Cary Tennis: Chop Down Family Tree


Up in Salon, Cary Tennis gets a letter from a distressed “child” whose parents took up a new hobby. The child must be around 30ish, and the hobby is geneaology. Tennis coins a new term:

relative narcissism, a projection disorder in which the ego, unable to countenance its own narcissism, projects onto ancestors all the idealized qualities it would otherwise take onto itself; it is harder to diagnose than traditional narcissism because its sufferers do not act grandiose and superior.

From the way the letter-writer carries on, one would think these parents joined the Aryan Brotherhood or were breeding babies to make sausage. And whoever taught Cary Tennis in Psych 101–you should be so ashamed.

Fortunately, the readers of Salon are a smart bunch, as this response proves:

OMG! My parents don’t think I’m interesting

Dear Cary: Every time I want to talk to my parents about work, my new boyfriend, or the latest episode of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, all they do is yammer on and on about the family tree. What’s up with that? Why don’t they find the excruciating minutiae of *my* life as fascinating as Uncle Jonas’ smallpox or Great-Grandma Enid’s political activities?

Cary: Well, obviously they’re narcissists. Because as we all know, only authors and self-absorbed letter writers are allowed to be interested in the past. And although you’ve given me absolutely no evidence for making this blanket judgment, I’m pretty sure that they think they’re better than everyone else. Okay, back to playing Bejeweled now! TTFN.

p.s. Oh yeah–get professional help, because I’m telling everyone that these days.

Why does Salon keep Tennis around when its own readers give better advice, for free?