Chrystie, whose name was apparently a bimbo-ic variant of the diminution of Christine, was, hands down, the most annoying person I have ever met in my life. During my freshman year in college, I had to endure sitting next to her in German 101 every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, in a 70′s-era modernist-utilitarian classroom.
It was as if Chrystie had come right from Van Halen Video Central Casting — peroxided hair, ersatz tan, all f*ck-me pumps and purchased bumps. She always smelled of candy floss; I imagined it the scent of her thoughts, sticky-sweet and cloying and apt to promote rot.
Chrystie made being fashionably late her prime directive. She would walk into class ten minutes late just so everyone could admire her outfit of the day, stalking the rows of desks as if she were on the catwalk, heels clattering, earrings jingling, upstaging the comparatively drab and dowdy professor (a stolid, no-nonsense Bavarian woman who looked upon Chrystie with Teutonic bemusement) without apology or glossy-lipped smile of embarrassment (What shame need such glory know?), and would flop into her seat with a sigh. She then would carefully open her bag, take out a pink miniature manicure set and start filing her french-tipped nails, or would saw away at a particularly tenacious callus marring her otherwise flawless person.
When it was time to break into groups to practice our enunciation and do some Germanic role-playing, Chrystie would excitedly put away her file or her Ped-Egg, reapply her MAC lipstick, and begin gushing about the details of her latest paramour. She was an aspiring model, you see, which was for her rather like slumming, because she was blessed, she insisted, with genius equal to her stellar good looks.
A glance at most Facebook pages will tell you that people still care more about running that sub-50 marathon or getting up the courage to suffer that first prick of the Botox-filled needle than considering what the United States will look like in ten years
So, like all such aspiring models, she took work as a Hooters waitress. This job’s decided unglamorous wage was offset by luxe perquisites in the form of engagement rings she collected from the horny coots who ogled her over their chicken wings and mugs of watery domestic. Yes, they were old and they couldn’t get it up, she admitted, but foregoing bones for stones was something she could patiently abide — and she loved the attention. She’d bring the rings to class to show us during group work what a 14-carat, white diamond from Zales looked like and to ask us which one we liked best on her, as the rest of us applied ourselves to rolling our “R’s.”
Being so good looking, smart and adored was a huge burden, she assured us. She regularly had to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous resentment. People just seem to dislike her for no good reason — which of course to her was the best reason of all.
When she wasn’t making a sport of provoking reflexive envy in strangers, Chrystie loved to zip around the Valley of the Sun in her tomato-red Corvette. One day, her motoring was spoiled by a speeding ticket she received for going 124 miles per hour in said Corvette, and she couldn’t come to terms with the apparent arbitrariness of it all. Why would a cop single out someone like her? Couldn’t this flatfoot sense the waves of beauty and brilliance that radiated from her? She tried, she told us, to bat her eyes and shed a few tears, but the cop was beyond all such appeals, troglodytically insensible as he was to her many splendors.
Once group work ended, however, Chrystie would fall silent, her audience dispersed by the class’s next order of business. To console herself for being robbed of the spotlight, she brought out a special hand mirror which she gazed into unblinkingly, while the rest of us copied out verb tenses. The professor, uncomprehending of the unique specimen of American narcissist before her, left Chrystie to her solitary reverie.
According to an article appearing in the September 14, 2009 edition of The Daily Mail, Chrystie and her ilk aren’t so much the exception as the emerging rule: women are more narcissistic than ever. “More of us have huge expectations of ourselves, our lives and everyone in them, the Daily Mail story reports:
We think the universe resolves around us, with a deluded sense of our own fabulousness, and believe we are cleverer, more talented and more attractive than we actually are. We have trouble accepting criticism and extending empathy because we are so preoccupied with ourselves.
But its not only women who are growing increasingly more narcissistic; men too have been gazing into the proverbial pond a bit too intently. In fact, according to American researchers, there has been a 67-percent increase in narcissism, considered a personality disorder, over the past two years. The article continues: “In the workplace, in friendships, even in motherhood, the pervading culture seems to have become one of competitiveness, superiority and one-upsmanship.”
And researchers have also
identified, and are far more worried about [..] what has been described as ‘normal’ narcissism — a cultural shift that has seen even non-narcissistic people seduced by the emphasis on material wealth, physical appearance and celebrity worship. This is the natural outgrowth of a cultural flight from reality to the land of grandiose fantasy. We have phony rich people (who actually have massive mortgages and piles of debt), phony beauty (via plastic surgery), phony celebrities (via reality TV and YouTube), phony genius students (with grade inflation) and phony friends (with the social networking explosion).
Given our current economic situation, having a nation of mirror gazers doesn’t bode well. It means that most of us are too damn fabulous to devote any time to stop the looting of the Treasury, to protest the closing of our public libraries (which almost happened to Harrisburg’s Free Library), or demand a stop to that wholesale destruction of the middle class that is currently going on. A glance at most Facebook pages will tell you that people still care more about running that sub-50 marathon or getting up the courage to suffer that first prick of the Botox-filled needle than considering what the United States will look like in ten years (needing substantial cosmetic surgery itself, undoubtedly).
I’m not saying that one must be constantly lost in deep thought or morose contemplation. I too enjoy moments of blissful triviality, when I’d rather compare the merits of two-inch heels over flats, or blonde over reddish-brown hair, but contemporary society is suffering from too much leaven; the latest lame attempts to get the plebes riled up for football season are a testament to the sad fact that the culture industry has come to expect such spectator sports as natural panaceas to the collective psyche. Or the fact that our economy itself is slowly moving towards inflation, where prices will be as bloated as egos once were.
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