It is the mantra of the Narcissist, but also a pattern of American society.
Mandy Hood exchanges letters with her father describing her life as a camp counselor in one of the greatest national parks of America – The Grand Canyon. It is here she re-encounters Gilbert DeRoquedu, whom she had known previously in high school. With girlish zeal, Mandy pens the breathtaking scenery and the foibles of counselor life until it comes to an inauspicious end for her. Faced with new challenges, Mandy then shifts her letter-writing to Gilbert until her family’s crises put a halt to it.
After thirty years of separation, a more mature Mandy and Gil chance to see one another again in South Central Pennsylvania, and pick up where they left off. Despite having married other people, they begin to express their romantic feelings for one another, as well as her new life with her mommy group and his in Classical antiquity. Through modern applications of emails and shared files their epistolary relationship heats up until it explodes in a fiery passion. However, Mandy’s love affair costs her in ways she cannot fathom, until it is entirely too late.
In the aftermath of Mandy and Gil’s tragedy, the community of South Central Pennsylvania, and ultimately, America at large, grapple with having love bombed, devalued, and discarded segments of its own population.
When I was kicked out of my mommy group for advocating vaccination in 2018, I stewed. Who then would warn new parents of the danger that lurked in the group? How would new parents know to ask other parents about their vaccine philosophies in other mommy groups, daycares, and church nurseries?
I remember being a new parent, exhausted, baptized in the ocean of decisions I rarely felt confident making. There was I, relieved to find a mommy group, full of moms in the same stage of parenthood, bobbing along with our philosophies du jour – how to put babies to sleep, how to transport them, feed them, introduce them to toys and new experiences. I didn’t bring up vaccination, the delayed vaxxers did. They worried about their children, just like we provaxxers did about ours. While my husband and I were confident about the peer-reviewed science that led our pediatrician and others like them to adhere to the AAP and CDC approved immunization schedule, I could certainly sympathize with the hesitation of delayed vaxxers. After all, even with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, I understood realms of research and information I hadn’t seen existed in immunology, virology, pediatrics, and public health. So if it seemed daunting to me, it could easily overwhelm those who hadn’t studied any part of science beyond high school.
But the delayed vaxxers had advantages that antivaxxers didn’t – ultimately, they listened to the medical experts and protected their children through immunization, even if it was on a longer timeline. Not only that, they listened to moms like me, who were willing to have our little ones vaccinated on the regular schedule, and they could observe our children, see no adverse effects, and be encouraged to pursue the same.
Antivaxxers, however, were a whole different kind of people – people who were completely shut off from peer-reviewed science regarding vaccines.
They decided that because their first kid had a fever as a reaction to a vaccine, they wouldn’t have any of their children vaccinated.
They had seen a discredited doctor’s documentary.
They listened to other antivaxxers.
They decided they knew better than any pediatrician.
They stopped taking their children to a pediatrician.
They sold each other on pseudo-science, citing ingredients they didn’t understand as a springboard for speculation.
They sold each other quack “cures” like oils and amber necklaces for what ailed their children.
Most importantly, antivaxxers didn’t announce they swarmed among us. They had previously encountered vehement provaxxers who rejected them and therefore, their children, so they joined groups where no one asked, their stealth being that of omission.
Antivaxxers were the Narcissists of my mommy group, withholding valuable information, afraid of criticism, gas-lighting each other with anti-vaccine rhetoric, and grandiose in their own ideas.
When I hadn’t known these Narcissist antivaxxers for what they were, they lovebombed us, inviting my children and me to their play dates, trading baked goods with my family, and making me and my children feel very welcome.
After I discovered their existence, I alerted the moms’ group of (unnamed) antivaxxers in the “community” and advised parents to check the vaccine philosophies of others in general, not only in our group, but everywhere children, and especially babies, were gathered. For these actions, I was devalued. I was seen as divisive, the antivaxxers felt “discriminated against”, and my children and I were invited to much less.
A year later, after asserting that only children up-to-date on their immunizations would be welcome to my home, I was discarded from the group.
For over a year, I worried, trying to raise awareness through Letters to the Editor, joining grassroots groups, posting articles on social media, but then…the pandemic happened.
Parents didn’t get together until they had conversations of how they would protect each other and their children from disease. After months of social distancing and masking, then came conversations about vaccination. Today, every person from age six months to infinity can be vaccinated against COVID-19.
While some parents have been able to use this as a jumping off point for all vaccination inquiries, other parents, swayed by those who won’t vaccinate against COVID-19, are foolishly raising doubts over long-established and effective childhood immunizations. ( The Anti-Vaccine Movement’s New Frontier )
New parenthood is a trying time, especially for new mothers who are often isolated. Without societal support, new mothers find comfort in each other – in their trials, in their successes, in their sheer presence. And if a person brings “information” to a group who never thought those things before, she finds an intellectual value she hadn’t experienced elsewhere as a new mother. It is empowering, it is seductive, and it is a form of narcissism.
But antivaxxer narcissism isn’t the kind of narcissism that simply results in a jilted mother.