Monday, November 28, 2011

Piece-O-Crap Wine Rack And Other Useless Gifts

To say that narcissists are crappy gift-givers would be a major understatement. Their gifts are often useless, sometimes landmines, and always come with strings attached.

I remember once, during one of the last times we saw NMIL, she came to our house with some dusty old wicker wine bottle holder. It looked like she scooped it out of the trash on her way out the door and decided to "gift" us with it. I don't know what the story behind it was because I was in the kitchen cooking when she arrived and my husband answered the door. He came walking into the kitchen with the thing and asked me if I wanted it and I barely glanced at it and said, "Yeah sure, I guess." Had I spent longer than a second thinking about it, I would have taken it from him, handed it back to her and said, "No thanks." I was taken sort of off-guard by the thing, because I hadn't at all been expecting getting anything from NMIL, let alone some piece-of-shit, barely-held-together, dusty old wine-rack that I wouldn't use and didn't like. Hell, not only wouldn't I use it, but I couldn't use it: I was eight months pregnant with DS, and DH doesn't really drink wine.

I didn't really think about it until the next day and I thought, "Oh well" and threw it out. I remember having the thought that maybe NMIL gave it to us because it was just junk to her anyway and she simply didn't want to have to deal with throwing it out. In essence, I thought, maybe we were just her dumping grounds.

But the whole thing puzzled me, even though I totally get the whole "narcs are crappy-gift-givers" thing. I suppose that it's a bit futile coming up with theories about NMIL's piece-o-crap wine rack, except that it ties in nicely with my "how-to-deal-with-narcs-during-the-holiday-season" theme. I have found that it's much easier to properly deal with shitty N gifts when you more fully comprehend where they are actually coming from and that YOU aren't a reflection of the value they've assigned you.

So, having pondered this particular gift for a while, I've come up with some ideas about it:

If memory serves me correctly, this particular "gift" came to us the second to last time we saw NMIL. We saw her in October of 2010, which was the first time we had seen her in over four months. Then, she came to DD's first birthday party, ever resplendent in her phoniest of all narc-masks. That same month, she came for a short pseudo-Thanksgiving meal (at which I made sure she only got to see DD for a limited amount of time and she left as soon as DD went to bed). And the last time we saw her was for her fifteen minute visit at the hospital the day after DS was born. (Wahoo! We're approaching our one-year-anniversary of being NMIL-free!) Anyway, I believe that the day she brought us her crappy wine-rack was during that pseudo-Thanksgiving visit.

So, it went like this: We didn't see or hear from NMIL for over four months (she was giving DH the cold-shoulder for his now-famous declaration of independence), we had a short visit with her at her mini-mansion, she came for DD's birthday party, she came for a short "holiday" visit, she came to the hospital to see DS after he was born. During the visit at her house in October, she "gifted" us with her cooking. During DD's first birthday party, she made sure to point out that her gift to DD was in "that really really big bag," signifying, naturally, that her gift was the best. And naturally, she brought along crappy, insignificant, and other-wise meaningless gifts to the hospital when DS was born.

I'm fairly certain that the dusty wine-rack was gifted to us because A) She has ALWAYS attached gifts to every single interaction we've had. (The above mentioned are just the most recent examples). B) She was determined to show us how much she "loves" by coming with a gift in hand. And C) She was always on a quest to show us, in ever-so-subtle means, exactly what we were "worth" to her. ("Here, Son and Daughter-in-Law, you are worth this dusty, crappy wine rack"...see what I mean?)

I've created a list of some of the things I consider to be her "gifts" to us that I haven't previously talked about. To define our terms: By "gifts" I mean anything that NMIL gave willingly, in the hopes that she would "get" something in return, be it NS, the pain & suffering of her target, or the humiliation of her target.

These are not in order, and I'm sure that I'm missing some, but this list should paint a fairly accurate portrait of the types of strings attached to the she-devil that is my husband's NM:

1. At our wedding shower, NMIL came with a shower gift that was actually appropriate. She also came with another gift for DD (who was about six months old at the time). It was a bathing suit that was several sizes too big. BUT, that wasn't the part that got me: What tickled the back of my mind ever-so-slightly was the comment she made as she handed me the little pink bag: "It's [DD's name] first bathing suit!" I remember thinking a couple things all at once, "How do you know we haven't already gotten one for her?" And "Bitch, step-off. I won't allow the boundary-pushing that so many others let you get away with." For anyone who knows narcissists, you know well how they continually push boundaries because they expect little resistance, and because they don't recognize others as being valuable, significant, or having any worth. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I just knew that this particular gift was one with the barest tendril of strings reaching out to my DD. There was something in the way she said it, something in the attitude in her posture that told me if I accepted this, she would continue sending out her tendrils until they solidified and actually reached their intended target: the being who I am sworn to protect, cherish, and love...our daughter. I knew well that people like NMIL started small, ever-so-subtly grooming their targets to accept their abuses, until they didn't know any different and were too afraid or unaware to cry out against the injustice of it all. Some might say I was making a mountain-out-of-a-molehill. I know that I wasn't. It starts with a bathing suit. And that's just the beginning. The following weekend, I returned the one that NMIL picked out and bought one that I liked instead. I've read about far too many Narcissistic mother-in-laws to believe that her "gift" to my DD was anything less than a first attempt at planting the seeds of boundary-crossing within the mind of my infant daughter. Those were not seeds I'd be allowing in my garden.

2. A few weeks after we first announced our pregnancy with DD, DH and I were having breakfast with NMIL to discuss the possibility of moving in to the apartment she rented. We didn't yet know that she was lying to us, or that her plans for us involved what she no-doubt hoped would be the ultimate sabotage of our newly-budding relationship. In the parking lot of the restaurant where she "treated" us to breakfast, the subject of my bra-size came up. I think she asked me if I had gone up in size at all since becoming pregnant. If you think that's intrusive, just wait. At the time, I hadn't realized that I had in fact gone up two bra sizes (no wonder why my bras had become so uncomfortable!) and so I said, "I'm not sure. Maybe a little." In an "I-know-best" sort of tone, NMIL told me that she had bras at home that were much too big for her now, and that I could have them, if I wanted. Here, Dear Reader, is where I have to shake my head at my three-years-ago self and smile. Poor little unsuspecting Jonsi. If only she knew THEN what kind of monstrosity she was dealing with, she might not have overlooked this bra-giving-extravaganza as such a "little" thing. But this was prior to my enlightenment, and I thanked her and said I'd try on the bras at her house. Like so many other unsuspecting targets of narcs, I pushed my feelings of discomfort aside and graciously accepted her very first (and...was it also her last?) "offer" to help "poor little me." In hindsight, I can now put a finger on what I was feeling at the time: uncomfortable (did my dear boyfriend's mother just offer me her bras? Icky.) uncomfortable (I'm so worried she's going to cross my boundaries and just walk in to the bathroom where I'm trying these bras on) and...surprise, surprise: uncomfortable (Did she really take on that, "I-know-better-than-you" tone about MY boobs, all the while subtly criticizing the way I look?) In all, the whole event was short, but felt awkward. I didn't know what to make of it at the time because I wasn't yet fully-aware that she was a full-fledged narcissist. But if the feelings I experienced at the time weren't sure red-flags, then I don't know what would be. I ended up taking a couple of her bras and, though she never brought them up again as a means to invoke the NS that had no doubt been originally attached to them, I believe she would have if I hadn't shortly thereafter been made aware (oh, so aware) of the level of her evil. This particular "gift" actually makes me laugh though, to this day. Thinking of NMIL trying to get all "chummy" with me by insulting me, worrying me into thinking she'd walk in on me while I was half-naked in her bathroom (I remember desperately trying to find a lock on the door and couldn't), and giving me her hand-me-down bras has got to be one of the more comical scenarios of our whole relation-shit.

3. When we moved in to our apartment, several weeks after having dealt with her lies and her sister's heinous crimes, NMIL called DH and said she had a "great idea for a house-warming gift for us!!!!!!!" (I didn't hear the conversation directly, but I'm sure there were exclamation points abound). When he got off the phone, he relayed her "gift-idea" to me and added that he wanted to ask me about it first because he didn't know if it was something I would want. She offered to buy us a digital camera** like the one that she had. In talking about the incident in the present, I told DH that I think his instinct to ask me about it first was right-on-the-money and that he knew me (even then) better than he realized. I was happy he'd put off answering his NM (narcissists hate that, they like to pressure their targets into answering NOW) and was happier, still, that he wanted my input and wasn't going to make the decision alone about accepting any of his NM's future "gifts." I told him, "You can tell her thanks, but no thanks." The plain truth was that I would have gladly accepted a digital camera like the one that she was offering, just not from HER. Not only was there no guarantee that she would actually follow through on this "promise" (never trust a liar folks), but I had absolutely no interest in allowing any further manipulations from her, not even if they came in the form of rather expensive digital equipment. I valued myself, and my DH far FAR too much to play those games.

(**The digital camera she owned was no small expense - it wasn't just a point-and-shoot digital, it was the real-deal. You're talking several hundred dollars for the equipment)

4. When DD was born, in spite of several requests that people not buy baby clothes for our infant because I had already been blessed with an overabundance of them, NMIL and her sister "gifted" us with several batches of new baby outfits. The first few came the day after DD was born. Along with a huge robe for me**, NMIL gave us two baby outfits for DD: One in pink and one in blue because "she had bought them before the baby was born." (We had chosen not to find out DD's gender during the pregnancy, so that part could have been legitimate). The next set of clothes came a few days later when NMIL and Naunt came to visit us at our apartment. After I had already told NMIL (yet again) in the hospital that we didn't need any girl clothes, she and her sister gave us several more brand new baby outfits and pretty but useless burp cloths. I remember thinking it very funny that I had been sorting through a mountain of baby clothes just a few hours before they arrived and they'd had to walk past the piles of my work-in-progress in order to get into our apartment. And before they handed me their frilly gifts, they'd asked me if there was anything I needed for DD, to which I replied matter-of-factly, while indicating to the piles, "NOT clothes." I wasn't even slightly embarrassed when I opened up their packages. Another important note: They had brought along DH's youngest cousin, who was about eight at the time, and I remember her contribution to the gift-bag as being the most heart-felt out of everyone's there. Her gift, even though it was also an article of clothing, outshone those gifts of her narcissistic family-members as the sun outshines a broken light bulb. I suppose it's not hard to imagine, Dear Reader, that an eight-year-old little girl could put more thought and heart into choosing a gift than a Narcissist can, but her gift was proof. I remember how excited she was to share it: the outfit that she had taken hours to pick out (she told me.) And MAN, she couldn't have picked out a better gift. In the short time she and I knew each other, she had a better idea of who I was than NMIL or Naunt ever would. The outfit she picked out for DD was a reflection of her own thoughtfulness and proof (at least to me) that she may someday escape the narcissism running rampant in her FOO. The gift she picked out STILL remains my favorite article of clothing that DD ever wore, and I packed it away in DD's box of special things in the attic. Anyway, I pointed out the thoughtfulness of her gift as a means to show the UNthoughtfulness of NMIL's. Where DH's little 'cous hit one out of the park, NMIL failed to even show up at the ballgame.

**I must say at this particular juncture: I think we all know that any of the "gifts" NMIL gave me were not actually for me...they were for DH. He was the one she was really trying to impress (and from the beginning, the only one it had ever really worked on. DH has come a LONG way since then).

Dear Reader, I feel the need to share with you that NMIL is not yet done with her "gift" giving. She is not yet done because she still thinks my husband has strings left to be pulled. He doesn't. But she hasn't figured that part out yet. In the case that NMIL-and-Co. find our blogs, DH and I have decided to play her most recent gift-giving shenanigans close to the chest, but rest-assured that they are not fooling us.

And I have no doubt, Dear Reader, that the narcs in YOUR life won't be fooling you either. Here's to the upcoming holidays: May the narcs realize that their days of pulling your strings are numbered!


  1. LMAO. I could hear a bell ringing for my own life when reading this post except that it is my mother who is the awful gift-giver. I got a size extra small belt for Christmas when I was 8.5 months pregnant. She also would often give my younger sister the items I put on my short little gift list (I never got any of my sister's list, though. I typically got random crap unless my dad happened to have time to shop, which he usually did not).

    My husband thought I was making shit up or at least exaggerating when I warned him not to tell my parents that we exchanged a gift from them. The poor fool cheerfully showed my mother the cute little shirts we exchanged for the fugly outfits my mom bought our infant son. See, his family likes it if we get what is suitable for us. My husband pulled me aside later and asked, "WTF was the deal with the Look on your mother's face?" I replied, "I told you not to say anything. It doesn't matter if it had been the wrong size, if she bought it & it does not fit YOU are the wrong size."

    Thank goodness he sees that I'm not making things up. I thought I was crazy & mean-spirited for 2-1/2 decades.

  2. Vicarious - No, definitely not mean-spirited or crazy, though I can totally understand how/why your NM would have made you feel that way. This cracked me up, "It doesn't matter if it had been the wrong size, if she bought it & it does not fit YOU are the wrong size."

    Every time NMIL bought DD clothes, they were the wrong size. I chalk it up to her lack of caring. Ns just don't "get" the whole gift-giving thing. Well, it's either that, or they give shitty gifts on purpose. I think it's a mixture of the two.

  3. Holy coincidence Batman! I was JUST thinking about this aspect of Nness today.

    My Nmother used to give me the worst clothes. Stuff that wasn't even in the ballpark of what I would wear. Of course she didn't approve of what I wore, but I would have looked quite bad in the stuff she got for me (which was the idea, I think).

    She also had some kind of mental block against keeping receipts, so returns were out the question. If I didn't like something, I could just give it to Goodwill, and be SOL for gifts that Christmas. Of course even suggesting that I might return something for another gift was proof that I was ungrateful and ... you guessed it....selfish.

    No wonder I'm so ambivalent about Christmas.

  4. When I went to Maine for my baby shower thrown by my NM, all the food and drinks were what she wanted. The one thing I'd asked for for weeks she turned down, saying I could get it anytime.

    When we arrived at her home after a 6 hr drive, she made us look at all the shower decorations and self-made diaper cake while she patted herself on the back. She then made us sit through a fashion show of clothes she'd bought from garage sales. ("I got this $40 snow suit for EIGHT DOLLARS.")

    The best part? During the shower, I opened a garage sale christening outfit with gaudy blue crosses on it. I was 33 and had never in my life been religious. Did she not know me at all? She was not religious when I was a child, either. Once, when she dated a former coke-addict-turned-Christian, I went to Sunday School on Easter. I thought it was great b/c of all of the candy, but never went back again when I realized there'd be no more candy. But I digress...

    Back to the christening outfit. The next day she told me I could use it for the christening. I told her there wouldnt be one. She asked me why, so I reminded her I'm not religious. So? SHe asked. I then reminded her I, myself, was never baptised. That doesnt mean he can't be, she responded.

    Boundaries much?

  5. Pinkpearl - I've been thinking about this aspect of Nness (ha!)because of the upcoming holidays. It just seems to be one of those things that is really blatant to me, perhaps because I came from a family where gifts were truly from the heart. Anyone in my family could give the same gift that NMIL has given me (or my husband, or our children, etc) and it would mean something entirely different. It's such a strange phenomenon, the whole "sensation" of receiving gifts from a narcissist. I'm sorry to hear that you don't enjoy the Christmas season - My husband is not as enthusiastic about it as I am, but we're working on that. I think he probably feels the same way you do...I mean, what's so special about Christmas, when it was only ever used as a means to pull your strings? But, it doesn't have to be that way any longer! It can be much, much better.

    DLK - I have read about your baby shower on your blog and had several, "Holy crap!" moments because I could see some major similarities between your mother and my husbands. I told him that I actually think he's lucky insofar as he's a boy and doesn't have to deal with the whole gender bond that (obviously) adult-daughters have to deal with. NMIL didn't have much of a hand in our baby shower, our wedding shower, our wedding...or any other major event in our lives. I didn't want her there. If it had been my mother who was the narcissist, I could see how much more difficult it would have been to exclude her. Your story is particularly poignant for me though, even though NMIL wasn't involved in those same events for me - the baby shower thing is just such a special time...and what better way for a narcissistic mother to try and hurt the pregnant woman (be it her daughter or daughter-in-law) then to attempt to sabotage her baby shower (or the actual birth of the child!) Yuck. While I wish that I hadn't let her in at all, I'm glad I only let her in a little. Anything more would have been horrific!

    I remember feeling that way when I read about your baby shower...I felt sad for you, and righteously angry!

  6. I can relate. Oh how I can relate. I've been on the receiving end of USED underwear from my NMIL. I think what took the cake was her wedding gift to us, though. A month after our wedding she slipped a long letter under the door of our apartment. She said she had thought long and hard about the appropriate gift to give her son and daughter in law on the occasion of their wedding. Her gift was a very long itemized list of every single penny it cost her to raise her son. At the end she said her gift was the forgiveness of this debt that was OWED to her, so that we could begin our marriage debt free. Yep. She actually thought that her adult son OWED HER the cost of raising him! Crazy.

  7. ELIF - I read your comment with a look of disgust on my face, wondering, "Oh sheesh, what did the NM pull??" Reminds me of the card NMIL gave DH on our wedding day (it was addressed only to him) in which she implied that he was unlucky to have me and his daughter, that he was no longer his Gram's "lucky star," and that she wished everything could go back to the way it used to be (we all know what THAT means.) Blech. Crazy is right. Actually, that's probably an understatement!

  8. THAT'S her gift for your wedding day? A letter that she thought long and hard about and an inventory list of all the monetary costs of raising her son? HAHAHA! Fuck yeah, narcissists! Go go go!

    Aww, no gold star for LSV! Aww, I'm so sad.
    I bet this is how you're feeling:
    That hag, Mrs. Puff.

  9. Bahahahahahaha, Lisa! Hahahahahahaha!