Am I a Narcissist?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I'll be headed to London in a few days for a very quick trip and so, in typical Beth style, I am trying to complete every single task on every single list before I get on that plane.  Stupid, I know.

That means that the last few days have been consumed with the writing of the second draft of a commemorative book for a client, the back-and-forthing with an insurance agent, the prepping for a school visit at the Eighth Grade Center @ Springford, the watching of a documentary about graffiti, the blogging about Ismet Prcic's debut novel Shards, the writing of stories for a client news magazine, the neglect of a few emails I still have to write, the repolishing of my nails, the development of a plan to put my William novel into the world, the forgetting to pick up the dry cleaning, the thinking through of my spring Penn course, the preparation for the upcoming Jill Lepore lecture at Villanova University (wait, how does one prepare?), the reading of the first two chapters of The Art of Fielding because it is about time, the cooking of a dinner that could have been better, the reading of a friend's forthcoming novel, the writing of verse for our holiday card, the realization that the roof is leaking again, and the completion of an adult novel that has been in the works for years.  I also purchased a few early holiday gifts and made the decision—an emphatic one—that I do not like shopping.  No, I do not.

{For those, who, understandably, plan to read no further, please note (see below) that this tongue-in-cheekish list was produced to make a larger point.}

In the midst of all of this, I paged through (lightning speed) the December 5 issue of Newsweek.  (Frankly, I still have a lot of questions about this new iteration of Newsweek, but those questions are for another day.)  I stopped at page 61, the Omnivore page, where Diablo Cody and Charlize Theron look out upon the reader.  The story is called "The Narcissist Decade," and it's an essay Cody has penned in anticipation of the December 9 release of her film "Young Adult."

"Young Adult," as it turns out, is about a not-very-nice seeming young adult author.  Cody tells us:  "Mavis's humble peers possess something that eludes her more each year:  growth.  They've matured into seasoned adults with perspective and humility, while Mavis continues to flail in a self-created hell of reality TV, fashion magazines, blind dates, and booze."

(I sincerely hope that Mavis is not meant as a stand-in for all YA authors.  I sincerely hope that.  I do.)

In any case, later on in the essay, Cody, whose husband has told her that she shares a number of traits with Mavis (an assertion Cody at first denies), goes on to suggest that perhaps we are all narcissists.

Before you get as offended as I did, allow me to explain.  Sure, we're not all deranged homewreckers in pursuit of past glory.  But if the era of Facebook and Twitter has fed any monsters, it's those of vanity, self-obsession, and immaturity.  Who among us hasn't Googled an ex, or measured our own online social circle against that of a perceived rival, or snapped multiple "profile photos" in an attempt to find the best angle?  Who hasn't caught herself watching an episode of "Jersey Shore" and thought, "I'm a grown-up. Why am I concerned with these people and their sex lives?
I haven't actually ever done any of those things (helped in part by the fact that I never had an ex and that I'm too uncool to know what channel "Jersey Shore" is on).  But I suspect that anyone could look upon a blogger who enumerates her week's activities as a narcissist (for the record, I was just trying to make a point up there).  Any memoirist (and heck, I've written five and am halfway through a sixth) could also be called one of those—you know—those.  Any Facebooker who has ever logged a single status update could also get slammed with the term.

But here's what I'm going to suggest, a modest proposal:

It's how we live our whole life (lives?) that counts.


Kelly Simmons said...

You are not a N--ist. You are simply "timesheeting" . . .the tendency of the self-employed to enumerate the tasks of the day, if only to marvel at the absurdity of them!

Melissa Sarno said...

I agree with Kelly that looking at the absurdity of life (or just life in general as in a blog, a memoir, or a facebook status) is not necessarily narcissistic. The way you do it shows you are thoughtful and that you care about the things you experience.

Michael G-G said...

Well, if you are a narcissist, then we all are.

And, for good measure, we all have ADD. (Or so my conversation yesterday with a couple of school mothers at our sons' swimming lessons would lead me to believe.)

Serena said...

I think that enumerating events on Facebook in and of itself is not narcissistic, but the act of checking back and counting the comments on those updates is narcissistic....that one would care that much that they are loved...but in turn not seeing a satisfactory amount of comments could also be detrimental to the psyche of the supposed narcissist -- so perhaps they are not narcissistic after all but masochistic. ;) (wink)

Becca said...

I wonder sometimes about this new compulsion to share so much of ourselves and our lives. Is it narcissism or a longing for connection?

I want to read this essay you speak of.

Amy said...

There might be a little narcissist in us all, who knows? But I agree with other commenters that there might be other reasons for these things.

I can't see that YA movie bc of the premise of using YA as a sign of never growing up.

Melinda said...

So I googled this morning "Am I a narcissist" to find out if I'm a narcissist, and I am thinking the fact that I am so concerned about being a narcissist makes, in fact, a narcissist.

I am not anxious to feel the 46 years I have stuffed in my hip-pocket, but I do wonder if I will ever grow up. Friends are buying vacation homes, gearing up for retirement, moving ahead with long-legged strides; I feel like I'm constantly trying to get a mere foothold.

So we're all ADD, you say? All over the map, eh? Nah.

Melinda said...

So I googled this morning "am I a narcissist" and I am thinking that my heightened concern with whether or not I am a narcissist makes me, in fact, a narcissist.

I am not anxious to feel the 46 years I have stuffed in my hip-pocket, but I am afraid that I will never grow up. Friends are moving toward retirement homes, and empty nests with long-legged strides. I feel like it is all I can do to get a foothold, and even that eludes me.

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