“The Yellow Apple.”
0r “Mad Libs”
Turn to your co-workers, kids, Facebook friends, family —
anyone who’s accessible — and ask them to suggest an article, an adjective, and a noun. There’s your post title! Now
I was the golden child. In a narcissistic household there is always one, though it’s not always the same one and the exalted can be quickly brought down to play the scapegoat, as my mother has shown by me. There is always a scapegoat, too.
I was the best looking of my siblings, the most talented, the most intelligent. I learned early on to be fair, thanks to a peacekeeping heart and a high volume of household conflict, but could have my way in no time, anytime I wanted. My mother bragged about me, my father tossed me in the air when he came home from work and fed me from his own plate when my mother served him dinner. Toward me, they were less punitive than toward my brother, less negligent than toward my sister, and that I lived in constant fear of losing favor and prayed to God in fear of imperfection didn’t help my siblings’ jealousy. In fact, the better I was said to be, the better I had to become, and the better I became, the worse they looked in comparison. It follows then that the better I was, the further they were from obtaining my parent’s favor, which for a child is the ultimate resource. My goodness became a source of hatred for them, no matter it’s benefits, and they only hated me more the harder I tried to please them.
But I loved my brother and sister and would come to their aid against my parents if they were in the right. I defended them against injustices wrought by one another, and took only my own fair share of things and did more than my share of work. I used my leverage to get them fair treatment and I treated them as fairly as still developing moral consciousness could. I was smack dab in the middle, two years younger than my brother and two years older than my sister, and they were both my favorite friends.
They never said directly that they hated me for my parent’s lack of love, and I never suspected it except now and then when they would do something outrageous. Like the time my brother and I had gone by ourselves to play at the far end of our rented three acre lot. Down the wobbly front steps of our single wide trailer, past the blueberry bushes on the right, grape vine fort on the left. Then the patch of perpetually overgrown lawn where my dad would get tired or the mower would die every single time it was due to be mowed. Then over the hill we used for competitive rolling and past the trees with the yellow apples, which were the least delicious color of all the colors that apples can be. Crab apples, which I pretended to like only because eating fruit was good. When we reached the blackberry bushes lining the facade of the forest wall, we set upon finding sticks and rocks suited to a poor kid’s baseball game. He was being difficult and nothing was good enough, so I gave up and sat picking at the strawberries that were growing from the ground. He checked out too and was gone for ten silent minutes and then WHACK. A stick way too big for baseball slammed into my back, multiplying the force of my brother’s hand by it’s length. The wind fell out of my lungs, and then I screamed. And then he panicked and begged me to be quiet and not to tell. I didn’t.
You might think one of us learned something that day, but not much time elapsed before he thought up a new technique and I sat, silent and unsuspecting while he prepared to try it out. He would throw the stick instead of hitting me directly, then maybe I wouldn’t scream so loud. I did. But I still didn’t tell. I did start putting dog poop in the blueberries I picked for him, though.
My demotion to scapegoat was celebrated by my brother, who to this day is always ready to share an unkind word on my behalf. My sister just does what my mother says and doesn’t seem to have an opinion, but is the favorite now and glad for that. People tell me sometimes that if my entire family has a problem with me, the problem is probably me and they can’t fathom that the truth might be other than that. Welcome to narcissistic parents, ladies and gents, as sour as the yellow apples I forced myself to eat in the pursuit of being all things good and only good. We wind up fucked up, or we wind up fucked up, and the less fucked up we are, the more we are hated by everyone else.