“Me, me, MEEEE!!!” Donald Trump’s granddaughter screams to me from a few feet away. She wants to be swirled around the pool in dizzying circles like the other girl I babysat at the golf club. Which isn’t particularly interesting except in order to get to me she has to break the grasp from two other babysitters and a circle of children. She jumps into my arms anticipating an entertaining pool game for as long as she likes. I don’t get paid to be pool entertainment for everyone but I don’t particularly mind. Eventually, she grows bored of the spinning, and she squanders off leaving me with burning triceps and a whole line of other children who want to experience the pool’s cool new game.
“Excuse me are you listening?” My narcissism professor snaps me out of my reverie. We were talking about the “culture of narcissism” in the West, and more specifically America, as a byproduct of the capitalist economic framework in the country. Everyday I walked out of that class reevaluating my personally narcissistic actions, the narcissism in my family and friends, and the little mongrels I babysat at a Trump golf club over the summer, which often included the task of participating in the vast network of safekeeping over Donald’s grandchildren, as well as the specific family I looked after. All the insanely wealthy offspring had a web of care to watch over them – parents, multiple nannies, or temporary babysitters.
These children were given the brightest spotlights from all angles in life, the very attention that my class essentially instructs not to give. As I sit in my Narcissism seminar, which approaches this overwhelming cultural trend from a philosophical and psychological standpoint, I constantly think back to that babysitting job, wondering if I facilitated this narcissism or not. Did I give too much attention, excuse too much, praise unrighteously, or place these kids on a pedestal when they didn’t deserve?
This is not to say that the kids at this club were the only ones who exhibited narcissistic traits of devaluing others, needing admiration, and needing to be successful in their pursuits.
I mean don’t even get me started on the adults who cough up thousands to be there in the first place. These adults, which included a full array of the Trump brood (though they probably didn’t have to pay that would be awkward), had to think the hefty price tag on being a one of the esteemed members at the golf club was a worthy investment. That’s definitely saying something about their semi-narcissistic need for self-validation and outward success. The club was like this vast arena for networking and pampering – a sort of social and economic playground for the rich trying to balance augmenting their wealth and enjoying it at the same time.
As students of Columbia, we all partake in a similar narcissistic pattern. And a certain degree of narcissism is definitely healthy, and needed to achieve goals for ourselves. It’s when this need overwhelms us and controls our every move that marks the transition from being motivated to be a narcissistic
Really what this class, and inadvertently my babysitting job, made me realize was that narcissism is definitely intertwined with wealth within a person and within a culture, and that the way kids are raised in such an attention hoarding manner doesn’t really help the situation.
Also, it taught me that I never want to have kids. And that I would love to sit some of those golf club members and kids down, and psychoanalyze the shit out of them.
It’s all about DJ via Everett Collection/Shutterstock.com