of this stuff. They found both my phones, personal and work, and asked if there were any more in the apartment. I said no. A notification came up on my personal phone. The agent holding it showed it to Agent P without a word and they exchanged looks. Later on, Agent P would explain the evidence-gathering and forensics that they would perform on my computer and hard drives for evidence like the message that came up on the phone. Another agent asked me about my storage space. He wanted to know where it was, and if I could take them there. I showed them on google maps. They moved back and forth through the building hallway, holding the apartment and building doors open to create a passage between the innards of my apartment and their cars parked at the curb. I lamented outloud about what my neighbors would think. They said that they had told them they were there to investigate a rat infestation. Right. Armed FDA agents investigating a rat infestation. The next day a friend in Boston called me to tell me that a friend of his from the neighborhood called him to exclaim I’d been arrested by the Feds.

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The (Massage Parlor) Interview

Monday, October 15th, 2018
It was during one of my freelance lulls one summer when I was 26, that a Craig’s list ad seeking erotic masseuses caught my eye. $80 an hour was a lot more than I was making doing design work, and the tone of the job description suggested an unassuming bashfulness that inspired me to respond.

I arrived a few minutes late at the address in Hell’s Kitchen. It was hot out and I was sweating. The lobby was modern and spacious, and without a doorman, so I was buzzed in. I pressed PH in the elevator. Penthouse.

The elevator let me out into a long corridor in blue and grey tones under fluorescents. It was bland but well-kept. I found the door and rang the buzzer. Soft steps padded up to the door. I always look away when I know I’m being observed through a peephole or camera, as if it’s impolite, or perhaps suspicious to admit you know you’re being observed. The door opened partially and a curly redhead peered around it’s edge. She looked both ways down the hallway before inviting me in, which I found curious.

It was a comfortable suite inside, carpeted and furnished with a large red brocade sofa in front of big windows looking out onto the city. The redhead, let’s call her A, asked me if I wanted any water and offered me a seat on the sofa before she sat down at the adjacent computer. She said J would be there shortly to conduct the interview but she was happy to answer any questions I had.

I wanted to know if she did massage. She did. I wanted to know if she’d ever had an unpleasant customer, and if so, how did they handle these things. She motioned to a spreadsheet on the computer screen and explained that sometimes people get blacklisted, but for the most part clients were respectful of boundaries.

Another girl, black and lanky, arrived. She’d also responded to the ad. She sat on the sofa next to me. We chatted with A, the redhead. I asked if she’d ever done anything like this before. She said no, and we giggled.

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