When I went to Yahoo this morning to check my personal email (that's right, I roll old school), I happened upon a short US Weekly piece titled "Kris Jenner Posts Bikini Body Picture After Kim Kardashian Does." Although I never really watched Keeping Up with the Kardashians or followed any of their careers, I am American and like popular culture, so I know more about their family than I do about my father's. I think I clicked because I woke up at 3 this morning and because I was confused with how this might be considered news of any kind (full disclosure: I stopped watching the local news in 2004 because the top story was about a deer in someone's back yard). But, I know part of me clicked on the article because I find Kris Jenner distasteful and although I couldn't quite figure this out fully before, I know the problem is what I find to be obvious narcissism.
I spent a two year period in therapy working with a lot of issues, but a recurring one had to do with the fact that all of my prominent female friends were messes who depended on me to prop them up and lavish love upon them, but always made me secondary to the men who were fucking them. On a lot of levels, I sought this out because I was good at it; I was raised to do it.
When my parents' marriage became obviously fractured, I stepped in and was a husband surrogate for my mom. I bought most of her birthday presents (including things like lingerie); I told her she was beautiful and would never be older than 32 in my mind; I would do her makeup, cut her hair, and dye it or pay for someone to; I sent my parents in a limo to a nice restaurant for an anniversary and paid for it when I was in high school; in more ways than I can list, I dated my mom.
Whenever things went well with later partners, she would disappear on me; but, when things went poorly, she was with me all the time. I still remember one birthday when the woman she was seeing and living with disappointed her; mom called to tell me how bad it was and that she knew I would be able to make it all better. I spent 200.00 on her in one day, trying to make up for her girlfriend. At the time, I was a single mom and worked less than 40 hours a week at a coffee shop. I didn't have a spare 200.00. A few years later, my mom took a girlfriend who was my age to a spa as a birthday surprise and bought me a cook book while we were out shopping together near my birthday and just handed it to me. She wasn't a bad mom, she was a narcissist and the degree to which she could love me depended upon how good I could make her feel.
Hence, when I see Kris Jenner posting bikini shots days after Kim is splashed all over popular media doing the same thing, I wonder if Kris Jenner is displaying narcissism or if she is simply being herself and the dominant paradigm of motherhood (that women move from the foreground of their lives to the background of their children's) positions the narrative to appear desperate and narcissistic. I don't have an answer, but I know that I am projecting my family dynamic onto another family and that isn't a particularly rigorous way to analyze something.
A few years ago, my dad told me a story about my mom that I can't help thinking about this morning. When I was in high school, my dad was concerned that I might be having sex and knew that I wasn't on the pill or talking with my parents about sex. He went to my mom and asked her to talk to me because he knew that he and I did not have the kind of relationship that would allow for that to be a smooth or honest discussion. My mom told my dad, "If she's having sex, good for her. I'm jealous. At least someone around here is getting fucked." I never got on the pill. I got pregnant at 17. I didn't even really want to have sex but I felt like I was supposed to and that it was inevitable and some of it was non-consensual. I don't know that my mom talking to me about it would have changed anything and I absolutely don't hold her accountable for my poor life choices, but it had never occurred to me that we didn't talk about it because of envy. I wonder what sort of conversations the Kardashian girls had or didn't have because of narcissism.
Am I projecting too hard? Where is the line between refusing to disappear into motherhood and being a narcissist? Any other daughters or sons of narcissists about? Thoughts?
ETA: It turns out I am not just an armchair psychologist or totally projecting. During her divorce from Robert Kardashian Sr., Kris had a psychiatric eval that labeled her "narcissistic… [with] a marked elevation of the narcissistic scale."
Wondering if your mom might be a narcissist? Here is a quiz.