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My Kids Won’t Stop Gaslighting Me

Illustration for article titled My Kids Won’t Stop Gaslighting Me
Photo: Angelica Alzona (GMG)

If you’ve been around these internet parts for the past few years, you know all about gaslighting, wherein people stand behind a lie so fervently that they compel others to believe it as well, leaving marks unsure as to what is true and what really is the name of Apple CEO Tim Apple.

Gaslighting is particularly effective online, where you can read a deliberate lie in silence and digest it without a real person looking over your shoulder and telling you to stop being a fucking idiot. Once leaders harness the power of gaslighting, as they already have, you are left living in a dystopia where simply getting people to accept basic truths—the world is getting hotter, MS-13 isn’t coming to kill you, Eli Manning should have retired six years ago—is the most difficult uphill battle of all. Just getting back to the drawing board is fucking impossible these days because of gaslighting. But when people talk about it as a societal threat, be at our now-deceased former parent company or elsewhere, they often blame its contagion on the internet, or on the Trump family, or on any number of truthering dipshits out there screaming that frogs are turning them gay. But they neglect to concentrate on the real progenitors of gaslighting. I’m talking, of course, about CHILDREN.

Children invented gaslighting. They are the OGs of gaslighting. I know this because I have three children of my own, and they gaslight me every fucking day.


My children know they’re lying when they lie to me, as kids do. I didn’t break that, I swear. But when I try to correct them, they REFUSE to back down, and still want to sell the lie to me because that’s easier than admitting the truth. The other morning, my wife asked my 13-year-old if she had brushed her teeth and she said yes. Then my wife smelled her breath and was like, “I don’t think so.” And my daughter goes, “I keep telling you that brushing your teeth doesn’t make your breath smell any better!” If she didn’t absolutely believe this, she definitely sounded like she did. Maybe she gaslit herself successfully.

I said to the girl, “That’s not true. It does make your breath smell better. Bacteria can build up on your tongue and teeth and make your breath stink. Brushing all that off helps reduce odor.” Did she accept any of that? FUCK AND NO, she didn’t. She was just like NUH-UH. She wanted me to believe the opposite so that she wouldn’t have to brush (again?). I was like, “God dammit, don’t pick THIS hill to die on.”

And you know what? I still googled “Does brushing your teeth help freshen breath” anyway, just to make sure I wasn’t going fucking insane. Why did I feel compelled to do this when I have 42 years of experience knowing firsthand that brushing my teeth gets rid of dragon breath? GASLIGHTING. One of the first results that came up was “5 Ways to Stop Your Breath From Stinking When You Don’t Have a Toothbrush” from Men’s Health, so thanks for NOTHING, Men’s Health. But in general, the other results supported my thesis, as well they should have. The official Colgate website lays out the science of why your mouth can get stinky, and why would the executives at BIG ORAL CARE lie to me? No profit in bullshitting me there, nossir.

When I live in a domestic universe where even the efficacy of brushing your teeth can be openly questioned, anarchy looms. This is hardly the only time my kids have defied me by truthering basic shit. The other day I told them that they had to read and they were like, “No we don’t.” They were gaslighting me as an organized sect. I said to them, “Hey! I write books for a LIVING, you know. Without people reading my stuff, you wouldn’t have food, man. The world needs books!”


And you know what they said? They said, “No it doesn’t.”

A thousand FUCKS went off in my head. I was barely able to speak, I was so pissy that they were pushing this nonsense. I broke down like Tucker Carlson when someone gets his caviar order wrong. I was like, “Books are one of building blocks of human civilization! We’d all die without them!” And my 10-year-old said, “No we wouldn’t. We’d still be alive.” He was owning me by taking the argument WAY too literally, and nothing I said afterward deterred him from the idea that he only needed food and screen time to go on living. Later on, I inevitably wondered to myself if they were right to own me on a technicality. Maybe we could live without books? GOD DAMMIT IT’S HAPPENING AGAIN.


The kids did read eventually that night, mostly because my wife told them to and they actually listen to her. But me? All I get is youthful defiance in the form of conspiracy mongering. I love my children dearly but they are absolutely the Daily Mail of this household, pushing lies they very much want to be right about. Candy is good for you. The dishes don’t have to be washed. Two plus two is five. When I tell my son screen time is over, he’s like, “But I’m just playing Wordscapes!” like that shouldn’t count as screen time. Every day I have to fight off lies, only to stare down a dozen more of them. And thanks to the internet, these kids have ready access to a multiplicity of voices and influences that are ready to undermine my SUPREME AUTHORITAH at any moment.

One time, I even said to my kids, “Stop gaslighting me!” even though they don’t know the term (and I frankly, had to look it up a while back because I didn’t either). I did this because in 2019, it’s important that you teach your kids what truth IS and why it ought to be adhered to. All kids lie. I know I lied, and badly. But what happens when a lie puts down such deep roots within your psyche that it doesn’t really feel like a lie at all? And how can you stop lying if you think lying has tangible value? I’m quarreling with these kids over relatively minor shit out of basic parental duty, but also because if I don’t, god only knows what OTHER factions out there will try to convince them that up is down.


Too many Americans live in Opposite Land now and have been BRED that way, either by negligent parents or by a culture that’s way too timid when it comes to hurting the feelings of liars. Aggressively dishonest kids morph into aggressively dishonest adults. And then they get named CEO of Theranos. I can’t let my kids grow up in a world like that, which is why they need to accept the FACT that brushing your teeth freshens your fucking breath. Dismiss that, and Alex Jones has a guest chair waiting for you down the road.

Drew Magary is a Deadspin columnist and columnist for GEN magazine. You can buy Drew's second novel, The Hike, through here.

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