Sunday, May 27, 2007

Who is the narcissist?

Letters to the Editor
The Washington Times
26 August 2003

Parker, Colo.

Who is the narcissist?

Frederick Grab's column "Malignant narcissism" (Op-Ed, Aug. 15) left me with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach — but not for the reasons he intended. It began by describing Silicon Valley and its accompanying monsters and masters, then wandered through video games and how our society has become obsessed by them and accompanying volatile movies and thus has perhaps evolved many in our society into malignant narcissists, taking pleasure in causing pain or destruction to others. Up to that point I was following him, but then he made a light-year jump to Colorado and the Kobe Bryant case. (I think even his high school English teacher would have had a hard time with his train of thought on that one.)

Reading between the lines, I assume that he is accusing the 19-year-old accuser in the case of being a malignant narcissist — "causing pain and destruction to others through the use of exploitation of love or confidence." He then makes the statement that "Little Miss 19 didn't go up to see Kobe to get his autograph, did she folks?" And, "In her Star Search mind she got exactly what she came for." As a former California deputy attorney general, I think you should be ashamed of yourself, for passing judgment in the press, and certainly not in a non-accusatory manner, but with name-calling and perhaps psychic powers that none of the rest of us have. Were you there that night? Do you, unlike any of the rest of us, have direct, eyewitness accounts? Do you believe you are entitled to be judge and jury here?

Sex is not always about love, Mr. Grab, as your article would so like us to believe. It is frequently about power. In most cases, men have it and women do not. Do women have the power to tease, to look sensual, to flirt? You bet. Just as men do. Are women (and men) supposed to be able to change their minds at any time in the sexual act? I believe so.

Whatever happened between Miss 19 and Kobe Bryant may never be known by anyone but the two of them. However, malignant narcissism could have occurred just as easily on the side of Mr. Bryant. Celebrities in our society are so revered by many that it appears that some actually think they walk on water. Sports figures who break laws but are allowed to play in important games despite their offenses, movie stars who get off with slaps on the wrist for infractions of the law — these "punishments" all have the potential to lead these icons to feeling invincible. Now, add extreme body size to the picture, as in the case of Kobe Bryant, and what additional superhuman feelings might this type of celebrity have?

I am not here to say who is right and who is wrong. Perhaps Miss 19 did not use good judgment in going to Mr. Bryant's room. (Do you know many 19-year-olds who have developed good judgment yet?) Mr. Bryant, a married man, admits to not having used great judgment himself. As an accuser of abuse, do you think any 19-year-old wants to have her situation dragged through the media, with columns like yours basically accusing her of asking for what she got? It wouldn't be my choice.

Do you know that in the United States, one in three girls and one in six boys are molested by the age of 18? Do you wonder how many come forward compared to those who keep quiet out of shame and guilt and fear of being called one of many names under the sun? Of having their reputations tainted forever? I am a survivor myself. The pain and lifelong scars left by someone in a position of trust took me years to uncover and address. Had I spoken up at the time it happened, perhaps I would have dealt with it better then and throughout my life. Yet, I was too afraid to tell anyone. Now, at this point in my life, I tell everyone about my past and speak on the issue because I hope it will help others let go of their secrets and talk about their experiences, for healing comes when you can let the secret out and not let it eat at you for a lifetime.

I do not know the real story of Kobe Bryant and Miss 19. I am not here to judge. That is for the court and jury to decide. Not me. Not you. Not the media. But when people like you write columns like yours, it only makes me wonder.

Mary Jo Fay, RN, MSN, author of 'When Your Perfect Partner Goes Perfectly Wrong.'