The Noises of Narcissism


Narcissism noises are loud. And they never stop.

My second husband wasn’t a large man.

He wasn’t slight, but he edged up to slight. His particular brand of narcissism was quieter than my dad. He rarely raised his voice.

His voice was soft and gentle. His words were toxic.

  • You are a danger to yourself. 
  • You need to be on lithium. 
  • You can only work with what you’ve got. There’s no shame in that. 

His words weren’t loud, but they carried weight. He wasn’t quiet, though.

We lived in a third floor three bedroom apartment. The stairs leading up were wooden. I always knew when he was home, because even though he was very nearly slight, he stomped up the stairs like an angry yeti.

Everyone in the building knew when he was home.

He didn’t like when I read a book. He never complained, but any time I read a book, anything he touched would be slammed into place. There were many deep, exasperated sighs. Within an hour, my anxiety would be through the roof and I would put the book aside. I learned to only read when he wasn’t at home or after he fell asleep at night.

Then, there was the boss I had at my last job. He was the VP of IT.

He had a room full of programmers and, mostly, we programmers like a quiet environment. But he needed attention.

At least once a day, he would stroll through the department and slowly, but loudly, clap his hands.

He’d start a rally cry that usually was a variation of “Okay, MEN! Let’s make it happen today!”  Usually, he would ignore me and the other woman in the department. Every once in a whole, if we were super lucky, he’d turn his head our way and say “ladies.” I hated the clapping. Every clap would make me jump. I still want to hit him in the face with a rotten fish.

My dad, though, my dad was just loud.

He had to have eyes on him most of the time.

When he came home from work, he would announce that the king had arrived and god help me and my sisters if we didn’t come running and do a sincere happy dance at his arrival.

That wasn’t so bad, though. I was used to it. It was a ritual.

It was the yelling that was intolerable. He yelled a lot.

I remember the last time he yelled at me. Probably a month or two before he had his heart episode that left him slightly brain damaged. And quiet.

Often, he would yell because he wasn’t included in a conversation. If he wasn’t the center of every Yelling, narcissism noisesconversation, he took that as a slight. He never really needed a reason, if there wasn’t a reason handy, he’d make one up on the fly.

My second marriage had crumbled and I had been spending time online talking to some dude from Missouri named Randy. My darkest time was at the end of my second marriage.

I was living under the threat of being committed to a psych ward against my will.

My husband had befriended a doctor in his AA group and the two of them decided together that I was batshit crazy and needed intensive help. Mind you, the doctor had never met me. I mean, I can’t say for sure, but I have to think this doctor was a complete psycho. What kind of doctor conspires to lock someone up that they had never met? Narcissists of a feather. I guess. Or, he didn’t exist.

My second husband’s specialty was gaslighting.

Anyway, I had gone to my parents house for a visit. Middle sister and I were at the dining room table talking about whatever it was we talked about 23 years ago.

My father came storming up to the table. His face was already purple.

He bellowed at us “If the two of you want to call me an asshole, then fucking do it to my face, you cowards.”

I never learned my lesson.

I lost every single shouting match we had ever been in, but constant failure never dissuaded me from answering back. I didn’t raise my voice. I just told him “We actually weren’t talking about you at all, but if you want me to call you an asshole, then I will. Asshole.”

I don’t remember much after that. I know I was called a fucking little bitch a few times.

That was his favorite pet name for me. Fucking little bitch.

I left in tears and went home to a man who wanted to lock me up.

I remember that argument because that was the first time I ever talked to Randy on the phone. I came home and my husband was out. I got online and poured my heart out to Randy in a private chatroom on AOL and he called me. So, it wasn’t a completely horrible day.

Ever since watching as much of the Dr. Ford/Kavanaugh hearing as I could, I’ve been thinking about the noise these narcissists make.

Dr. Ford stayed composed, even though her voice shook. She answered questions. She was coherent and respectful and she broke my heart a million times.

Then Punchable Face McRapey Hands got his moment in the hot seat.

The screaming and stammering and blubbering were both sickening to watch and perversely pleasurable.

He was miserable and I was glad. He made all the sounds that malignant narcissists make when they are cornered. He was nasty, threatening and hysterical. His meltdown was no different than the meltdowns I watched my father have hundreds of times. Different words. Same behavior.

He is a breath away from sitting on the highest court in the land.

I hope everyone understands how very dangerous this is. I hope everyone understands how much peril we are in.

I hope everyone understands that his meltdown isn’t the worst one coming. There are more coming and the heavens help us all when it happens. The president’s meltdowns are going to make Kavanaugh’s look like child’s play.

Please make sure you are registered to vote in the midterms. If you are able, there is no excuse to not vote. Convince your family. Convince your friends. Our democracy depends on it.


Photo courtesy of Epyc Wynn.

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  • I can relate so much to this. The guy absolutely makes me sick. I love your name for him, because that pasty potato face is just screaming to be punched. He’ll make it to the bench; the hearings in my opinion are window dressing, the same as they were with the Anita Hill hearings. This country is on a bad path and we’ll have to hit bottom before there’s any improvement.

  • I’ve been thinking of you during this. It broke my heart, and made me disbelievingly furious as a way to keep it together. And terrified, because what the USA suffers the UK will do next. You made me laugh, and happy that such awful personal experiences led to Randy. Wishing you strength and peace.
    P.S. I work in a similar tech environment, however am senior enough to stand up and demand quiet because ‘some people are working’ and have it happen. It’s women like you who give me the strength to embrace my inner little bitch and do this. Next step is for it to sound reasonable to the men making the noise….

  • It was also disgusting to see senators like Grassley and Graham absolutely losing their shit over their perceived mistreatment of Kavanaugh. Whiny, blubbering, old farts! I too am afraid this guy will still end up confirmed, even though he perjured himself. The only hope I have left, in that case, is that Democrats take over control of the senate and impeach him. He shouldn’t even go back to being a federal judge. So, yes, the midterm vote is so very important.

    {{{I’m so glad you and Randy found each other.}}}

  • OMG, I thought the exact same thing and the man is an alcoholic. No one talking about liking beer as much as he does and drinking. Plus he gets so red in the face and looks a little puffy. Not to mention his behavior, it has addictive behavior written all over it. He scares me to death. When he refused to answer the questions and kept referring back to his accomplishments. I just hope and pray one of his friends tells the truth but you know the “good ole boy network” it is alive and well. That is what is wrong with Congress.
    Dr. Ford was succinct in her testimony, brave, determined, and calm. He was all over the place after his opening statement. What a complete embarrassment for this country to have to endure that day. Of course, like judge, like president……

  • Your second husband sounds like something out of a Stephen King novel and I’m not kidding. Can you imagine if you hadn’t gotten out? I sometimes wonder where I would be today if I was still with my first husband. I shudder.

    Kavanaugh obviously hasn’t dealt with the shit that drove him to drink in the first place. He’s out of control. Can you imagine that on SCOTUS? Nope.

  • I didn’t connect narcissism to Punchable Face McRapey Hands (please trademark because it’s brilliant). You’re definitely right though.
    I was too busy looking at it through the prism of privilege. Only a certain segment of society are allowed to express emotions. If Dr. Ford had shown any anger about what happened to her then or what was happening now they would have called her say it with me hysterical. Black or Latino man? Dangerous thug. Black woman? Masculine bitch. Asian American probably crazy. Non rich white man-Trash.
    But men with money &/or power-he was rightfully angry and frustrated. Really? I mean if he was falsely accused (rolls eyes) then yes he should be angry. But he’s lucky he was allowed to express it. But guess what Punchable Face McRapey Hands this is a JOB INTERVIEW! He is not owed shit but those who complain that “others” want handouts sure as hell throw the biggest hissy fits when something isn’t just handed to them.
    Anyone else would have had security escort them out of the building.
    And don’t get me started on Graham enabling him so he can enable the Orange asshole in the White House.
    All a bunch of privileged whiny narcissistic fucks.
    I wish that rant made me feel better…but right now the truth just hurts.

  • Wow, Michelle. You really were surrounded. I can’t imagine living with such men. I’ve known a few in my life (and some women) who were impossible to be near more than a few moments because of their narcissism. So glad you found your Randy.

  • I’ve been thinking of you while watching this unfold.
    I read a really good article in Current Affairs magazine last night about the lies he told under oath to the senate and why they should disqualify him from any judicial role, much less the supreme court, and what they meant about him as a person.
    I was a little conflicted about reading yet another analysis of someone I already knew more about than I needed to in order to have an opinion of him as a potential high-ranking government official, but once I started reading it, I found myself saying “no shit” under my breath about every other paragraph.
    Anyway, here’s a link to it in case you are interested:
    …Aaaannd, as a sort of antidote to all of that, here is a thread I found on Aimee Mann’s Twitter feed that kind of brings it back into perspective:

    So, so sorry that you had to live through so much hurtful bullshit, and so, so, glad you have made it out the other side and into the land of the living, even as fucked up as it can be sometimes.
    And yes, we are registered and vote by mail, and at least two of our friends who sat out the 2016 election will be voting this time. That may not sound like much, but since there were more eligible non-voters in 2016 than there were voters for either presidential candidate, I feel it’s really important.
    I believe us to outnumber our opposition by quite a bit, and thus have the power to turn this around if we can find a way to get more of us to participate, and each new vote helps.

  • Watching this whole thing unfold is nightmarish—even up in Canada, we’re just shaking our heads in disbelief that a guy could go off like that and still be considered. He’s such a douche. But I’m so happy that you found Randy

  • Again and again I think of the aptly named Sen. Flake being confronted in an elevator, a place where he couldn’t escape, and having a woman say to him, “Look at me.”
    As a white man I know he’s not used to being treated that way and what’s worse is I know he’s not likely to think about how women get treated that way all the time–he’d just seen an example of it right in front of him.
    Reading about your experience I know exactly what sort of doctor would conspire to lock up someone they’d never met: a doctor who, because he’s a man, will take another man’s word over anything else.
    We need a lot more elevators.

  • My narcissistic experience wasn’t with a man. It’s my own mother. Started on me when I was a small child by telling me how rotten my father was & how she was so mad at him she wanted to kill him. Now she didn’t mean it, but when ur 6 years old & Mom is screaming u feel confused & scared. This continued until my father had enough of her belittling behavior & spending every dime on clothing etc until he was broke. She refused to stop so he left. For the next 40 plus years she insulted me when I refused to “play.” Told me I was just like my father. The point of this is that I finally had enough & had to set very strict boundaries with her. No one has permission to treat another person in this manner & you have to stand up & say “You do not have permission to treat me or talk to me this way. Please go away.” OR “until you can be respectful I can no longer speak to you.” Be strong!

    • OMG that is just horrifying. I am so sorry. I didn’t understand parental narcissism until fairly recently, around 6 years ago, I guess. Maybe 7. My dad had a heart episode years ago that left him slightly brain damaged, so he’s quiet now.

  • I went to D.C. last Thursday. Over a thousand men and women marched from the Capitol Reflecting Pool to the Supreme Court in the rain. It was overwhelming and energizing at the same time. The woman who drove us didn’t tell us until we were there that her brother had died the night before and she didn’t want to tell us because she thought we’d insist she not go. It was THAT important to her.
    Later, in a restaurant, we watched Kavanaugh on the screen above the bar. The closed caption was on, but we didn’t need to read or hear the words. We could see the angry contortions of his face, the snide turn of his raging mouth, the soulless eyes.
    And I thought of my daughter, my granddaughter, my nieces, and the women I marched beside and determined then and there that this will not stand.
    Just when you think the bar cannot sink any lower for the current GOP, the leader of the free world stands in front of a crowd of illiterate hillbillies and mocks a brave woman who recounted the worst night of her life on national television because it was her “civic duty.” And they laughed.
    Oh hell, no.

  • Two things: 1) I swear I lived with your ex for 5 years. Some of the worst years of my life. Until now. 2) Until now. With people, women & men alike, actually cheering a narcissistic asshole as he belittles and mocks a survivor of sexual assault. Where in hell are we headed?

    • It is affecting everything. I can’t focus. Physically, I feel like hell. I am near tears all the time and I am angry all the time. I am not getting a handle on any of this.

By Michelle

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