When I was in my thirties, my mother and Aunt Ethel said something about math. Whether or not the subject started as simply their rubbing in how bad I am at math, that is what the topic became.
Being bad at math has been a part of my “character” for as long as I could remember. My mother studied math in college and would have become a math teacher if she hadn’t… dropped out of college to marry my dad and have a baby (my brother, also skilled at math.)
I grew up with a narcissist mother who bragged endlessly how intelligent my brother was. He was obviously her favorite. I used to think it was only because he was the boy and the eldest child, but in recent years I’ve realized: he’s her mini-me. It wasn’t only her: thanks to numerous people, I grew up believing my brother was highly intelligent and that I was stupid.
But back to that math-related conversation, which came to mind while I read the final chapter of In Defense of Witches by Mona Chollet, because the author writes about how women are conditioned to be self-deprecating and believe we’re stupid. Since my early childhood, my mother and some of her siblings relished ganging up on me — all jumping on me verbally, criticizing me for the same reason… or non-reason.
My mother and Aunt Ethel may have shared snide remarks about my poor math abilities before the words I remember from that conversation. My mother looked at me and said, “In kindergarten, you were really good at math.”
Evil Aunt Ethel smirked at me. “So you got two plus two down pat!”
This was around the time I finally realized that what I’d interpreted since childhood as a “cheerful” tone from Aunt Ethel was in fact a condescending and often gloating tone.
Since I can indeed add two plus two, I had no trouble — with a bit of research — figuring out that my mother and some of her siblings have narcissist personality disorder and that Evil Aunt Ethel, Pile of Offal, has antisocial personality disorder. In other words, this aunt whom I’d thought was so wonderful when I was a child and with whom I became profoundly disappointed during my adulthood was in fact a sociopath.
Years later a therapist informed me that a frenemy around whom I’d been walking on eggshells and bending over backwards for years not only had…