8 Common, Long-Lasting Effects of Narcissistic Parenting

Full article here.

2.  Echoism.

If you’re particularly sensitive or empathic by nature, you’re more likely to respond to narcissistic parenting with a stance I call echoism… Narcissistic parents who explode without warning, or collapse in tears any time a child dares to express a need, force sensitive children to take up as little room as possible, as if having any expectations at all is an act of selfishness.

I interpret this as not wanting me to exist.  This reminds me of my sister’s bouts of hysterics when I said I wasn’t coming to one of the reunions, and when I asked her about the possibility of a psychotic break.

3.  Insecure attachment.

The neglect, abuse, or emotional absence of a narcissistic parent can make us question how safe we are in other people’s hands. Roughly speaking, insecure attachment can take two forms: avoidant attachment… and anxious attachment, where we chase after love, pursuing—sometimes angrily—the connection we long for with our loved ones (Why won’t you pay attention to me!). Whether you become anxious or avoidant depends on a complex combination of temperament and consistency in care and attention, but ongoing neglect tends to create avoidance, and unpredictable attention generally yields anxiety.

I suspect I got neglect from my mother, and unpredictable attention from my older siblings.

4.  Need-panic.

A related problem is something I call need-panic. Narcissistic parents can make their children terrified of their needs, who bury them by becoming compulsive caretakers or simply falling silent. They may hum along for a while, seeming to need nothing from their partners or friends.
Then, a crisis hits, and suddenly—in ways they find deeply unsettling—they call their friends incessantly or seek constant reassurance.

For a few months after The Susan Incident, I was almost incapable of NOT talking about it to anyone who would listen.  This impulse surfaced again after 2012, when my youngest brother threw the whole thing back in my face, after 11 years of trying to stuff it down — plus more unpleasant revelations about how everyone had responded to it —  and I finally started really working on it.

7.  Extreme narcissism.

The more aggressive a child is by nature, the more likely they are to respond to narcissistic parenting by playing a game of if you can’t beat them, join them: “I’ll just make sure I’m the loudest, prettiest, smartest person in the room. That way no one can make me feel unimportant again.” If you’re born with a stubborn, bombastic temperament and exposed to the kind of neglectful or abusive parenting narcissists often provide, you’re more likely to end up narcissistic yourself.

My SIL in a nutshell.

Who’s the real victim?

Notes from here:

“In my own writings about the abuse I’ve experienced… I go into a lot of detail, get angry, and do a lot of research into such things as abuse and personality disorders… I pour everything in, all the details I can think of, along with trying to figure out what drives a person to act like that, quotes from my research which describe common abusive behaviors… what is abuse and what is normal.

“I have a strong will and don’t just figure I deserved what I got; I get very angry… I hope that these comments/blogs are not saying that if you’re angry, if you’ve done a lot of research into personality disorders and do know family history and have good reason to think disorders are at play, that it automatically labels you as the abuser playing the victim. In my case, the anger is part of the detachment/healing process and a natural response to being abused, and learning about personality disorders has reassured me that I did not deserve what I got.

When a person says “I’ve been abused, and I’m angry about having been abused!” that is not necessarily a sign that they are falsely playing the victim… anger is part of the detachment/healing process… It shows the victim is making an excellent recovery, in my opinion.

A genuine victim initially expresses lots of confusion and self-doubt:  “Am I the one at fault?”“What is going on here?” – “I’ve tried everything I can to improve my [family relationships], but I must be missing something because nothing I’ve tried seems to work.” – etc.

This bewilderment gradually shifts into “I think that maybe I am being abused.”… At this stage, many victims do an intensive search to learn more about abuse, trying to understand WHY the abuser behaves the way she does… As this research quest leads to material that labels the abuse as the problem (rather than blaming the victim), the victim begins to express more anger and outrage. This is a good sign of progress in recovery. Recovery isn’t simply about becoming angry, but when self-blame and shame are dispelled, healthy anger can come to the surface because anger is an appropriate response to injustice.

That’s what I’ve observed in the typical language of genuine victims as they move from the fog into recovery and healing.

Now I’ll outline what I see as the typical language of perpetrators who claim to be victims.

They don’t express the initial bewilderment and fog stage while the relationship is intact. They only start to talk about problems in the relationship when their victim institutes separation.

I submit that the complainant’s supposed shock at the relationship suddenly ending is a mark that the complainant was an abuser. In abusive relationships the victim will have tried over and over to explain her unhappiness in an attempt to improve the relationship. But abusers brush off all these attempts and/or twist them back so as to blame the victim and exonerate themselves.

So if I’m right, distinguishing mark #1 of a false claim is the suddenness of the complaint that is made when the victim takes drastic action to try to put a wall up against the abuse.

And conversely, distinguishing mark #1 of a true claim is that the genuine victim takes some drastic action of boundary-setting after having expressed fog-like bewilderment over a period of time, and given hints and waved “help” flags signalling that the relationship was in strife.

Along with this, the true victim may read things to try to understand why their abuser acts the way she acts.

So what is distinguishing mark #2 ?

  • It isn’t the sheer fact that the complainant expresses anger. True victims express anger when they are well on the road to recovery.  Both real victims and pretend victims can express anger.
  • Nor is it the fact that the complainant talks about their partner having a mental health problem. Some victims and counselors talk about abusers having personality disorders like narcissism or sociopathy. And readers here know that many abusers claim their spouse is ‘crazy’ or has a personality disorder.

The one common denominator of all destructive relationships:
The other person doesn’t take responsibility for their behavior.  Ever.

(The above was not written by me but is, quite literally, the story of my life.)


Abusers don’t willingly give up their victims.  Abusers aren’t the ones who leave the relationship.  Why would they?
The person complaining about someone leaving them is not the victim.


Typical Abuser Excuses:

  • “I was just joking.”
  • “I was having a bad day.”
  • “You got me upset.”
  • “It won’t happen again.”
  • “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
  • “You deserved it.”
  • “You know what sets me off.”
  • “You’re just as bad as me.”
  • “You know I have an anger problem.”
  • “It didn’t happen like that.”

    Ten behaviors characteristic of emotionally abusive women:

  • Bullying
  • Unreasonable expectations
  • Verbal attacks
  • Gaslighting (lying and then claiming he is crazy)
  • Unpredictable responses
  • Constant chaos
  • Emotional blackmail (guilt trips)
  • Rejection
  • Withholding affection and sex
  • Isolating

The result?  You’re constantly on edge, walking on eggshells, and waiting for the other shoe to drop. This is a trauma response. You’re being traumatized by her behavior. Because you can’t predict her responses, you become hyper vigilant to any change in her mood or potential outburst, which leaves you in a perpetual state of anxiety and possibly fear. It’s a healthy sign to be afraid of this behavior. It’s scary. Don’t feel ashamed to admit it.


“a non-abusive, loving spousal victim will not willingly give the minor children over to the predator”


The Typical Abuser

You may not realize that abusers feel powerless… They often have the following personality profile:

  • Insecure.
  • Needy with unrealistic expectations of a relationship.
  • Distrustful.
  • Often jealous.
  • Verbally abusive.
  • Needs to be right and in control.
  • Possessive; may try to isolate their partner from friends and family.
  • Hypersensitive and reacts aggressively.
  • Has a history of aggression.
  • Is cruel to animals or children.
  • Blames their behavior on others.
  • Suffers from untreated mental health problems including depression or suicidal behavior.

Abusers can have a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality. Dr. Jekyll is often charming and romantic, perhaps successful, and makes pronouncements of love. You love Dr. Jekyll and make excuses for Mr. Hyde.


Recently I was reminded of a very common tactic of the abuser.  What to call it?  Hounding?  Badgering?

…she appears to have a psychological need to justify his crimes, and for this she needs the victim’s affirmation.  Thus she relentlessly demands from her victim professions of respect, gratitude, or even love.  Her ultimate goal appears to be the creation of a WILLING victim.

…That means the perpetrator must wear down the victim until he willingly admits that she is justified in what she does, that he has been wrong, and so on.

So it is psychological warfare.  It is abuse.


“Does this person seem to feel unjustifiably entitled?” is the basic question I’m asking myself when I’m listening to a person who is complaining about their spouse or their marriage. The word “unjustifiably”  is important in that question, because survivors of abuse may so yearn for justice that they can come across as if they feel ‘entitled’ to justice. But victims of abuse are justified in yearning for justice – it’s not wrong for them to feel that way.

Power

Quote from this article:

“I was at a well-known university about nine months ago when I was in office and I asked an audience of 400 faculty and students the following question:

‘How many of you look at emotions as a source of weakness versus a source of power?’

And nearly every hand went up. This is the paradigm we have to flip in this country.”

Which one?

Had a FB convo recently that started off with one member of the group talking about how, as a baby, according to the advice of the “experts” of the day, she had been left in her crib to cry — so she could learn “discipline” FFS — which has led to her having abandonment issues.

A second woman chimed in with this story:

My mother was in the hospital in an oxygen tent for the first 5-6 weeks after my premature birth, with spinal meningitis, so I was home with an incompetent, elderly, agency baby sitter who had to chase after my two older brothers, aged barely 3 and 1.5 yrs old! So I spent most of my time in the crib and I REALLY had abandonment issues!

I am guessing that my early infancy was much the same, unfortunately, as far as the lack of attention goes.  “You had diaper rash so bad that your butt was bleeding,” was one of the few things my father ever told me about that time.


After some conversation about other horrible advice given to new mothers back then…

(side note:  about breastfeeding, etc.  One amazing example:

[my mother] was instructed that she had to wash her breasts with soap and water before each feeding, and then dust them with… wait for it… hexachlorophene powder!! So maybe it was a good thing she didn’t continue nursing either him or the rest of us– Hexachlorophene was one of the earliest antibacterial agents — doctors went nuts with it– insisting hospital nurseries be scrubbed with it, babies be bathed in it, hands be scrubbed with it– It turned out to be carcinogenic! And also toxic in too high quantities. There was a cluster of neonatal deaths at one of the hospitals through which my father rotated as an intern or resident, which was traced to excess hexochlorophene being used and not rinsed off the infant bassinets and incubators.

…the convo then turned to frequency of pregnancies back in the 1950’s days of Catholicism and little-to-no birth control.  I mentioned my mom had had her first three kids in 4 years.  The woman whose mother was hospitalized after her birth, had this to say about her extended family:

There were 5 of us born in 6 yrs, and when I was very young, I was always afraid one of us [me, the only girl] would be left behind– at gas stops on family cross-country car trips, after my father’s massive annual department picnic, after shopping, etc.  Recurring nightmare, even.  I never put the two issues [early infancy abandonment and later abandonment issues] together until much later.

But she went on to say:

It’s not like I can think of a brother I would trade for anything in this world to have made the circumstances less crowded or under-cared for.  I love all my brothers fiercely.  And I learned that rationalization from my mom’s baby sister, who learned it in turn from HER mom, who was her parents’ 12th  child in 20 years!  when she [my much neglected aunt, along w/ some of her over-worked “little mothers”/ aka older sisters] would have their moments of “Jeez-Louise, Ma, why the heck did you and dad have to have so dang many kids, anyway?!?

Grammy would then say,

OK, which of you all would you have wanted me to ‘send back’?

Of course, this question is the sort of thing that would be asked by a mother who — despite having a similar background and many of the same issues as my own mother, or worse — promoted not resentment but unity and togetherness — who really DID practice her religion and honored her wedding vows and “accepted children lovingly from God” — who loved ALL her children, and whose children thus ALL genuinely loved and cared for EACH OTHER.

The answer to the question is meant to be an unthinkable choice, one that no one could possibly make…


…but in my fucked-up FOO, there is an answer to that question — “Who do you want to NOT BE HERE?” — and it’s me.

(Incidentally, there’s also someone to put ALL the blame on:  “Look what your father did to me.”)

Logically, I have the ability to look at what all horrible choices were made, and the dysfunctional things that happened as a result, and say, in all honesty, that my FOO would probably have been better off if I really HADN’T been born.

But that idea, that because of the inconvenience to everyone else that I represent, I really am not wanted — or at least, I am not wanted badly enough for anyone to actually show some backbone on my behalf and hold other people responsible for their shitty actions to me

“well, we will let you join us as long as you’re no trouble, but on no account expect us to do anything DIFFICULT for YOUR sake now (because we did enough for you already back then, REMEMBER, WE CHANGED YOUR DIAPERS!!11!!)”

— that still hurts me deeply, sometimes.

Especially when I get a glimpse, through someone else’s words or pictures, of what “healthy” could have looked like.

The idea that anyone in my FOO could love me “fiercely” is just alien to me, except for my dad.  And now that our parents are gone, they all still have each other — as it ought to be, only I should have been included.

For me, the only one who really loved me, and would have done anything for me, is gone.  Those who are left obviously won’t, and thus I no longer have a family, and they no longer have a little sister — but it’s clear that this doesn’t matter as much to them, as long as mom’s “real” family, The Triumvirate, stays intact.

They got their wish.  I just wish it didn’t come at the expense of mine.

Couldn’t Possibly Have Been A Psychotic Break

Well, this story makes my blood run cold.

“Catherine Hoggle, the 30-year-old Maryland mother suspected in the 2014 disappearance of her two young children, was charged Thursday with killing them, a major development in a case long enveloped by Hoggle’s mental illness.

“Hoggle was charged with two counts of murder, after a grand jury indictment, and was being held without bond Thursday night in the Montgomery County jail, according to officials familiar with the case and jail records.

“Hoggle has spent the last three years locked in a state psychiatric hospital, refusing to tell detectives and family members what might have happened to 2-year-old Jacob and 3-year-old Sarah Hoggle.”

Two things about this story disturb me.

She is smart:  an IQ once tested at 135

She is also mentally ill:  she has earlier been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia

Well, three things really:  the third being that she probably killed her own children.

Three Strikes

“…I talk a lot about fighting back in The Asshole Survival Guide. There are three factors that especially predict how successful you will be at stopping or bringing down a bully. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is whether you—or them— have more formal power (the more powerful they are, the tougher it will be to win). The second is whether you are fighting back alone or with others, the more allies you have, the more likely you are to win because it is harder to portray you as a lone nut and you also have more power (even against a boss or other powerful person). The third is documentation; keep notes, emails, and social media posts, anything that provides objective evidence that you and your colleagues are in fact being bullied.”

I found out I have no formal power in my own family of origin.

I also found out I was alone in that “family”.

I am the “lone nut”, the scapegoat, the outsider, and as such I am not to be believed, let alone defended.  In some eyes, I am not even supposed to exist, not supposed to take up physical space, be noticed, be cared about.  (With the notable exception of being noticed for what I fail to do correctly, i.e. being criticized.)

And there was no documentation – the incident that started the whole thing, or rather brought it into the light, was deliberately engineered to have no witnesses, other than my husband and a brother who also has little formal power.

No wonder it all turned out the way it has.

A related article shows that there weren’t too many other options.

The powerful bully

Who they are: The engineer with hard-to-replace skills whose creepy overtures get overlooked. The rainmaking dealmaker whose boorish behavior goes unpunished. Whether they’re explicitly in charge or simply influential, too many organizations look the other way when top performers or top bosses behave badly. Sutton points to Roger Ailes — the powerful Fox News chief who left the media empire amid a swirl of sexual harassment allegations. “Going to HR didn’t seem to help anyone for years,” he says.

What to do: Tread carefully. “You’re fighting the cool kids,” Sutton says. In such cases, getting out is really often the best advice — especially if the behavior goes beyond milder incivilities. “This is one when you often leave, or when you hide, or when you lie in wait until their power diminishes,” Sutton said.

Gratitude

A fascinating article on neuroscience here.  I found a few things in it that I’ve already learned:

Suppressing emotions doesn’t work and can backfire on you.

Gross found that people who tried to suppress a negative emotional experience failed to do so. While they thought they looked fine outwardly, inwardly their limbic system was just as aroused as without suppression, and in some cases, even more aroused. Kevin Ochsner, at Columbia, repeated these findings using an fMRI. Trying not to feel something doesn’t work, and in some cases even backfires.

So much for “just get over it.”


we need to feel love and acceptance from others. When we don’t it’s painful. And I don’t mean “awkward” or “disappointing.” I mean actually painful.  Rejection doesn’t just hurt like a broken heart; your brain feels it like a broken leg.  In fact, as demonstrated in an fMRI experiment, social exclusion activates the same circuitry as physical pain

When you put people in a stressful situation and then let them visit loved ones or talk to them on the phone, they felt better.

And just what do you suppose happens when those same loved ones turn hostile to you in the most stressful situation of your entire life?

And later, when you find out that those loved ones don’t really love you?  That they see you as a problem, and they feel all superior for “not holding against you” the perfectly normal things you did?

Over the past five years I have come to understand that they don’t like me, and I don’t really like them either.  They aren’t happy or fun or accepting people, at least not to me.  We dislike each others’ values.  They don’t want to listen, or understand — they don’t let me speak my mind or offer my opinions.  They criticize my life choices, and I don’t like their superior attitudes — but they were my family, once upon a time.  They were people I had known my entire life.  And that rejection hurt.


Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life… I know, sometimes life lands a really mean punch in the gut and it feels like there’s nothing to be grateful for. Guess what?  Doesn’t matter. You don’t have to find anything. It’s the searching that counts.

There are ways in which I am grateful for this family rift, and even for eventually being forced to go no-contact with them.

It is a relief to finally understand some of the things I was always told, or which were “understood”, but which never made any sense.  And not just about our parents — it now makes sense to me why the reunions were the symptom of the problem, and why they would ALWAYS have to be on my sister’s turf, under her control.

Finding out about narcissism explains why I never really had a mother, why my father was so important to me, and even why the rest of them have to believe the opposite; and why I never really liked Susan.  And it feels good to know that my instincts were healthy.

It’s comforting to deconstruct situations which had always been presented in black and white, Mom=right and Dad=wrong, to find that they were really so much more complicated, and to know that there really weren’t any other better options than the one my father chose — perhaps mostly for my benefit.

And it’s great to no longer be obligated to spend time and money to be around people who have, in the past, been SURPRISED to find out that they could enjoy my company and conversation, or when they found out I wasn’t “just a spoiled brat”.  People who I now know have always seen me and treated me as a second class family member, as a problem, as some kind of “wrong” person — simply because I was born, for the very fact of my existence; and because I experienced a different father, and mother, than the rest of them did.

I do miss some of them:  my sister’s husband and kids, in particular.  I lost my past that day five years ago, but I also lost the future.  Not having kids myself, I have always cared about my sister’s kids.  Now I am cut off from them, and I don’t know their spouses or kids or anything about their lives.

That’s been a heavy price to pay, but for my own self-preservation I’ve had to pay it.  It’s difficult, if not impossible, to have a relationship with them that doesn’t continually include painful reminders of the people to whom I am not a beloved little sister, but instead a convenient scapegoat, to be punished for things that were never in my control.

The New Emangelization

This is the internet after all.  All sorts of trash exists out there.

Including this site with this interview, in which Cardinal Burke discusses how today’s lack of priestly vocations and even pedophile priests are the fault of women!

To quote the article that led me to the full interview, “the rampant crisis of pedophile priests was brought on by women who “feminized” the church and discouraged “manly” men from participating in clerical life… It should come as no surprise, given the extreme lengths the Church has gone to to cover up the abuse that has gone on at their hands for decades, that they are so ready to blame anyone apart from themselves.”

I expect there are a few people I’m related to who will eat up this idea of manly superiority and feminine inferiority, with regard to themselves.

But having gotten there, I read most of the original interview, and I’d like to draw attention to a different bit:

“…it was a long tradition in the Church, especially through the devotion of St. Joseph, to stress the manly character of the man who sacrifices his life for the sake of the home, who prepares with chivalry to defend his wife and his children and who works to provide the livelihood for the family.”

So if you’re going to agree with the Cardinal on all the other garbage, you ought to agree with him on this.

And Dad did this.  So why isn’t he considered a hero of the family?  Hell, why isn’t his contribution to the family even acknowledged?

I suppose I know the answer I would get:  the sin of The Divorce completely obliterates and overshadows 40 years of parenting and providing, of course.

That answer is fallacious, not to mention judgy — because AFAIK, no one on earth gets to rank another’s sins and virtues.  But they do anyway.

Mistakes

“Mistakes, no matter how terrible, don’t have to define us so long as we don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over.” ~~ Jim Wright

It’s been just about five years since that awful reunion, the second-worst-weekend of my life. The day when I found out just exactly how my siblings see me, what they believe about me, and how that manifests in how they treat me.

I have a sister who wishes I was never born and that I didn’t exist (and now can pretend that I don’t).

Because, you know, everything that happened, back in 1969 and after, is my fault, for being born.

I have a sister-in-law and a brother who see nothing wrong with screaming in my face the day after our father died: I’m talking feeling her spittle hit my face, I’m talking both of them screaming so loudly that another brother in the basement heard what was going on and came up for a look-see.

But, you see, I MADE them do it.

They had charitably decided to overlook “my behavior” of the night before, when I politely asked her to stop LAUGHING as I sat by my father’s still-warm body, less than half an hour after he had died — and she chose to completely ignore that simple request, ignored what I asked her to do at a time of deep grief and stress — the first time I’d ever seen anyone die, and it was my beloved father, but she refused to do that one simple thing for my sake.

When I brought up this disgustingly callous behavior the next day, I “made” them yell at me.

Said sister, and youngest brother, and probably oldest brother, don’t want to believe that happened — at least not the way I tell it. And brother and SIL made it easy for them by telling them all that I PICKED THE FIGHT that day. Which is easy – it goes right along with me “making” them yell at me like that. And everyone swallowed it, because it was the easy thing to do, and it went along with their preconceived notions of what kind of person I was — the person at fault for everything.

It’s been a long, difficult, sometimes lonely, 5 years.  It’s tough to break those patterns, of believing the same old lies, giving the same old responses, and getting the same old results.

But it’s worth it, to have figured out the truth, and not be hostage to someone else’s view.

Frankly, they should try it for themselves.

No one else has changed one bit, not in five years.  Zero reparations, zero understanding, zero empathy, and eventually zero communication (which is a choice I ended up having to make, not one I wanted).  A refusal to even read what I write.

I’m certain that me writing this blog is seen as FAR FAR WORSE than what Joe and Susan did to me.  Of course it is!

They only turned on me, yelled at me, at the lowest point of my entire life.  When at the age of only 31 I had just lost my only parent, my father.  At the moment when you are supposed to be able to count on “family”.  After days of hearing how we were going to “cut each other slack”.  And then they deliberately, strategically, and openly turned the rest of that “family” against me.

But me writing this blog — well, I’m pretty sure that’s unforgivable.  After all, the internet is forever!

Yes, it is.  And what they did to me is forever too.

Missing Stairs

The metaphor of the Missing Stair came from The Pervocracy.  It’s a very useful metaphor for a toxic person.

The basic idea is this:

“Have you ever been in a house that had something just egregiously wrong with it?  Something massively unsafe and uncomfortable and against code, but everyone in the house had been there a long time and was used to it?  “Oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you, there’s a missing step on the unlit staircase with no railings.  But it’s okay because we all just remember to jump over it.”

“Some people are like that missing stair…  Like something you’re so used to working around, you never stop to ask “what if we actually fixed this?”  Eventually you take it for granted that working around this person is just a fact of life, and if they hurt someone, that’s the fault of whoever didn’t apply the workarounds correctly.

“…Just about every workplace has that one person who doesn’t do their job, but everyone’s grown accustomed to picking up their slack.  A lot of social groups and families have that one person.  The person whose tip you quietly add a couple bucks to.  (Maybe more than a couple, after how they talked to the server.)  The person you don’t bother arguing with when they get off on one of their rants.  The person you try really, really hard not to make angry, because they’re perfectly nice so long as no one makes them angry.

“I know not all these people can be fixed, and sometimes they can’t be escaped either.  But the least you can do is recognize them, and that they are the problem.  Stop thinking that your inability to accommodate them is the problem.”


You know Racist Christmas Uncle? He’s a Missing Stair. It’s a person with whom you have to socialise who damages other people. They make racist/sexist/homophobic statements, or inappropriately sexual comments. They tell rape jokes. They talk about your weight, and whether you should really be eating that. A Missing Stair enjoys upsetting people to some degree, even if they’re not deliberately baiting you.

The Missing Stair is someone you can’t just avoid. They’re a relative, or a co-worker. They’re the partner of a friend, or a friend of your partner. They belong to the Group that does your Thing: gaming, or wine club, or whatever else normal people do…

This isn’t just a person who’s a bit socially awkward. You know you have a Missing Stair when the thought of going to a social event you know they’re going to be at makes you feel sick. You really know you have a Missing Stair when you complain about their behaviour to a mutual friend and they say, “Oh come on, you know what he’s like. Don’t let him get to you.”

Because that’s the thing about the Missing Stair: everyone knows what they’re like. If you quietly say, “I don’t know, one of the guys there, he kind of creeps me out,” everyone knows who you mean. Everyone knows the stair is missing. Nobody fixes it. Everyone is expected to work around the Missing Stair. 

People will not handle you being rude to the Missing Stair. The Missing Stair has a free licence to be a jerk, that’s just the way they are, but you are socially obliged to not make a scene. The Missing Stair can tell you you’re raising your children wrong with no sanction at all. Yet if at any point you call them a fucking moron, somehow you’re the one starting a fight. You can be told you must support the Missing Stair because they are family, or a friend – as if you somehow magically aren’t.

If you ever do manage to get a Missing Stair out of your life – by moving city, for instance, or through a death – that’s when you really start to realise just how much energy you were putting into constantly working around it. The relief is amazing. I have, a couple of times, been rude enough to deal to a Missing Stair, and having other people come up and thank you afterwards is little compensation for the stress and adrenalized sickness of the confrontation they totally failed to back you during.