Did anyone read this feature in the New York Times magazine this weekend — The Professor, the Bikini Model and a Suitcase Full of Trouble? It’s a really interesting story about a physics professor who got arrested for drug smuggling in South America. The 68 year-old, who possesses all the charm and panache that you expect from someone who studies particle physics, has an online romance with a “bikini model.” Somehow he’s hornswoggled into drug running and traveling half way across the world to consummate his relationship with this fictitious supermodel (who is really, spoiler alert, part of a drug cartel and not a supermodel.)
What’s apparent, as you read this bizarre story, is that the guy is a flaming narcissist. In fact, at one point, three shrinks evaluate him and conclude he’s NPD. The author writes:
Yet in many of my conversations with him, he seemed to cling to the idea of his own exceptionalism. During our first meeting, when I asked him what attracted him to Milani, he said, “Not to offend present company,” referring to me and the representative from the penitentiary service, “but, to start with, she’s in the top 1 percentile of how women look.” And in an e-mail to Milani — or, rather, the fake Milani — Frampton wrote, “As these days tick by, and I think about it a lot, the more I realize that we are the perfect couple in all respects.”
SoooOoo NPD. Of course it offends present company. How could it not? It’s that total narcissist ploy. I’m one of the Very Best People, I’m not sure you’re part of the lucky 1% exceptional enough to be with me. (That’s your cue to be grateful. Or try harder to achieve a better percentile.) He’s a perfect person and he deserves a perfect partner.
What’s fascinating to me is how STUPID this professor of physics is because of his colossal ego. I mean, like rot in a South American jail stupid. The story begins and you sort of feel sorry for the poor schlub. That he’s a bit dim in the romance department, but then it’s slowly revealed later, that no, he’s really rather a manipulative shit and you don’t feel one bit bad that he’s locked up.
During my Amazon chump stage, I did a lot of reading on narcissists. If you’ve done that as well, no doubt you’ve tripped over the super creepy writings and videos of Sam Vaknin, who is a self-proclaimed narcissist, and likes to decode them for us mere mortals. One article he wrote was on how to disarm a narcissist — and you do that by flattering them incessantly. Just shovel the ego kibbles at them and they’re putty in your hands. Now, most of us can’t stomach that. But if you can manage it, claims Vaknin, you can totally rule them.
The secret is, that at least initially, they have to see you as having some worth and status (say, international bikini model status). Because THOSE kibbles are the best kind of upper 1% exceptional kibble feed. You can manipulate the hell out of them then. Hats off to the drug cartel who came up with this scheme — making narcissists drug mules by flattering them. GENIUS! (Perhaps the drug lords are watching Sam Vaknin videos.)
When we think of drug mules, we think of desperate people. Poor people. People willing to risk their very life to transport cocaine in their orifices. After reading this story, I realize how crazy desperate narcissists are for ego kibbles. They’ll go to some pretty crazy lengths to get validation that they are “exceptional.” Wow.
This story also made me think about our own vanity. As I’ve written here before, conmen con by getting you to believe in something you WANT to believe. If you don’t have a totally formed sense of self, or you’re a bit wobbly in other areas, you can be vulnerable to the sparkly people. “Ooh! Yes! Please! I want to be part of the cool kids club!” Or you can be suckered in by your OWN vanity “Well, yes, I am also exceptional. I belong with the cool kids club.” Or your insecurity. “Maybe some of this coolness will rub off on me.”
Surely, the professor wanted the status triumph of romancing a bikini model. His vanity ensnared him. An extreme tale, but a cautionary one too I think. Beware bikini models bearing gifts.