Thursday, July 11, 2013

Pretty poison

Maybe I should title this post "nasty behaviour from nice people". Or at least, people who truly believe they are nice, and who have convinced everyone around them that they're nice.

But what's that smell?

I'll tell you. They exude just a trace of toxic fumes, just enough to unsettle those with a good enough olfactory sense to pick it up. This is confusing because it doesn't match up with their social gloss.

Sociopaths? Of course not. This could be your Aunt Edna - in fact, it probably is your Aunt Edna.. Do these people even know they are taking people by the nose and twisting it as hard as they can?

Probably not. Their self-awareness is close to zero, whereas their ability to size up and minutely analyze their prey is astonishing.

The better to eat them with.

The first example, which is often quite subtle and usually happens over the phone, is one I call "and how is". This person incessantly asks after others. Your husband, your brother, your children, your gynecologist, your garage mechanic. You sort of go along with it, feeling increasingly squirmy and not knowing why.


When a person incessantly "asks after" people, it makes them look super-polite and interested in other people, which is always a good thing, isn't it? Admirable, isn't it? Then why does the person posing all the questions never actually SAY anything? And why, when you finally hang up after 90 minutes of "and how is", do you feel like you could drop dead in your tracks?

Because they have siphoned you, that's why. Pretty Poison people are emotional vampires, and they know all sorts of subtle ways to suck your vital energy so that it becomes their own. "And how is" means they never have to say anything, so YOU have to do all the talking (read: self-revealing). After a while you realize you can't get out of this. You are forced to tell, tell, tell, until eventually you're telling them things you never intended to reveal to anyone.

Meantime, the person on the other end remains in a secure and invulnerable fortress, completely safe from any kind of probing. He/she has just laid the other person open, even gutted them, while remaining completely defended and protected. Genius, isn't it.

Oh God, we're just starting here! I'll never get them all in, but I'll try. Turning it around. This was a favorite ploy in my family of origin. I knew I had been emotionally abused as a child, and my sister even acknowledged it years ago. But when I stated it a little more firmly in a letter, there was a huge outcry that I was being horribly abusive. How could I even think of accusing anyone in this family of anything except loving kindness? My Dad's alcoholism, which my sister had clearly acknowledged on paper, was suddenly sucked back and no longer existed. The wagons went in a circle and I was shut out. Later I discovered that when my mother died, my name was casually left out of the obituary as if I had never existed. The record had been wiped clean.

That's what you get for messing with such "nice" people.

I'll make this one short, but it's especially awful: a thin girl says, "oh, I'm so FAT" in front of a girl who truly is fat. I don't need to add more to this one, as it happens all the time, with adults as well as children.

"You're too sensitive." (Corollary, kicking it up a notch: "You're crazy.") This too-sensitive amateur diagnosis means the other person has license to treat you like shit stuck to somebody's shoe. If you react at all, you're obviously fucked up. Another nice way of abdicating responsibility and making the injured party the source of the problem.

There's one I call "vague-ing". Pretending not to remember things, commitments, messages, etc. and claiming these things either never happened, or were so insignificant as to not even register. Often these are related to having your basic needs met in the relationship (chief among them acknowledgement that you exist). This involves ignoring, consistently losing or "misplacing" important things: "oh, did you send me something? It's just that I get SO many emails, maybe yours just got lost."  But if you call them on all this toxic swill, suddenly YOU are being unkind and hypercritical. "Why are you picking on ME for something so petty? I really think you need to work on your abandonment issues." (Assuming the role of "healer" when you're hopelessly fucked-up yourself deserves a post of its own.)

Dumptruck Syndrome. This occurs especially after a breakup. The phone calls gradually escalate and become more and more one-sided, but it is impossible to get away without just hanging up. Winding it up is agonizing, and the call "ends" about fifteen times before another freshet of self-pity cascades down and washes your vitality down the drain. These can also come by email, usually from the person who completely ignored your messages because they "just get so many emails, they can't keep track of them all" (see above). And yet, strangely enough, they suddenly tell you that "you're the only person in the world who understands me" (often accompanied by vague threats of suicide). So how can you fail to support them in their hour of need? What's the matter with you - how heartless can a person be?

A related syndrome is Human Vacuum Cleaner. Often you don't even know you're being sucked. This is usually an especially nice, compassionate person who is essentially alone except for her cats. Every time you try to have a conversation with her, it immediately slides into "drone mode" - endless chains of boring drivel about her Grade 10 biology teacher and the color of tie he wore to school, or the symbolic dream she had last night about her cats standing up on two legs and walking around, or New Age crap books you wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole. (Later she will press one of them into your hands, leaving you with the uncomfortable feeling that you "owe" her, and ask you incessantly "how much you liked it".) You start to feel an actual, physical sucking sensation, being drawn into her astonishingly dull orbit, and on the phone it's so bad you disappear into the receiver and can't be found. She never states outright that you are her only friend, but one day she unleashes a torrent of dark childhood memories and recounts all the gruesome forms of self-mutilation she has never told anyone else about. This is just before referring to her cat as her "spouse".

If one of these parasites saw this article, they would probably say, look, you'd better read this one, it sounds exactly like you.

Jesus! It sucks.

Ducks blown off their feet by the wind