My friend and I were on the phone this morning talking about self-absorption and neediness and fishing expeditions. It started with her telling me about the mother of one of her eighth-grade daughter's friends, who every time they meet brings up all the wonderful schools her daughter got into for high school, and my friend thinks that she keeps bringing it up because she wants her to say, "Oh how wonderful, how brilliant your child is," and my friend keeps not giving her the satisfaction.
"Why won't you say it to her?" I asked.
"She needs it too much," my friend said. "I was taught that that kind of neediness is untoward."
Yes, my friend uses words like "untoward."She's a wonderful writer and we made a good team when we were both at the same magazine, writer and editor, similarly obsessive and perfectly simpatico, though in physical appearance we could not be more different. She is petite and muscular in a thin athletic way, and I am, well, not. But emotionally and psychologically, we get each other. And we have history. Our friendship has deepened since we both got laid off from the magazine six months apart. Now we know we're both choosing each other, rather than just being thrown together on the job.
But back to our convo.
I asked her, "If this mother needs the affirmation why not just give it to her? I mean, her daughter did do well. She's proud of her."
"It's so self-absorbed to be that needy," she said. "Plus it's her daughter that got into those schools, not her." I should point out that my friend's daughter got into the top boarding school in the country, which may have something to do with this woman wanting her to acknowledge that her own daughter is special too. Yes, she's probably being needy and isn't fully aware of it, but I kind of have a soft spot for people who aren't overly concerned with how they're coming across.
My friend then brought up a women we both know, call her Sabrina, who is in our age range, who posts selfies daily, some of them looking sultry and suggestive, some of them looking fairly raw and unflattering.
"No woman over 40 should be posting selfies like that," she said. "It reveals a level of self-absorption that is just embarrassing. I mean, I'm self-absorbed and vain and I know it, but I don't have to put it on display for the world."
I pointed out that I sometimes post selfies, but only when they lie about my chins! She said, "Well, I don't see you as vain in that way so maybe I have to rethink this."
"But I am vain," I said. "That's why I post selfies that lie. Whereas Sabrina posts pictures of herself in all conditions, and I suspect she's happy with how she looks in all of them! Maybe she's doing that Cindy Sherman thing where her face is her art and she's exploring all its moods and shades. She's not bound by needing to appear a certain way."
We kind of laughed because Sabrina really does post a lot of super dramatic selfies. On the other hand you have to admire people who do whatever the fuck they want without really caring too much what other people have to say about it.
So what do you think? When someone is clearly needy for affirmation, do you just give it to them? If you were in my friend's shoes, what would you say to the woman above?
And don't you kind of love the people in this world who feel completely free to be embarrassing?
(I should note that I am completely grateful for all the affirmation my friends here have given my needy self over the years!)
The photo up top is the Freedom Tower from the sun roof of our new car!
We are not people who switch out cars regularly. Our past vehicles served us for eleven and sixteen years, so the choice of a new car felt somewhat loaded. But we did it! We navigated the buying-a-new-vehicle maze and came out the other side.
Here is another view of the city from the new (or rather gently used) car.