It’s Narcissist Friday!
The ancient Parthians may or may not have been the source of our term “parting shot,” but their archers had a similar practice. As they rode away from the enemy, they turned almost completely around on their horses and fired back at the pursuers. That unexpected act claimed many soldiers, even leaders.
I enjoy many kinds of music, including that of Michael Bublé. So, when I heard a quote by him this past week where he mentioned narcissism, I had to check it out. The Bublé family is struggling with the illness of one of their children, and the struggle is taking a toll. Michael has announced his retirement from performing. He will spend his time with his family. Good for him. I suspect that is far more difficult to do than most of us understand.
In fact, the clue is in his parting shot. He says,
“I don’t have the stomach for it any more. The celebrity narcissism. This is my last interview. I’m retiring. I’ve made the perfect record and now I can leave at the very top.”
“The celebrity narcissism.” There’s a culture that few of us will ever see. The competition, the constant performance, the unreasonable expectations—look nice, talk nice, act nice. Don’t let anyone see the real you. Hide from everyone. Try to hide from yourself. Don’t cry. Don’t give in to temptations. Don’t cuss out the idiots. Hold it in.
So, he’s out. Wow! It’s tempting to think that he is a good guy who just got caught up in all of it and now realizes how artificial and meaningless it all was. And that may be exactly what he is. But then there’s that parting shot.
Every performer is competing. Every professional is expected to grow an audience, to stay ahead of the race. I think we see a little of that in his claim that he has “made the perfect record” and “can leave at the very top.” Just a comment to anyone who thinks he is giving up or copping out. Just a note to those behind him. One last statement of superiority.
I don’t know if Michael Bublé is a narcissist. Probably not. But he certainly reflects the values and behavior of that narcissistic culture he is rejecting. Narcissists often give these “parting shots” as they leave a place or position. Last words that lift themselves up and put others down. Last words to remind you that he is ahead of you.
When Richard Nixon lost the California governor’s race in 1962, he blamed the media. He appeared before the reporters to make a statement after the loss and said, “You don’t have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”
Of course, like most narcissists, he didn’t stay quiet after that. We remember that Nixon came back to win the presidency in 1968, surprising all those who had written him off a few years before. His parting shot in 1962 was a way of telling everyone that he was still on top and would have been elected governor except for the unfair treatment by the press. It was someone else’s fault.
Narcissists not only like to have the last word, they want the last word to be cutting and pointed. The employee says that it won’t be hard to find a better job than the one he is being forced to leave. The husband who tells his wife that he never really loved her as he walks out the door. The teacher who says she had no chance to win against the type of children and parents today. The pastor who says that most of his congregation were not really Christians anyway. The mother who tells an adult son that he never honored her. The boss who predicts the failure of the company without him.
To be fair, many of us will think these things as we leave or are forced to go. We may even wish we had the courage to say them. But the narcissist will stop in his tracks, turn around, and just say it. A parting shot.