You have to feel for Meghan Markle. The former TV actress who is now wife to Prince Harry and restyled as the Duchess of Sussex, has had the worst luck with her birth family ever since her engagement was announced.
First it was her half-sister, Samantha Markle, and her half-brother, Thomas Markle Jr, who were trying their best to embarrass her. Samantha announced that she was going to publish a tell-all book called The Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister. She also regularly went on Twitter rants, rebuking Meghan for being everything from a fraud to a hypocrite and berating Harry for having failed to see through her. Doing one better, Thomas Markle Junior, went so far as to write an open letter to Prince Harry, telling him that he was making a huge mistake marrying his sister, and that he would be best advised to call the wedding off.
So far so utterly charming.
But if this was not enough, Meghan’s father soon joined the fray, doing his own bit to embarrass his soon-to-be-royal daughter. In the run-up to the wedding, Thomas Markle Sr was exposed as having staged paparazzi shots for which he was paid handsomely. Then, in a fit of embarrassment he declined to attend the wedding, at which he was to walk his daughter down the aisle, claiming (falsely, it turns out) to have had heart surgery.
After the wedding, he gave a series of interviews in which he revealed that his daughter wanted to get pregnant pronto. He gave away Prince Harry’s views on Brexit and Donald Trump, quite oblivious of the fact that royals are not supposed to air their opinions on politics in public.
And when, inevitably, his daughter froze him out – out of the fear of having every private conversation repeated to the press – he sat down with the Daily Mail for nine hours over three days to rail against Meghan for ‘ghosting him’, proclaiming that he had made her the Duchess she was today and that she would be ‘nothing’ without him.
Honestly, it’s enough to make you weep. You can just about make your peace with siblings (okay, half-siblings) saying awful things about you. But to have your own father spew such bile must be a hard cross to bear. More so since Meghan is now bound by the rules of the British royal family, which entail that one must “never complain, never explain”. So, she has to seethe in private while her father holds forth about how her mother-in-law, the late lamented Princess Diana, would have ‘loathed’ the way Meghan is treating him.
As toxic parents go, Thomas Markle Sr takes not just the biscuit but the entire bakery. He is entitled, obnoxious, narcissistic and impossible to shut up. So, how do you deal with someone like him, without losing your own sanity in the bargain?
Well, in case you are coping with a Thomas Markle of your own, here are a few pointers.
First off, don’t engage. In that, at least, Meghan Markle has the right idea. The only way to deal with people who bring toxic energy into your life, is to head them off at the pass. Don’t allow them any mind space. Don’t respond to their micro and macro-aggressions. Meet their every utterance with a wall of silence. It will annoy them no end. It may make them step up their campaign of attrition. But over a period of time, when they are met with no response, they will have to admit defeat and leave you alone. Just be patient and hang in there until that happens.
Don’t feel guilty. Toxic family members will try their best to induce guilt about how you are treating them. Parents like Thomas Markle Sr will try and remind you how much you owe them, given how much they spent on your education. But that is not reason enough to keep toxic people in your life. If they need financial support then set up an arrangement. But don’t let people guilt-trip you into accepting toxic behaviour as a given. You deserve better, and you should never forget that.
Don’t give in to emotional blackmail. Perhaps one of the most vile things that Thomas Markle Sr said in his interview to the Daily Mail was that it might be easier on Meghan if he died. That way at least people would have sympathy for her. Cue the violins. Daddy is at death’s door and that horrid daughter can’t even pick up the phone and call him. Yes, that’s right, she can’t. There is a reason for that. Daddy is using his health as a get-out-of-jail card. He is using his heart condition to tug at his daughter’s heartstrings. And there really can’t be a more cynical ploy than that.
And last of all, surround yourself with positive energy to counteract all that negative energy that is targeting you. Go out with friends to watch a movie. Set some time aside to read a good book. Cook a nice meal. Feed your friends and family. When it all becomes too much for you, just step away from the world and go for a walk with just your music to keep you company. And in a world in which good and bad are constantly doing battle, always come down on the side of the good.
(Journalist and author Seema Goswami has been a columnist with HT Brunch since 2004. Her new book Race Course Road is currently topping the charts.)
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From HT Brunch, August 12, 2018
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