Friday, December 12, 2008

Compassion and Vitriol

Now, tell me. Which of these two people deserves an outpouring of compassionate empathy, and which deserves to be mercilessly excoriated for narcissism, selfishness, and general asshole-hood?
I have been to 11 schools in different parts of the world and there must be thousands of people I could, if I wished to, call my classmates. I was never sad when leaving and I never had trouble making friends; I blended in just fine with whatever crowd there was to blend in with. My trick was that I never missed friends and relatives whom I left behind. The moment I set foot in a new country, even the moment I set foot in a plane that was to take me away, the friends I made in the country I left stopped existing. I have never written a letter or an e-mail or a Christmas card to anyone, never called, never tried to catch up with people with whom I used to hang out. If I got letters I never replied.
I didn't intend to be celibate for the rest of my life. I just wanted to get some therapy, wanted to understand why I kept choosing men who were smart and funny but critical, sarcastic and merciless like my father. I figured I'd give it a go again later, when I felt stronger, more confident. In a couple of years, say. But here I am -- 55 years old, a spinster long past my sell-by date, no kids -- and I haven't had sex in a decade and a half.

It's my own fault, I know. I'm picky. Casual sex doesn't do it for me. (I've always thought I had to be in love in order to make love.) I regard men with ambivalence, with alternate longing and fear. I've grown accustomed to being alone.

Can anyone explain to me why example #1 received dozens of gentle, forgiving responses, many of them with the heading 'Me Too,' while example #2 received seven hundred and thirty two comments, the majority of which were along the lines of 'Quit whining, you bitch'?

Because I am going to go out on a limb and state that candidate #1, regardless of Childhood Trauma, regardless of the human Need to Adapt, regardless of Coping Strategies, nevertheless still bears the moral responsibility for acting like a narcissistic user. In fact, this person IS a narcissistic user, whatever the reasons behind her behavior. I say this because she knowingly and habitually behaves in ways which hurt the people she claims to care about. Their unhappiness is less important to her than the discomfort she might incur in making the effort to change. And that is lame.

The second candidate obviously has Issues, as well. But while she may be losing out on life in protecting herself from its hurts, at least she's not out there actively harming others in the process. So what is the deal? Is this simply an example of vulnerability drawing attack?


Anonymous said...

Hey, I must be having a soft moment. But I must say that in the end, who knows why people behave the way they do? What may seem as callousness may be......callousness....or maybe something broken inside the person that not even that person is aware of......or maybe they are.
I know I've done my share of wronging......and it is often very difficult to face up to. I've made up for a lot of that wronging....but unfortunately...not necessarily with the people I wronged. But it has made it easier to understand and accept happenstance where I might feel that I was wronged.
Of course .....not always.
Tough to be human.

Pretty Lady said...

Hey Dano, please come visit, soon!

Ordinarily I'd be at one with your perspective on the callous one; we've all behaved like that, at one time or another, for one reason or another. But I was shocked at how nasty people were being toward the person who displayed the greater care, concern and self-knowledge, in my opinion. Also, I have a history of cutting people Too Much Slack for their woundedness, or their purported woundedness, and now I am of the opinion that cutting such people such slack is frequently not productive for anyone concerned.

Anonymous said...

HI Pretty Lady,
will visit soon, finals over Dec 20. And yes, I agree. I think cutting slack benefits us more in that we don't get as bent out of shape ( I think?)
Yu have been on my mind quite quite often I am glad to say.

Chris Rywalt said...

I think we as humans react differently to people who say "This is wrong with me." I know I do. If someone says, "This is wrong with me, and I don't care all that much," I think, good for you. If someone says "This is wrong with me, and it upsets me," I think, stop whining, bitch. There's something in me that feels, if you can name it, you can fix it.

Of course that's not true. I have direct daily experience with its not being true. You might as well say that, since you understand the chemistry behind it, you can take arsenic and it won't kill you.