“Why are you so beautiful?”
I never knew quite what to do with it when he said that to me. How do you answer a question like that? It wasn’t something he asked me a couple of times. It was one of his favorite compliments. I mean, I guess it was a compliment.
I remember the first few times he asked, I would laugh and shake my head in amusement. It was a silly thing to say, really. A silly thing to ask.
I always had the impression though that he was waiting for me to say something in response. When I was younger, I probably would have said something like, “I’m not,” or told him to stop asking such things. Now, I don’t really think it’s a good idea for women to denigrate themselves like that and so I try not to engage in that kind of self-deprecation, even if I find it hard to take a compliment so I suppressed the urge negate his question.
But I just found the whole thing awkward. He’d ask and stare at me. A beat would pass. Then another. It was as if he enjoyed the fact that I was speechless and didn’t have any way of answering the question.
So one day, I answered, “I don’t know… I guess because… I was born that way?”
He scowled and pulled away from me. I didn’t get it. What was the right answer?
What I didn’t understand was that my discomfort was the right answer. One of them anyway.
He didn’t stop asking, and after that, it just seemed like a test. Sometimes I’d say nothing and sometimes I’d respond the same way just to see if he would still get upset.
But then one day, I changed the answer:
“Because you love me?”
His eyes lit up. “Yes, that’s right.”
I didn’t understand why that was the right answer, but I had finally solved the riddle. I knew how to make him happy and make my own discomfort go away.
And yet it all makes sense now.
My response was the “ultimate response” to a narcissist. My response turned his own compliment back around and made it all about him, and it gave him total control to determine the value of some arbitrary characteristic about me. Merely by deeming me loveable in his eyes, something about me was hence worthy.
And if that love ever disappeared, well then…
What kind of person would want someone to believe that anything about them revolves around his or her love for them?