Remember when Word Up was the Code Word?
The last couple days, I’ve been thinking a lot about two other Code Words: Brand and Crazy.
sentence exercise was completely inspired by an old friend who reached out for help on Wednesday. She needed help with a problem that I thought I’d successfully put behind me. A problem that began seventeen years ago and I thought I’d successfully, finally shut down a couple years ago:
I swear, this guy comes back more than the bad guy in a cheesy slasher flick. Only this time he was coming – I should say “allegedly”, but…no – for an old colleague-turned-friend.
She needed his address to serve him with a restraining order.
Apparently, the old boy has been harassing her. Not unreasonably, she’d like that to stop.
I was struck by the word she and the two people I reached out to both used to describe his “recent” behaviors: crazy. It also occurred to me how hard that adjective would hit him, since he’s so highly protective of his brand. Like, since before a person being a brand was popular. I once described his modus operandi as “It’s better to look good than to be good”, and, well…things haven’t gone too well for us over the past decade.
I thought I’d finally shaken him a couple years back when he reached out on Messenger with this little chestnut:
Can we have a mature conversation?
Any guesses how that landed?
My first thought was, “An opener like that suggests you certainly cannot”, but assuming that my most current information on the man held up, knew that bit of insight would immediately escalate things.
But that’s how he is. He says and asks things that are so textbook Covert Narcissist. He’ll drop a question like that – and whether or not you realize it, he’s already claimed victory. If you don’t notice the twist, you’re walking right into his trap because you let him put you on the defensive by accepting his premise that he had to prime you with his all-knowing-ness about your immaturity before starting a conversation. Really, you’re so lucky that he even deigns to talk to you at all…and now you’re on guard for any of your
imaginary potentially offensive behaviors.
On the other hand, if you do notice his machinations, pointing them out will simply spring his trap immediately and it’s now a snappy screaming match that you can’t get a word edgewise into. So he wins, regardless.
That being my takeaway from past dealings with him, I simply stated that my life was fine with his absence.
All my discipline earned me in response was a “👍🏽” from the little sociopath. Every now and then I wonder if he was reaching out over something important or for his usual recreational hostilities. I worry it could have been about one of his parents.
Then again, he hadn’t let me know when his grandmother died, so maybe that was too much to expect. He had called me on Christmas Day, probably six or seven years ago now, to tell me that he had colon cancer. It was a big deal, since his uncle had died from exactly that while we were together.
The difference between those scenarios – his grandmother’s or parent’s health and his own – is exactly one variable: him.
The best thing about that Christmas Day phone call? It was a big box of nothing. He didn’t want any help, he didn’t call to make things right with us…he just called for the drama paycheck.
Seriously, 364 other days of the year he could have called. He chooses Christmas Day. Maybe it was a sign of what he’d sown in his life finally bearing fruit…but I think it’s that he was alone and feeling it.
No. I know better than that. There’s a difference between being merely alone and being lonely.
For so many, the latter is crippling. Especially if you don’t like your own company.
Anyway, that’s where the word crazy kept dropping in these last few days.
He has been kind of crazy since the whole cancer thing.
Well, I’m no doctor, so I don’t know if you can catch crazy from chemo. But I am more of a Sacha Subject Matter Expert than I want to be.
What my expertise tells me is that the crazy was there all along. But since he protected his brand so well – and, hats off to his foresight in the wake of the behavioral trajectory America in general, but Gay Kulture in particular have taken – the majority of the people who come into contact with him think this is a relatively new development.
And that’s how it is, now. Do your worst, and if someone calls you out, block ’em. Ironically, people do that and think things like, “I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life” when they are unknowingly doing the victims of their narcissistic bullshit a favor…despite the fact that neither realizes it in the moment.
But that’s what ya gotta do to protect your brand. Surround yourselves with patsies at best and enablers at worst. Fuck everyone else.
For the folks that are just reaching the whole “crazy” conclusion, you just weren’t there for the conversations that led me to tell him “It’s better to look good than to be good” years before his cancer scare. If he’s crazy now, it’s not because of cancer, it’s more that you’re just now noticing. Honestly, you’re probably noticing because if he’s beat cancer, he’s feeling less vulnerable to pesky little things like “Other People’s Opinions” than his rampant insecurities ever let him feel before, so he’s masking his shit behaviors less and less.
Just a guess.
Optimistically, I wonder if he ever thinks about that conversation.
Pragmatically…I know better than to think he’d reflect on his past actions – if a deathbed scenario didn’t leave him a better person, I’m sure it only emboldened the shoddy person that was already lurking there.
Anyway, onward and upward, that’s how you build a brand, damnit! My old friend is just the most recent collateral damage.
Maybe one day our American culture will get back to where Code Words were fun again versus socially acceptable land mines for silencing anyone who dares to hold a mirror up to someone’s actions.
That’s something to look forward to, I guess…until then, I’ll just keep doing nice little gestures – like holding a door open for the glaring person following too closely behind me – and hope my small part becomes catchier than that Cameo song at the top of this post.