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I have these two associates who’ve both claimed, explicitly and implicitly, that they have no flaws. Correction: in a moment of reflection, one of them said his only flaw was that he is habitually late. Another said his flaw is that he does everything he sets out to do, with perfection. Crazy, right? But let me start at the beginning.

When I first met both of these characters, each at different points in my life, I was either intrigued or attracted to them. The first one I met in high school. A year younger than me, he was charismatic, intelligent, hilarious and would often provide impeccable musical recommendations. I can honestly say he was one of the first boys I actually gelled with. He was Intriguing. Intriguing and I had a class together and he’d often be around at after school events. A ball full of energy, Intriguing was friends with practically everybody, he rarely spoke negatively about others (which is virtually unheard of in high school) and he appreciated my sense of humor. I dug him… until I didn’t anymore. Increasingly, I found myself almost annoyed by his presence. And if I thought, it was my introverted nature getting the best of me, my feelings were validated when my neighbor-friend blurted, “I just can’t be around Intriguing for too long.” At the mention of those words, it was like the heavens opened and a choir emerged from the sunshine, singing victoriously. I wasn’t alone! I replied with relief, “Yes, Intriguing is a small doses type of person.” At the time I couldn’t put my finger on it, but now I know Intriguing was a small doses type of dude because he was always talking about himself. Like, ad nauseum. If someone else had a story, there was a way for Intriguing to relate it to himself…always. (Maybe that’s why he didn’t talk about other people.) The doses of Intriguing got smaller and smaller until I graduated. Intriguing announced his homosexuality in the most anticlimactic way ever (Who didn’t know?!?) and I would see him occasionally when I came home from college.

But while I was in college, I met someone a lot like him. This guy was also in one of my classes. Just as gregarious as Intriguing, he was the big man on “black campus.” The brotha just seemed to have all of his ish together. He looked good, he always had an intelligent point to make about everything from our shared major, to human nature, to the state of the current music scene. (Again, with the music.) He literally seemed too good to be true. And he was Attractive. Attractive and I spent a lot of time together as we were involved in some of the same things on campus. If he had tried to come at me in those earlier days, I would have been down for it. But things never went that way. So, I just came to accept the fact that Attractive and I would be friends. I was cool with that, especially since, despite his popularity, I never saw him with anyone else on campus. People often questioned his sexuality because of it too. In my smitteness, I just assumed he wasn’t messy and didn’t like to spread his business all around town. Later, I learned that there was a girlfriend; but rumor has it he broke up with her after his friends didn’t approve.

I woke up to Attractive’s narcissism slowly. I first saw it when a friend of mine was imitating a group Attractive was a part of. She had a small audience and we were all loving it, cracking up, egging her on, until Attractive walked in and literally shut the operation down. Claiming the joke wasn’t cool. The audience and I were disheartened by his assessment. Surely, he should have known that the imitation was good natured and really not as much about him as he might have assumed. But for one reason or another he didn’t find it funny. As with Intriguing, it was another friend that let me know that Attractive had is own issues with feigning perfection. She said something along the lines of “You can’t go around pretending you’re perfect. It’s not real.” She was so right. I spent a lot of time around Attractive, there have been deep conversations; but, I never once heard him say or do anything to make himself appear vulnerable. There was one time where a mistake of his inconvenienced others in a major way and I can’t recall him apologizing for it. There was another incident that illustrated his lack of moral character that he never made right, simply because it was never brought to the light. By the time I graduated, Attractive was still physically on point but seemed to be lacking something morally.

I’ve thought a great deal about these two over the past couple of years because I was a psychoanalyst in another life and it’s not everyday you meet a narcissist. Over the years, I’ve noticed similarities between these two fellas. Both have revealed, very briefly, that they grew up without their fathers, both had questionable sexualities, both never shied away from redirecting the conversation back to themselves and their accomplishments, and now that I think about my interactions with them, both of them seemed to be wearing a mask. The mask part is what really freaks me out about them. For the most part people have insecurities and flaws. Though I wouldn’t encourage anyone to walk around broadcasting them, they should occasionally come up in conversation, no? Though both of these boys turned men served as role models for others, what is there really to be gained, long term, by acting like you’re perfect, like you never need help, like you’re above mockery even?

I know in my heart that both Attractive and Intriguing crave respect from others. And I respect them. I also know that Attractive and Intriguing would want people around them to trust in their character. But I could never be anything but skeptical and wary of anyone who feels the need to pretend they’re perfect.

Have you ever met anyone who pretended they were perfect? How did you find out they were wearing a mask?

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