The first time I saw it happen, I second guessed myself that it was probably an optical illusion. I ended up cheating myself out of that AHA! moment of knowing that I have finally mastered the art of seeing a mask slip right when it’s happening.
When it happens and that mask slips, you can see the dark hole just beyond the surface of someone that has totally forgotten the story they spun just for you, by letting you hear the exact same story they had spun for someone else, as if you never existed. Then everything they ever said to you that had any impact at all, comes into that questioning light. Was any of it real? Did you mean anything of substance that you’ve ever said to me?
All of it had nothing to do with you, but it was everything to the masquerader, the person wearing the mask. That story was their ticket to the undivided attention and glory worship that made you feel like you were their super special friend…even though you weren’t. At that one moment when they had you completely sucked into their vortex, you were simply food for a narcissist. You were there just to mirror back to them how awesome you think they are because that’s how awesome they need to believe they are.
The best way to get that is to find those folks that have plenty of it to share. Those People Pleasers, those Givers, those ones.
I know all of this sounds so confusing and I think an example of what it might feel like is in order.
I was leaving work one afternoon and on the walk to the car I dug into my purse to see if I had any new messages. When I worked I kept my phone on vibrate, so anything that was happening until quitting time, was received in silence. I had a few messages from one of my friends so I clicked over to listen. She was crying and asked if I could stop by to see her before I went home. Other text messages from her were telling me she was in the parking lot and if I got the message in the next five minutes, could I please come out there. Those were received almost an hour ago. What in the world was wrong with my friend?! I hurried along the hallway to her office.
The crisis was a really bad haircut. Her regular stylist had evidently taken a few too many liberties with the scissors and my friend stood before me with a super short Mia Farrow haircut, if I ever saw one before. I reassured her that it was just hair and hers seemed to grow quickly. In the meantime, if she hated it this much she could wear hats or headbands or scarves. A bad haircut is devastating, but it’s not the end of the world or life threatening.
She put her arms around me for a big hug and through tears she told me that I was a great friend and I took great care of her. That felt so good to hear. Everyone wants to be a good friend. Everyone wants to be appreciated for the friendship they share. It was a beautiful friend-moment.
A week or two later this same friend and I were casually sitting around during our off hours with another mutual girlfriend when the subject of the haircut came up once again. Assuming I was one of the few that knew about that afternoon she spent in tears in the parking lot, I didn’t mention it. The last thing I would ever do would be to humiliate or embarrass my friend in front of someone else.
The mutual friend piped up and chortled about the numerous texts and phone messages she received that day and gushed about talking to her on the phone while she cried. She apologized to our friend for not being able to come to her rescue and the woman sat there pretending that I wasn’t also someone that got those same texts and calls and that I wasn’t the person that actually did seek her out to make sure she was okay. In fact, she started talking to me about that day as if I had no idea what had happened, like I was never there.
She was looking right at me and I could tell that she remembered me being there. She remembered that I had come to find out what was wrong. She knew that, but she was going to sit here now and pretend that never happened, because she didn’t want her other friend to know that the list for her litany that day had probably been a long one.
She sat there in her car that afternoon, upset over her bad haircut, and she called anyone she could think of that would answer her phone call, that would take the time and care to make her feel better. Or perhaps she just wanted to rage at someone because she lacked the courage to rage at the hairdresser. Who knows? But seriously? Who wants to be the friend that gets the kudos only because she was the first one to call back? Who wants to stand in line for attention or to feel special, especially when the moment isn’t even genuine? I’m just not that clingy.
My shock and then amusement was watching her try to cover her tracks.
The mask slipped and I saw it.
I wonder what my face looked like as I sat there looking right into her face while she played her part in this bizarre play. It had to be an expression of incredulity, a little shock, a knowing smirk after I figured out what was happening. Here I was witnessing something few folks ever got to see.
Maybe it was the wine talking? Lol!!
Here’s what it all meant to me; I wasn’t special to this person. I now doubted I even knew who she was. My friendship wasn’t something she treasured unless she needed a fix, some attention, someone to make her feel better, superior, not as wrong and screwed up as she probably thought she was. I was a plaything. Easily discarded and forgotten after she was done. She was a narcissist and I played the role of food.
A few years ago I never would have understood what was happening. I would have spoken up, said something, been upset that my own friend was making me feel invisible. Something like this would have bothered me for days. But not today. Today I just move on. I’m don’t get upset anymore. This is not someone I need to invest my time in anymore, so I don’t.
Walk away and be grateful that your healthy mental attitude is all you need to save you from a bad haircut.