Harriet’s in Florida for a few days visiting her mom so this was an ideal time for me to finish painting her closet doors. I’d been careful about moving her clothes out of the way of my brush while sliding the overlapping doors back and forth to gain access to the edges and the sides. I was on my third coat of paint, since I was covering dark wood with white paint.
And then I noticed it: a splotch of white paint on a dark jacket. I must have gotten careless. In fact, I know I had. I was working faster, ready to be finished, maybe a bit more cavalier about the contents of the closet. I hadn’t moved the clothes out of harm’s way this time thinking I was skilled enough to get this last topcoat on without incident.
I pulled out the hanger with the marred jacket. If my brush had nicked the printed dress next to the jacket maybe it would never be noticed, but this was white on black, pretty obvious what had happened and who had done it.
I would have to confess to my carelessness in ruining her jacket.
But then I took a closer look at the jacket. It was a versatile clothing item, something you might wear over a blouse or a dress to stay warmer or present a little more formally. What got me thinking was that I didn’t recognize the jacket. I couldn’t remember ever seeing Harriet wear it, and I always notice what she wears, how good she looks. I concluded the jacket must not be important to her. In fact, she might not even notice if it were missing.
The idea came to me: I could make this jacket disappear. Just sneak it in onto the bottom of our bag of textile recycling. If the day ever comes that Harriet is looking for the jacket, she certainly wouldn’t suspect me of any foul play. She’d probably think she misplaced it, or perhaps had given it away in the last donation cycle. She’d never have to know what happened. I’d never have to admit my mistake.
But what if she was sure she’d seen the jacket just last week in her closet while packing her bag for Florida? She might ask me about it. I’d play innocent, of course. “No, I haven’t seen your jacket. I can’t even picture what it looks like.”
She might end up doubting herself, which would make me a gaslighter.
It’s an evil role I’d have to play. Gaslighting is nothing less than covert, emotional abuse. The gaslighter manipulates their victim, attempting to create a false narrative that makes the victim question their own perceptions and judgments.
“I don’t know what jacket you’re talking about. Are you sure you didn’t give it away?”
The term comes from the movie, Gaslight, a classic noir thriller from 1944. I highly recommend it. In the movie, a husband (Charles Boyer) uses trickery to convince his wife (Ingrid Bergman) that she is mentally unwell so he can institutionalize her and gain access to a trove of valuable jewels that belong to her.
That’s serious criminal intent. All I’m trying to do is hide the evidence of a minor mishap, so it’s really not such a big deal. Should I do it? I can’t decide.