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The Prop Up

The idea of the prop up, and my issues with it, probably started around the 5th grade at Rabbi Harry Halpern Day School. Dr. Rohn got on the loudspeaker and announced that starting that morning, we would get a new, special cookie with our daily milk break. Up until that point, we were getting a special Burry cookie. You would find them in the local

supermarket, sometimes it was fudge, sometimes it was chocolate chip, it was great. So when Dr. Rohn was putting these new special cookies over, we all thought something magical would be given out. Oreos weren’t Kosher at the time, but Hydrox were. Whatever it was, we awaited. So the morning came, and the milk order was accompanied by Kedem tea biscuits. The tea biscuit that the local fruit store was selling 2 for $1. No matter how Dr. Rohn was propping it up, the biscuits were awful for the next 3 years. Anytime I see those Kedem biscuits at Costco or ShopRite, I get a good laugh. Dr. Rohn was a wonderful man, but terrible at the promotion.

One person who was good at promotion was my mother. My Aunt is only around 5 years older than me. My aunt was a very insecure girl, her parents were older Holocaust survivors, my dear grandparents. When my dear grandfather died, my Aunt was only 12. Rather than dealing with that trauma properly through professional help, my family spoiled my Aunt to the point that she received more reparations than her Holocaust-surviving parents ever did. I adored my Aunt, I always looked up to her and always cared about her. But she was weak, she had low self-esteem and she enabled the narcissism of her sisters. She graduated college, got a teaching job through connections set up by my parents, and lasted weeks as a first-grade teacher, never to fully teach again. That was 1990.

My Aunt got married in 1990 to the next prop up. While my college graduating Aunt never achieved that ambition that her MENSA level IQ suggested, her husband lasted a few weeks at the local community college. My mother did so much bragging about my Uncle, raving about what a businessman he was. He owned a hot dog stand at a Long Island mall and a dry cleaning store that had no dry cleaning equipment, someone else did the work. My uncle was a failure at everything he did: as a worker, as a general manager, as a real estate agent, but more importantly as a father and husband. Yet to this day, my mother still pushes him to the moon, even though she truly despises him, and is no longer related to him. Like Dr. Rohn and the tea biscuits, the promotion of my Uncle was a failure.

My sister, I was close with, until I wasn’t. It all started when she started dating a man who had zero personality skills and all he did, was sleep at our house on the weekends, every single weekend. My grandmother (who lived with us) and I despised him. Yet, my mother would rave about him, despite divulging his psychiatric medications and the fact he had spent 10 years doing nothing, except watching his twin nephew and niece for a time. Plus, my mother pointed out, he folded well. I think he once worked at the GAP. His parents were ecstatic that my sister married him, and they moved out of town pretty quickly, afterward At least he was a gym teacher for New York City, which had a pension. I understand now, that this guy, who never

really liked to work, retired as a teacher in his early 50s, and is selling crap on eBay to make ends meet. Yet I’m sure my mother is still propping him up.

Around the time my sister was dating “Mr. Wonderful”, I was dating my wife. My wife was pretty, well-educated, and a lawyer. My sister was jealous of my wife and felt rather competitive with her like she did with me. I never felt I needed to compete with my sister, but the feeling for her wasn’t the same. So while my mother was propping up Mr. Wonderful, she said very little of my wife, to the point that her work friends didn’t even know my wife was a lawyer. My wife was wonderful and still is wonderful, but my mother made sure everyone thought otherwise of her. My wife was a threat because, unlike my Uncle and Brother in Law, my mother couldn’t control, or think she was in control (she is not).

My mother never propped me up and never said how wonderful I was. When I didn’t do well in high school because I didn’t try, I’d get thrown insults, that felt like punches to the face. With all my success, I don’t think people care I got a 75 in Sequential Math 4. But my mother probably still does, because she needed my success to validate her insecurities. It bothers her that she can’t brag about my current successes because it’s a repudiation of her narcissism, and people would realize how broken she is.

Psychological abuse is almost as bad as physical abuse. A little encouragement and kind words would have gone a long way, but for my mother, I was always the target. Always the punching bag. Always the one to go out and do errands. But it never mattered, I never got the prop up.

At work, over the years, I’d hear about bosses praising certain employees. I never got the praise. It was always someone else and it was always someone inferior. I’d hear wonderful things about one employee who was going to run the administration side of our third-party administration practice. He was going to be the next Golden Boy and he flopped so hard, that he was demoted quickly. There was the actuary that the boss got for $75,000 annually. The actuary was terrible at everything he did and his claim to fame was that he was caught sleeping on the job,

The older I get, the less I care about what others think. While I always vied for validation from my family that I never got, I finally realized the role of a pop-up. It’s to put over people who would fail on their own. You hardly need to put someone over, who is already over. You don’t need to tout someone who is a success, who is a success. Beware of what someone brags about or touts, because most of the time, it’s a pop-up. When you think you’re getting cookies, you might be getting tasteless biscuits.

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