Doonan: How To Be a Narcissist Without Being a Jerk

Notes from the fashion apocalypse.
June 7 2012 6:45 AM

My Narcissism Wears Spanx

How to be vain without being a jerk.

Simon Doonan and Miss Piggy.
Simon Doonan, left, and his partner in narcissism, Miss Piggy

Photograph of Simon Doona by Rabbani and Solimene Photography/Getty Images; Miss Piggy by Cindy Ord/Getty Images.

Simon Doonan Simon Doonan

Simon Doonan is an author, fashion commentator, and creative ambassador for Barneys New York.

Nobody ever cops to it. Admitting to being narcissistic is like acknowledging that you have BO, or that you are a colossal bore. Can you imagine Kim and Kanye, or Kim Jong-un, or Mitt or Newt, or any celeb for that matter, opening up to Barbara Walters or Oprah about his or her private struggle with self-infatuation? Bold-facers will confess to murder before they will own up to being narcissists.

Not me. Like Miss Piggy, I am completely in the thrall of moi, and I happily acknowledge the fact. When she said, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye,” Miss P. spoke for us both. There are two pink follow spots up in the sky: one is pointed directly at Miss Piggy, and the other one is drenching yours truly in flattering light.

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I have a whole battery of excuses for my narcissistic delusions. A bizarre childhood during which I was constantly upstaged by the madness around me—you try growing up in a rooming house with a bunch of certified loonies—left me feeling invisible, which, in turn, left me with an unquenchable thirst to be recognized. Hello! I’m over here!

However, just because I am honest about my neurosis does not mean I allow it to rampage, expanding to engulf people and entire cities like The Blob. My narcissism wears Spanx. I control it and I contain it. Policing my own narcissism in an honest way has enabled me—though I do bray it myself—to avoid the extremes of assholism which are so often to be found in some of today’s great narcissists, by which I do, of course, mean John Edwards. By facing the beast head on, and dissecting its various components, I feel I have managed to avoid Howard Hughes-ian extremes of grandiosity, isolation, and persnickety paranoia.

Narcissicm Launcher

For example: One of the key traits of narcissistic personality disorder is having the feeling that “the rules don’t apply to you.” You are special. You are different. I have felt this way at times. Much of my success in life—before becoming a writer I was a card-carrying A-list window dresser—can be attributed to my deep-seated conviction that taboos were there to be broken and that I was the one with the golden sledgehammer. Who says you can’t put mannequins in coffins? A gal in an evening frock standing on a chair with a noose round her neck? Sure! And give me one good reason why I shouldn’t create a window depicting a baby being abducted by a coyote?

Within the cutthroat world of window dressing, my rules-don’t-apply-to-me narcissism brought me notoriety and success. Trouble arose, however, when this taboo-busting bravado began seeping into my nonprofessional life. Who says I can’t singlehandedly down a pitcher of margaritas and then drive my ‘65 Dodge push-button station-wagon down the Hollywood Freeway while wearing plaid bondage trousers? The LAPD, that’s who.

That long-ago humiliating arrest—I performed the walk of shame with my legs tied together with tartan bondage straps, much to the amusement of the arresting officers—precipitated some much-needed introspection: Apparently there were some rules that actually did apply to me. After the trauma of bondage-gate, I became acquiescent toward officialdom. I became fabulously in control of my neurotic impulses. As a result I am early for every appointment. On airplanes I am always the first to—pointedly, dramatically, ostentatiously—turn off my phone. A round of applause for moi! Over time I have turned this willingness to obey rules into a whole new platform for self-love.

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