Weddings don’t enter my life all that frequently, as I’m in the purgatory between “all my friends are getting married now” and “all my kids and their friends are getting married now.” But I did get to attend the rare family wedding a few weeks ago in southern New Hampshire. People danced. Toasts were made. Some individuals wore kilts. (Dave McGill was one of those people. Thankfully, for those who can’t deal with the visual, it was my Uncle Dave, not me.)
I will digress for a second to discuss the McGill family tartan. The McGill tartan is – how shall I put it? – a daring mix of reds, greens, and yellows that looks pretty festive at Christmas. I imagine my ancestors sitting around a hut, inebriated beyond words, laughing hysterically at the thought of combining these colors into a family badge of honor. Despite this, however, I will point out with pride that my first permanent prosthetic socket was laminated with the McGill tartan. It looked like I had shot a couch from 1970 and affixed it to my leg. But that misses the point of this wedding tale.
Mixed into all this mirth and tartans was a fascinating (in retrospect) discussion at my dinner table. As I sat in my chair, madly posting photos and comments to Google+ so that family members who were unable to attend could enjoy the festivities from afar, my sister (Erin) and her boyfriend (Michael) engaged the lovely couple sitting with us in conversation.
Because I am unable to multitask in any way, shape or form, I could process only snippets of the discussion while trying to get everything uploaded to the magical interweb. So as my thumbs navigated my iPhone’s virtual keyboard, I heard every 9th word The Wife uttered:
From this I determined, correctly it turned out, that The Wife works as a corporate consultant with a specialty in assisting high-level executives with narcissistic personalities. Her specialty, it appears, is helping narcissists temper their narcissistic tendencies so that they can work with their peers more effectively.
It was the next part of the discussion, however, where things got really fun.
“Narcissism is really a kind of disability,” The Wife explained. My head jerked up in anticipation. I glanced at Erin, who focused her attention on the speaker with laser-like intensity, striving with every fiber of her being not to turn her head in my prosthetic-wearing direction. I could see the stars aligning for a moment of Grand Irony, and no one was even drunk yet. This could be a transcendent moment, free of the taint of any built-in excuse like, “Oh, I say the silliest things after a few glasses of wine.” The Wife continued:
“We need to treat narcissists the same way we treat the disabled, like people who are missing arms and legs” she explained authoritatively. My first reaction was, “How? Badly? With pity? Labeling them ‘inspirational?'” My second was barely contained glee. Of all the analogies in the world to choose, she had selected not only disability, but amputation as the “disability de jour” to illustrate the crippling effects of narcissism. And she had a real live amputee sitting at her table with her. I thanked the gods for placing me at this exact seat at this exact table at this exact time. This was quickly turning into my Favorite. Wedding. Ever.
I sent out psychic signals I hoped my sister would hear – “OhGodyouhavetolookoverherecanyoubelievethisthisissoamazinghowfarisshegoingtogowiththissheobviouslydoesn’tunderstandwhoshe’ssittingwithshouldIpullupmypantlegandshowhermyprosthesisthisissoincredible!” And it worked! (I am now convinced that I do have the power to communicate directly via brain-to-brain interface.) Erin’s head tilted towards me for a split second and our eyes met.
And I could hear her psychic reply: “Ohmygodshedoesn’tknowyou’reanamputeeareyougoingtoSAYanythingholycrapthisisun[expletivedeleted]believable!” as her lips started to curl upwards in a smile. She quickly locked her attention back on The Wife, face placid, avoiding my now Belushi-like facial contortions. (This was easy for her to do. I was sitting across from them in a way that required The Wife and Erin to both turn 90 degrees if they wanted to look to me. I took this as yet another sign that higher powers wanted this to unfold like a movie scene.)
I don’t remember much of anything that was said after that, as I spent most of my mental energy trying to reestablish a mental link with my sister. The general gist of The Wife’s argument, so far as I remember it, was that narcissism is crippling in the same way that limb loss is. We we have to treat these poor, handicapped, emotionally-crippled Vice Presidents of large companies – if ever there was a group of people needing support and guidance to cope with the nasty vicissitudes of life, it’s highly-successful business people – differently, just as we treat people with disabilities differently.
My mind raced through the universe of possible responses available to me. The options were so plentiful that I couldn’t process them all, and I ended up instead sitting in slack-jawed amazement listening to A Hero’s Tale: Surviving (and Thriving) with Narcissism.
This line of conversation eventually dried up and The Wife and her spouse disappeared, leaving me, Erin and Michael to dissect what had just transpired. Over the throbbing pulse of dance music, I explained to Michael that I was disappointed that the sheer multitude of options available to me had overwhelmed my brain’s limited capacity to think of a clever riposte to The Wife’s worldview. He replied that he enjoyed blasting people out of the water for insensitive or stupid statements when the person uttering them was generally a jackass, but that The Wife wasn’t a jackass – she was just clueless and had compounded that problem by choosing a spectacularly inapt analogy given my presence at the table.
There is no moral to this story. I didn’t say or do anything in response to The Wife’s discussion points. I didn’t and still don’t have an emotional reaction to what she said, other than it made great fodder for discussion and (now) publication. On a scale of 1 to 10, I gave this wedding a 9.75.
You can’t make this stuff up.