Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Psycho stalkers

Received a charming letter from Carmella today. I am so proud to know Carmella; I have always maintained that one day I would turn on the Macneil-Lehrer news hour and find Carmella on the panel, as the expert international economista.

I used to run into her at the symphony of a Friday evening, perusing some dense unreadable tome as though she enjoyed it. Once I spent the evening at her unheated hermitage in the Guanajuatan Sierras; we lit a bonfire and argued with great liveliness until 4 AM, while our amiga Pati the pop singer objected to the fact that we were blasting Ute Lemper's "Punishing Kiss" so loudly that it echoed off the adjacent peaks. Pati was such a gifted girl, but she persisted in eliding her consonants and twisting her vowels so severely that her lyrics were incomprehensible. At the time I thought that it was Ute's crystal-clear diction that so offended her, but it was probably the lyrics as well. Pati was ever the idealist.

Today, then, in honor of Carmella, I broke out "Punishing Kiss." Always I have a fascination with "You Were Meant For Me," with its mixture of rampant psychosis and inarguable charisma.

You were meant for me
Even though it's plain you don't agree
I will be there for you
Till these dark days are through
And my dreams all come true

My darling, you were meant for me
And I'm sure that someday soon you'll see
We must not be apart
Or the nightmares will start
And you might break my heart....

Don't break my heart.

I suppose all ladies of note have encountered a stalker or two. I hope it is a testament to my general sturdiness of temperament that I find artistic renditions of the obsessive mind to be droll and entertaining, rather than disturbing or threatening in any way.

Charisma is an open question. I hold that charisma is a thing all accomplished ladies should keep in a back pocket, to be utilized when necessary, but not continuously flaunted. I think of my college days, when to alleviate the tedium of Government 101, I would amuse myself by sauntering in slightly late, banging the double doors behind me, stalking to the front row in front of 500 dutiful sheep--sorry, other students--and banging my books open with nonchalant ennui.

That is, until the day I was accosted by a gentleman of disreputable appearance some two miles from the classroom. He said, "Excuse me, but you're in my government class, and I've been, well, following you for a couple of weeks."

I had enough intuition, even then, to understand that he was not actually an obsessive weirdo, merely a projecting pothead, but still it was annoying. I sat in the back row in government class after that, leaving quickly and early. One must choose one's battles.

However, the evening I was hosting a fashion exhibition at my little gallery, thirty minutes before showtime it became apparent that the volunteer models had no idea how to model a hat, or anything else for that matter. They positively scuttled when they should have been parading. I had no idea that the ability to stand still and project was so uncommon.

Needs must. I herded the models into the front room, and gave them a short talking-to. "Listen," I said, "everyone here is your biggest fan. Cue the music." And I stood in the doorway, hatless and all, and gave them thirty seconds of attitude. The room burst into spontaneous applause, and later the models told me that I'd been so inspiring. Hmph. Perhaps I should give classes.

My darling, try and fact the fact
The only thing you lack
Is Me

I'll be in every place
In every single face you see
You'll run toward the light
But you will never quite be free
Into another's arms you'll fall
But close your eyes and I'll be all you see

You'll see
You'll see

The first genuinely psychotic stalker I encountered was my second or third boyfriend. It was simply the fault of my own naïveté that I interpreted his erratic physical tics as signs of eccentric genius, rather than faulty wiring. It helped that he had eyes of Irish blue, an incandescent smile, and a degree from Williams. However, after five months of dating I had had enough of the tantrums, triggered by any sign of individuality on my part, as well as the terrible sex. Clueless. Utterly. But that is another essay.

It was quite a relief to break up with him. But the relief was short-lived. I soon returned home at 1 AM, after a night on the town, to find him lurking in my bushes. He showed up at my place of employment, he called repeatedly and hung up, he entered my bedroom at 5 AM on the night of our house party, ripped the covers off my bed, and departed.

Fortunately the local police department were good sports. The night of the bushes-lurking I filed a report, although the sound of sirens had chased him away when none of my remonstrances or cold ignoring of the situation had any effect. A few weeks later, a police officer knocked on my door. "Do you know this guy?" He showed me the driver's license of my erstwhile boyfriend.

"Your neighbors saw this guy peering in your windows, and called us. He said he'd been jogging, but he was wearing an Oxford shirt. I kind of forgot to give him his I.D. back." What a darling man. I will never say one word against the Austin P.D.

Stalking, I believe, is simply a symptom of narcissism. It is the failure to perceive anything beyond the self, and the charismatic Other. Years later I had another problem, with a co-worker twice my age. I started receiving reams of drunken correspondence from him, and stacks of postcards when he visited Europe. I endeavored to treat him as a mature adult, but unfortunately he was not. A fifty-nine-year-old man with a sixteen-year-old psyche is a sorry thing; this is why I advocate making a fool of oneself in love, early and often.

However this may be, the trigger to his insanity was that I flirted with him. I admit it. I did so. He only became insanely enraged, however, when he noticed that I flirted with everybody. Old men, young men, gay men, straight women, little girls. Flirting is a social activity, not a sexual one. Failure to understand it as such is a sign of naïve gaucherie.

Of course, one doesn't have to flirt to be the recipient of unwanted attention. In many areas of the world, simply existing and being female is sufficient to draw a smorgasboard of leers, catcalls, whistles, hisses, clicks, snaps, and attempted gropings. In fact, most places in the world are like this. As I can testify, being tall and striking and internationally peripatetic.

So where does this leave us? Should Pretty Ladies everywhere creep around with our heads down, wearing thick glasses and drab, muffling clothing, in order to avoid stepping on some weirdo's psycho button?

Certainly not. It won't help. No matter how plain the girl, there is always a creep out there who thinks she's just his speed.

Instead we must lose our fear. Hold our heads high, and realize the truth--that our fans are afraid of us. Look them in the eye and wave. They will applaud, relax, and go about their business.


BoysMom said...

Stage presence is surely a rare skill, and one I have trouble teaching to my music students, though I've no problem with it myself. It seems that one has it or one doesn't, and I am not clever enough to figure out how one gets from not to have. Have you any suggestions?

Pretty Lady said...

In a word, yes. But I must think carefully. Check back in a day or two.