This is a story I heard when I was a student of a university not too far away from Philadelphia. I lived in an international house with a rule — no more than two people from each country. And in this house, most students are doing humanity science, like literature, philosophy, law, music etc. Please forgive me that for privacy’s sake, I can’t reveal the city, the university, or the department. Anyway, at the time I tried very hard to practice my English and would like to jump into any conversation. Now looking back, I feel that my younger self was too eager and too insecure and too…
And one of my housemates L told us that in her department, everybody was weird except the dean, who was straight, handsome, no bad habits, no indulgence, no vice, only praiseworthy merits, and very boring. L considered herself very liberal and her department very whimsical. At the time, I was full of artless admiration for her. However now, when I look back, I realize that L was a little less liberal than what she claimed to be and her department was probably just normal.
Then one day, L came back and told us that the dean was weird after all. What happened was that the dean traveled to Europe, ostensibly for an important academic conference, but secretly for a festival (Halloween or Carnival I can’t really remember) on the street of an ancient city. I forget which city she mentioned. It could be Vienna or Venice or some other cities with similar pronunciations. And guess what did the dean do? He dressed in women’s clothes and walked back and forth among the revellers for hours. Unfortunately for the dean who tried his best to uphold his boring image and keep his unorthodox behavior a secret, a graduate student from the department was also present. After spotting the dean, he sent out messages to everyone he knew to express his joy that the dean is “one of us” after all.
I understood the story but my interpretation was quite different from L’s. I thought it’s nothing special and felt sorry for the dean. L was quite amused, but I didn’t feel it that amusing. I thought the graduate student was really wrong in telling everybody since the dean was obviously not wanting others to know. The poor dean must be hurt by the fact that his well-guarded secret was known by everybody. L obviously thought differently and considered the dean a little hypocrite, who got what he deserved.
Now many years later, thinking about this story, I can’t help having a little remaining irritation in the fact that this harmless dean had a little bit fun and people immediately criticized him as soon as they heard about it. And it seemed that the whole community labeled him as a phony and had a bit of entertainment at his expense. On the other hand, I’ve tried to tell people about my narcissistic relatives for years, but I can never gain any sympathy among people I know except with one friend who only realized what I was talking about two months ago after knowing me for ten years. I mean I was talking about narcissistic people who damage other people’s life forever; people who are very harmful and continue to be harmful to others, but nobody would offer a sympathetic word. And narcissists are really big phonies… And of course I tried to talk to L about my narcissistic relatives on several occasions although at the time I didn’t know the existence of narcissism. However L considered me as being oversensitive and insecure.
It might be a common human weakness–people can judge a harmless behavior very quickly and negatively while at the same time people can turn a blind eye to very harmful behaviors and pretend they don’t exist.