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Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Saw Sabotage last night. I'd been expecting just another dumb action movie, mindless entertainment for a Monday night. It wasn't bad. It had a nice, complicated plot with some unexpected twists. The dialogue was occasionally clever. And Arnold Schwarzenegger actually underacted, the first time I can ever recall seeing that.

The movie got mostly lousy reviews. gave it a 20% positive rating by critics, no surprise. The 37% rating by audiences was a little unexpected though: who goes to a Schwarzenegger flick about a group of rogue DEA agents expecting anything more than a shoot 'em up? (There was enough gore to sate the most bloodthirsty palate.)

But what I was most struck by were the two main female characters. In this strange, wondrous land called Hollywood, white policewomen evidently disparage their black male colleagues' masculinity, and intimidate big steroided up biker types. And female DEA agents evidently empty their machine guns clips into Mexican cartel members and then exult by pumping their fists in the air and bellowing with joy.

I watched the movie with an Afghanistan vet, who seemed to feel that this portrayal of swaggering, gun-toting females was, to paraphrase him, a tad misleading.

Poor guy. He must have just been with the wrong unit.

Verdict: worth watching, just for the insight into the Hollywood mindset.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mystery of Baer supporter solved

The person who had been commenting on the Prison pen pals VII post about Fredrick Baer sent in another batch of comments on that post again recently.

The case for Baer's sociopathy is open and shut, as I detailed on that post and again here and here. But no matter how clearly I explained this, the commenter, who claimed to be a therapist, kept making ridiculous excuses for him, blaming all of his actions on crystal meth, and saying he was a caring and empathetic individual who was now doing wonderful work for children.

I eventually started to wonder about the commenter, so I asked what kind of therapist he or she was, and whether the commenter was male or female. (I had gradually gotten the sense that the commenter was female.)

The commenter wouldn't answer my questions, but instead lashed out at me. She called me a destructive sociopath, said I must have come from a bad family background, and even suggested I might be a murderer myself.

Right after this, another commenter wrote in, asking the first commenter if she were Baer's German girlfriend/pen pal. (Up until then, I hadn't heard about her.)

At that point, the scales finally fell from my eyes. That must be who this commenter is, and she obviously suffers from hybristophilia. (Think in terms of those unbalanced women who have been drawn to killers like Ted Bundy and Richard Ramirez, and who flocked to their trials and essentially become their "groupies.")

All this time, I was using facts and logic to convince this commenter that Baer was a sociopath, but I was basically talking to a crazy person. Which sorta makes me crazy as well, for thinking I could talk sense to her.

My other mistake was in assuming that when she said she was a "therapist," that she was a psychotherapist of some sort. She could be an aromatherapist, an occupational therapist, a massage therapist, or any number of other things. To call oneself "a therapist" if you're one of the latter, particularly in the context of a discussion of psychology, seems intentionally misleading; but I still shouldn't have made that assumption.

When I told my son that I had finally gotten the sense that the commenter was a woman, he laughed at me. "Of course it's a woman," he scoffed. "No one else could be that mushy-headed. It took you that long to figure it out? You're an idiot."

Guilty as charged.

But, she's not just any woman. She's a very special kind: a hybristophiliac.

Monday, August 18, 2014

What type of women do lesbians prefer?

The feminist mentioned two posts below scolded me about how the average woman is programmed by "a lifetime of insidious brainwashing so subtle she doesn't notice it" by Barbie dolls and the like, and how "men aren't judged primarily on their appearance, as women are." After getting that tongue-lashing, I thought to myself, well, lesbians themselves -- who tend to be the most vocal and militant wing of the feminist movement -- must certainly have better values than men.

I thought, these right-thinking liberal lesbians must not subscribe to the unfair concept of beauty promulgated by the patriarchy. They must be happy to be with another woman who is overweight, with ordinary features, and who looks, in the immortal words of feminists, like a "real woman."

And what better proof of this could there be than rich and famous lesbians, who obviously have their pick of women? I would certainly hope that these successful role models and powerful spokespeople for the movement would lead by example and not subscribe to those male-dominated standards of beauty which feminists so bitterly denounce.

So, I Google-imaged Rosie O'Donnell, Ellen Degeneres, Martina Navratilova, and Melissa Etheridge and their partners, confident that all these rich lesbians must have happily settled for women who looked, well, like them.

Here are some of the results of that search:

Rosie O'Donnell and her first wife Kelli Carpenter:

Rosie O'Donnell and her subsequent girlfriend Tracy Kachtick-Anders:

Rosie O'Donnell and current wife Michelle Rounds:

Ellen DeGeneres and former girlfriend Anne Heche:

Ellen DeGeneres and former partner Alexandra Hedison:

Ellen DeGeneres and wife Portia de Rossi:

Martina Navratilova and (former Miss Texas contestant) Judy Nelson:

Martina Navratilova and more recent girlfriend (and former Miss Universe contestant) Julia Lemigova (on left):

Melissa Etheridge and former partner Tammy Lynn Michaels:

I admit, these pictures were culled for effect. There are prominent lesbians, like Rachel Maddow and Cynthia Nixon, who have partners who look more like stereotypical lesbians. But enough of the rich and powerful ones have paired up with traditionally pretty women (Jodie Foster recently married Alexandra Hedison, who is pictured above with Ellen DeGeneres) that it can't possibly just be coincidence.

Evidently it's not just those piggish men who, when given their druthers, prefer Barbie doll types.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A feminist at her best

Got two comments on Thursday on Finally, a worthwhile protest, the post about the topless FEMEN protester who burned a Barbie doll in effigy in May of last year at the opening of a giant dollhouse in Berlin, Germany.

One comment:

"Which would you be more traumatized by, that scene -- or a doll which does not have precisely correct anatomical proportions?"

Well, gosh, lets see –
one more weird 2-minute incident among the thousands that make up an average childhood, or a lifetime of insidious brainwashing so subtle she doesn’t notice it, that causes the kind of neurotic crazy that men always bitch about?

Gee, that’s a tough call, huh?

This comment is wrong on several different levels. First, the demonstration had to have lasted more than two minutes. Second, it's highly doubtful that an "average" girl witnesses "thousands" of incidents as weird as that. 

Third, the question I posed compared witnessing that scene to owning a Barbie doll. This feminist changed the question into which was more traumatic, witnessing that scene or a lifetime of "insidious brainwashing so subtle she doesn't notice it."

(Why is it that some people can only "win" arguments by putting words into your mouth?)

Fourth, note her use of the word "bitch," a term feminists usually object to on the grounds that it's "gender-loaded."

And fifth, as to that subtle insidious brainwashing, aren't both sexes exposed to idealized stereotypes? You never hear men complain about the "insidious brainwashing" of a lifetime of watching action/adventure movies with impossibly heroic protagonists.

The other comment:

"why do only women protest this sort of thing?"

good question. Maybe because men aren't judged primarily on their appearance, as women are.
Maybe because men just passively accept whatever metric they’re judged by and dive right into the competition, and never question whether it makes any sense at all….

It is true that women are judged more on their looks than men are (she did use the word "primarily" as a qualifier), although men too are judged on their looks. (Women have better values: they often judge men more on earning power than appearance.) 

I'd guess there are as many men as women who question basic values, though that's certainly hard to quantify.

But there's another, more essential difference here. The post was not a condemnation of all women; only of those who would protest a Barbie house. The vast majority of women have far too much common sense to get incensed about Barbie dolls, and realize that -- as I said in the post -- there are far more worthwhile things for women to be concerned about, such as their treatment in Muslim countries.

The feminist, on the other hand,  is happy to condemn all men as a group, saying that they "just passively accept whatever metric they're judged by and dive right into the competition, and never question whether it makes any sense at all…." That is a blanket condemnation of an entire gender, not only for being "passive" but also for not being logical. Isn't that the kind of assumption that feminists are forever castigating men for making? Yet this feminist seems perfectly comfortable doing it herself. 

I like -- or at worst, am indifferent to -- the majority of women. This feminist seems to harbor a deep resentment against all men.

The other thing it's hard not to notice is her bitter sarcasm. By using this semi-hysterical tone -- one you rarely hear from men -- she is demonstrating how feminists are essentially unequal. Mission accomplished.

(I expounded on that inequality theme at more length here.) 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

More on Robin Williams

An article in this morning's NY Post titled Williams fell off wagon with drink on TV set outlined the problems the rest of the cast on his recent ill-fated TV series had with him. The relevant excerpts:

While taping “The Crazy Ones,” Williams frequently engaged in his trademark frenetic shtick, veering off script and forcing co-star Sarah Michelle Gellar to improvise her responses, the source said.

His antics infuriated the cast, even though he had been hired to try recreating the madcap spirit of “Mork & Mindy,” on which he often riffed unscripted, the source said.

He also indulged himself by taking his pet pooch, a rescued Pug named Leonard, to work….

Williams….­often complained that he hated the show’s unedited daily rushes.

He also griped that he “had a bad feeling” about the lack of chemistry on set, while the rest of the cast blasted his constant need for attention, the source said.

Ad libbing and forcing other cast members to improvise is pretty selfish behavior. To then turn around and complain about the daily rushes seems hypocritical. And wanting to constantly be the center of attention is really just another form of selfishness.

It's hard to blame the rest of the cast for feeling as they did. 

If someone is beloved by the public but despised by those who know him personally, that's a pretty sharp dichotomy. 

Usually, it's the people who've had personal contact who have the more accurate picture.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Robin Williams

Robin Williams has died, and the fulsome plaudits are flying.

Williams was hardly a brave comedian. I can recall seeing him mock dumb whites, rednecks, inbred Appalachians, and Republicans. I can't recall ever seeing him take on blacks, or Hispanics, or Jews, or Asians, or liberals, even individually.

One of his favorite targets was the Nazis, those timely sources of topical humor. He resurrected them on a number of occasions in order to roast them; he must have figured this would please his bosses in Hollywood.

(Is there anything less funny than a political correct comedian who picks only on safe targets?)

On top of that, it turns out he was a well known comedy plagiarist. (If he was such a comic genius, why did he have to steal so much material?)

But even the jokes Williams stole didn't seem all that funny. I saw his standup routine several times, and each time I was left thinking, if you took his words and set them down on paper, nobody would laugh. It always seemed that people laughed was because they thought they were supposed to, because of all his onstage histrionics. It was almost as if Williams acted so frenetic to hide the fact that he had nothing really cutting, or cutting edge, to say.

In his movies, he was far more over-actor than actor. He chewed the scenery ravenously and shamelessly tried to steal every scene he was ever in. All the while looking very pleased with himself.

This treacly scene from Patch Adams is a good example.

Or this "heartwarming" trailer, from Jack.

(I always wondered what would have happened if Williams and Jim Carrey had ever been cast together, as both men desperately needed to be the center of attention.)

Williams had "neglected child" written all over him. To his credit, he admitted as much, according to Wikipedia, saying that his upbringing had "left him with an acute fear of abandonment and a condition he described as 'Love Me Syndrome'."

Williams provided trusts for his three children, also to his credit. But he was evidently having financial difficulties, and in 2013 was on the verge of declaring bankruptcy. That may have had something to do with his suicide. That, and the fact that he no longer commanded the same attention he once had.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"Who are you to say….?"

One of the most annoying formulations anybody ever offers in an argument is to imperiously interject, "Who are you to say [such-and-such]?"

There is, of course, no logical rebuttal to such a nonsensical question, which implies that you not worthy of even engaging in a discussion of the matter at hand.

There are, however, several things you can say which point out the absurdity of such a line:

"What would you like me to do, whip out my resume and recite my qualifications before offering an opinion? I could ask the same of you, but don't you think that would be sort of ridiculous?"

Or, "Who am I? I'm someone who's observed [such-and-such] his entire life."

Or, "The subject of discussion isn't me, as much as you'd like to turn this debate into an ad hominem attack. It's [such-and-such]."

Or, you can mock them by thundering back, in even more imperious tones than they used, "Who am I? Who are you to ask such an impertinent question?!"

Of course, people who'd use such a moronic line in the first place probably aren't even smart enough to see they're being made fun of.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Stallone less vain than he appears

There are movie stars who are so vain that they refuse to appear alongside better-looking actors, thinking it will make them look shorter, older, weaker, or uglier by comparison.

It would be an easy assumption that the 5' 7" Sylvester Stallone, he of the 'roided up torso, multiple plastic surgeries, and shaved torso, might be just such an actor.

But he is, in fact, the opposite. He consistently picks the handsomest, toughest-looking actors he can find to star against him.

His latest ventures have been The Expendables series, in which he surrounds himself with every macho, good-looking action hero of the past three decades, including Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, plus heavyweight mixed martial artists Randy Couture and the Nogueira twins. All of these men are taller, more muscular, and more imposing than Stallone. Other cast members include Jason Statham, Mel Gibson and Robert Davi.

Bravo for Stallone that he doesn't mind being surrounded by taller, younger, stronger, more athletic, better-looking men.

Of course, you could say that the entire marketing gimmick of The Expendables was its assemblage of all these older action stars in one movie.

But Stallone has always surrounded himself with bigger, younger, better-looking guys. In Rocky V he hired then unknown Dolph Lundgren to be his opponent. Stallone looked like a homely, misshapen dwarf next to Lundgren, but that didn't seem to bother him:

In the more recent Bullet to the Head, he hired the 6' 5" Jason Momoa, possibly the best-looking guy in movies today, to be his nemesis, and that didn't seem to bother him either. Below, Stallone striking his trademark obligatory pose with Momoa:

Again, bravo for Stallone.

Of course, the other interpretation might be that Stallone actually feels he holds his own looks-wise with these other actors. In which case he is the vainest man who ever lived.

In anger veritas

Whenever people say "That wasn't me, it was the alcohol talking," what they're really saying is, "I would never have blurted out the truth like that if I hadn't become so uninhibited thanks to my drinking."

I suppose this is why people talk about blowing off some steam with a few drinks.

Being angry is like being drunk: it makes you tell the truth. I might as well say, that wasn't me talking, that was just the anger. As a nondrinker, I usually refrain from harsh truths unless I'm angry -- other than on my blog.

Which, in a roundabout way, sorta makes this blog my substitute for drinking.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

More on Sheila Jackson Lee

I'm evidently a little late to the party on Representative Jackson Lee. There's an entire meme on the internet devoted to her. A few more tidbits:

From the National Review:

During the 2011 hearings on Islamic terrorism, held by Representative Peter King (R., N.Y.), Jackson Lee railed against them as “an effort to demonize and to castigate a whole broad base of human beings.” She then lamented that the committee was not spending its time on genuine terroristic threats: “the cold cases of the civil-rights movement,” for example. She encouraged the committee to hold hearings to determine “whether Klansmen still roam today and terrorize individuals in parts of this country.”

[Jackson Lee] even complained that devastating natural disasters are used to promote racism, telling the Hill in 2003 that hurricane names are too “lily white” and that “all racial groups should be represented.” She suggested more hurricanes named “Keisha, Jamal, and Deshawn.”

Jackson Lee made her thoughts clear to her onetime Capitol-office executive assistant, Rhiannon Burruss, years ago: “I am a queen, and I demand to be treated like a queen.”

But along with such penetrating insights she would also bring to DHS a reputation as one of the worst bosses on Capitol Hill, according to Jonathan Strong, now a reporter with National Review Online. She is known to throw tantrums, regularly screaming and swearing at her staff. A few years ago she effectively replaced one employee’s name with “you stupid motherf***er.” “It’s like being an Iraq War veteran,” one staffer said.

A few specifics on that subject, from The Daily Caller:

A Jackson Lee aide recounts the time her parents came to Washington to visit: “They were really excited to come to the congressional office. They’re small town people, so for them it was a huge deal. They were actually sitting in the main lobby waiting area….[Jackson Lee] came out screaming at me over a scheduling change. Called me a ‘stupid idiot. Don’t be a moron, you foolish girl’ and actually did this in front of my parents, of all things.”

Yet another staffer remembers requesting a meeting early on in her tenure to ask how best to serve the congresswoman. Jackson Lee’s response: “What? What did you say to me? Who are you, the Congresswoman? You haven’t been elected. You don’t set up meetings with me! I tell you! You know what? You are the most unprofessional person I have ever met in my life.” With that, Jackson Lee hung up the phone.

According to the same staffer, Jackson Lee “would always say, ‘What am I a prostitute? Am I your prostitute? You can’t prostitute me.'"

...Even though she delays others for hours, Jackson Lee won’t wait a second for her demands to be met. “She expected you to run – all the time,” says a former staffer. “There was no walking. Nobody could walk, you always had to run – everywhere. She viewed walking as being lazy, so everyone always had to run.”

Another former aide added that the congresswoman would clock her on how long it took her to run an updated schedule print-out from Jackson Lee’s office in the Rayburn building to the House floor. “She would actually physically time you in terms of from office to getting to the [House] floor and finding her, hunting her down,” the staffer said. Then Jackson Lee would demand, “what took you so long?”

Her former drivers say the congresswoman demanded they run red lights and drive on highway shoulders around traffic. This caused at least one accident.

Somehow, it all fits. The narcissism, sense of entitlement, rudeness, arrogance, promiscuous accusations of racism, and stupidity all just seem to mesh seamlessly.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

A few days ago the Washington Times ran an article by Robert Knight, Impeaching the Truth, about Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Texas. A few excerpts:

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas Democrat, impugned the motives of Mr. Boehner for bringing to a floor vote Wednesday a resolution to sue Mr. Obama for usurping powers delegated by the Constitution to Congress. The measure passed on a party-line vote of 225 to 201.

"I ask my colleagues to oppose this resolution for it is, in fact, a veiled attempt for impeachment and it undermines the law that allows a president to do his job," Mrs. Jackson Lee said...

She claimed, as reported by the Daily Caller's Chuck Ross, that Democrats who were upset over the war in Iraq "did not seek an impeachment of President Bush, because as an executive, he had his authority. President Obama has the authority..."

Mrs. Jackson Lee seems to have forgotten that she was one of 11 Democratic co-sponsors of a resolution introduced by then-Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat, in June 2008, titled, "Impeaching George W. Bush, President of the United States, of high crimes and misdemeanors." 

In January, she said that Americans have done little to help the poor, and that the word "welfare" should be replaced by "transitional-living fund."

As noted on the website, she declared in 2005 that the United States has been a constitutional republic for 400 years (not 217 years at the time), and that astronaut Neil Armstrong planted an American flag on Mars (not the moon).

She outdid herself in 2010 when she took to the House floor to say that, in Vietnam, "Victory had been achieved. Today, we have two Vietnams, side by side, North and South, exchanging and working. We may not agree with all that North Vietnam is doing, but they are living in peace."

The North won the war in 1975 and absorbed the South into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 1976.

This article is reminiscent of those lists of dumb mistakes that high school students make. You know, the ones which give you a good chuckle about how amazingly stupid some teen-agers are.

But Jackson Lee is a United States Congresswoman. She is, theoretically, one of our foremost experts when it comes to understanding and implementing complex legislation.

Jackson Lee got her undergraduate degree from Yale University in 1972 and graduated from the University of Virginia Law School in 1975.

What's most mind-boggling is that at one point Jackson Lee served on the House Science Committee and on the Subcommittee overseeing space policy and NASA.

(Everybody who knows that Neil Armstrong went to the moon and not Mars would seem better qualified than her for that role.)

It certainly gives the lie to all those lectures your parents gave you about how you had to study hard to get ahead. It makes you wonder if studying hard for those history exams in high school was really worth it.

It make one question how much of a meritocracy we live in. It even makes one question the value of democracy.

About the only thing not in question here is the level of Ms. Jackson Lee's intelligence.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How I became interested in sociopathy

This is the introduction to a manuscript I wrote on sociopathy eighteen years ago; my agent and I were never able to get it published. (Simon & Schuster expressed interest, and asked for a rewrite, but then backed out because their previous book on the subject had not sold well, and because I cited famous people.) 

In any case, it describes my introduction to sociopathy. In my blog, I sound like a guy who understands sociopaths, and who's always onto them. As you'll see if you read this, that hasn't always been the case; I started out as just the opposite.

I grew up a typically over-sheltered, naïve child of the upper middle class. I did well on standardized tests, read a lot, and knew pop culture, but my street smarts were nil -- though I didn’t know it at the time. I was a typically rebellious youth, but always more bad boy than bad man. I grew up in a close family, and like many who do, I was overly trusting. Although I thought myself sophisticated, I was very much a creature of my sheltered environment.

When I was 25, and living in Los Angeles, I joined a Masters swimming club at the local YMCA. There was a tall blonde, who swam in my lane and was an excellent swimmer. Let’s call her Anne. She was not my type, so I initially took little notice of her other than as a swimmer. She was dating another swimmer in our group, but she was friendly, and we occasionally chatted about swimming.

When I asked about her times, Anne told me she had missed the American record in the 200 yard backstroke by a second and a half. She certainly was a tough swimmer in practice, pushing herself hard. It made sense that her hard work had achieved results. When I looked her up in Swimming World, her name was not listed in her conference championship, even though the winning time in the 200 yard backstroke was considerably slower than her claimed time. I asked her about this and she explained that she had been sick during the meet and had done her time in a special time trial three weeks later. I had no reason to doubt her.

There had been a famous swimmer at Anne’s college during her time there, a handsome Olympic champion; I asked her what he was like. She looked at me quizzically, then asked, “Are you….I mean, did you hear about us?” I asked what she meant, and Anne replied, “Oh, I thought maybe you’d heard; we were engaged for three years.”

I asked, what happened? “I had to break it off,” Anne explained. “It just wasn’t right. I realized at the end of the three years that I just didn’t love him, and it wasn’t fair to him to go ahead with the marriage.”

My goodness, I thought, most girls would have jumped at the chance to marry this guy.

Anne grew up in the same area as a friend whom I had admired in college, so I asked if she knew him. She looked at me for a couple seconds, then replied, “He was my hero.” It seemed Anne and I had much in common; I thought, too bad she wasn’t more my type physically.

One day Anne asked if I wanted to join her and her boyfriend for sushi after practice. I said sure; we had a pleasant dinner.

A few days later, while her boyfriend was at the other end of the pool, Anne started complaining about him; I listened attentively. Once she saw she had a sympathetic ear, she really started in: he was incredibly selfish, boorish, overly aggressive sexually, and stupid. She concluded by saying she was through with him. He seemed like a regular fellow to me, but on the other hand, I had no reason to doubt her; most men certainly harbor the potential for boorishness. I thought, he must have been a lot worse than most for her to hate him so.

Anne then asked offhandedly if I wanted to grab a bite after practice, and I said sure. I liked her casualness; I wasn’t used to having girls ask me out. We went back to her apartment after dinner, a mention of sore muscles led to a massage, and we ended up fooling around, something I had actually had no intention of doing.

So, naïve as I was, I got involved with Anne. There seemed a lot to admire about her and her family. Anne told me she had graduated from college at age twenty, having skipped two grades early on. Her father, though he came from an extremely wealthy family, had changed his name because he wanted to prove he could make it on his own. Her mother had been brought up in an orphanage, but had made good by marrying her father. One time Anne proudly recounted how her mother had taken her and her previous boyfriend out for dinner, but when he boyfriend had drunk too much, her mother had stuck him with the tab. Anne took this as evidence of her mother’s cleverness.

Anne told me that one time when she was young, a black man had tried to break into the house, but she had grabbed her father’s gun and shot him. I asked her how badly he had been wounded. She replied that she didn’t know.

Anne was entrepreneurial, having set up her own small advertising agency. (I just had a regular office job.)

Early on she told me that the other swimmers in our lane had been making fun of me for my predilection for remembering swimming times so well. This certainly disinclined me from befriending them, or even talking with them. A little while later I noticed that they had become noticeably frosty to me. Since I already disliked them for having made fun of me behind my back, I gave it no further thought.

Anne seemed to constantly have some sort of conflict in her life. One time it was with a business partner who was trying to steal the business from her. Another time it was with a landlord who had not been fair about her lease. I attributed these incidents to her naivete about dishonest people.

Anne also seemed to have a big heart. One evening she said, “I saw this old lady today who was having a hard time crossing the street. I just felt so sorry for her.” Anne got a very plaintive, sympathetic look on her face as she said this. I thought, what a nice woman to feel that sort of compassion; I probably wouldn’t have been so moved.

Sexually, Anne was a strange combination of physical uninhibitedness and a lack of desire -- for me. When I would try to get her into bed, she would always resist, saying that she wasn’t in love with me yet, so it wasn’t right; yet if I got her there, she would close her eyes and her body would just take over. I attributed this to a mix of old-fashioned prudery and a lack of inhibitions; I found this somewhat charming, as I was just the opposite. I had grown up shy and inhibited, and was spending my twenties determinedly making up for a platonic youth.

I was almost proud that I found myself drawn to this woman who was not that physically attractive; I took this as evidence that I wasn’t as shallow as I had hitherto suspected. For her part, she seemed to harbor no lack of confidence in her looks; one day she reported that a fellow had told her that she was so sexy she should be declared illegal. Similar claims would be made sporadically.

A new swimmer joined our club, a tall blond Adonis whom Anne had known back East. She was friendly with him; I was jealous, suspecting the worst. One day he confided in her that he was gay, simultaneously asking her not to tell me (this was 1978). Within fifteen minutes she had relayed his secret to me, warning me to keep my mouth shut. I thought it indiscreet of her to tell me, especially so soon, but at the same time I was relieved.

I once made a complimentary remark about an attractive woman who was a member of our swimming group. Anne immediately volunteered that this woman had droopy breasts. I was once again put off by her indiscretion, but at the same time somewhat flattered by her seeming jealousy. On another occasion Anne informed me that another woman in our group had acne on her rear end.

Anne knew a number of lesbians, although she claimed that lesbians gave her the creeps. Occasionally she would tell me that she suspected one or another of them might be gay. I would tell her that the woman was obviously gay, that she was naïve not to realize it. She would invariably dismiss my suspicions, saying she wanted to give so-and-so the benefit of the doubt. She finally admitted that one of these friends had made a pass at her, which had scared her so much that she had “jumped about a foot off the ground.”

Anne would occasionally lament that it was unrealistic for her to live up to her Golden Girl persona all the time. (“Golden Girl” was the name of a recent movie about a female super-athlete.) It became quite apparent that she felt she was an all around superior specimen.

One time Anne went surfing and took a bad fall on her board. She said she thought she had a broken rib. I drove her to the hospital and waited for her in the lobby. When she came out half an hour later, I asked her what the doctor had said. Two cracked ribs, she replied. I asked why she wasn’t bandaged. “They don’t do that anymore. He just told me to rest and not move around for two weeks.” She smiled and then grimaced, as if the pain from the cracked ribs had just flared up. I had to admire her physical courage.

I once gave Anne a bicycle for her birthday. Two weeks later it was no longer at her apartment. When I asked her about it, she said she had gotten a flat tire and taken it to a shop. Two months later, the bicycle was still at the shop.

Perhaps a less naive person would have backed away, realizing Anne was a liar. I cringe to think of it now, but at the time I had no inkling. Because I was honest to a fault, I generally don’t suspect others of lying. Anne spoke just the way an honest person would, with an open face and no catch in her voice. And, in my defense, nothing in my experience had prepared me for a liar of such magnitude.

At the time, I used the word “unbelievable” in describing Anne to others. I realized later that perhaps my subconscious was telling me something my conscious mind was too thick to grasp: that she really was not believable. (Ironically, the two sociopaths I’ve known best -- apart from Anne -- constantly used the word “unbelievable” in a negative way, about others.)

A friend once gave Anne two newborn kittens. They were two little bundles of fur with big round eyes, housed in a large cardboard box. A few days later the kittens were no longer at her apartment. I asked what had become of them. “They escaped,” she said, seemingly barely able to suppress her tears. “They just got out somehow.” She appeared genuinely heartbroken.

On another occasion we were on the street when we spotted the actor Paul Newman standing by his car. Before I could stop her, Anne loudly yelled “Hi Paul,” waving as if he were an old friend. He looked confused for a second, gave a small wave, got in his car, and drove off. I asked if she knew him. She said no. Even though I would have found this behavior disgusting in someone else, somehow with Anne I found it charming evidence of her lack of inhibitions, her freedom from the usual social strictures.

Anne had cultivated a couple of very rich friends, or so she said. She seemed to take great pleasure in their friendship, and would often mention their names and talk about how wealthy they were. This was one side of her I did not find charming.

Anne was often irresponsible, showing up late and sometimes not even at all when we had arranged to meet. After this happened a couple times, I would get angry. She would blame a traffic jam or a crisis at work; if I expressed doubt, she would blow up at me, just the way an honest person would if accused falsely. In the face of her righteous anger, I would back down. Occasionally she would even start to cry, seemingly at will, and say that I didn’t know how to be a friend. This got me to wondering -- perhaps I really wasn’t a good friend.

The pattern of irresponsibility continued, and I finally confronted Anne about it. She was very apologetic, and promised to try to be more responsible in the future. I relented. She would frequently tell me how much she liked me, and in what high regard she held me, at one point saying, “I would lay myself right down in the street for you.” While I discounted this last statement, I assumed that she generally felt the emotions she claimed, and consequently forgave her more of her behavior than I would have otherwise.

Sometimes when I got angry at Anne for having said something that wasn’t entirely true, she would say plaintively, “But I was just telling you what you wanted to hear,” as if this excused her lying.

The irresponsibility persisted. Finally I told her that I was sick of it and would no longer see her. Anne then told me that she had cervical cancer. She hadn’t wanted to tell me because she didn’t want me to feel sorry for her; but because she might be dying, she felt she had to compress a lifetime’s worth of living into the years that remained. This was why she would often act so impulsively. As embarrassing as this is for me to admit, I have to admit it: I believed her. Even more embarrassingly, I cried when I told my parents about her on the phone. (To this day I am mortified when I think about how stupid they must think me.)

You're probably aghast at my gullibility; I'd be laughing myself if it hadn’t happened to me. Was I incredibly stupid or just naïve? Well, both.

I look back and think, I was the ultimate innocent. Many people who are taken in by people like Anne report the same reaction, that they can’t believe how naïve they were, but that at the time they somehow just suspended their common sense and good judgment. This is why many victims of con artists don’t report the crimes -- because they are too embarrassed by their own stupidity.

Eventually I realized that Anne was not being truthful, and broke off the relationship for good. Soon after, I had brief affairs with two other women from the pool (including the one whom Anne had told me -- falsely, as it turned out -- had “droopy” breasts”). Each told me how surprised she was when I asked her out, saying that Anne had told her -- and everybody else at the pool -- that I was gay. I also found out that she once told the receptionist at my office that I was gay. I thought this particularly rich since I was the one who was always trying to get her into bed. Soon after Anne stopped coming to our pool. Apparently she had borrowed money from a couple people there and repaid them with bad checks.

Sometime during the next few months, when I was still trying to sort it all out, the phrase “pathological liar” came to me. To find out more, I went to the UCLA psychology library to look it up in an abnormal psychology text. The phrase was listed in the index with the reference, “See ‘sociopath’.” I then spent eight of the most interesting -- and epiphanous -- hours of my life, reading various books on the subject.

Sociopaths are people without conscience. They feel no affection or love, though they frequently counterfeit these emotions well. They feel no remorse or shame. They are impulsive, irresponsible, and deceitful. Because of these characteristics, they are capable of the most heinous acts. Anne was a textbook sociopath.

I finally realized that Anne had not done the time she had claimed in the 200 yard backstroke, and that she had never been engaged to the handsome Olympic champion. I realized that she had lied to me about the other people in our lane, and to them about me, simply to keep us from comparing notes on her. I realized that she had made up the story about how her father had come from a very rich family. I realized that the story about her shooting the intruder had also been made up. I realized that she was not twenty-four as she had claimed, but twenty-six. I realized that Anne’s record of reported conflicts with the business partner and landlord was almost undoubtedly her fault. I realized that she had either sold or given away the bicycle I had given her. I realized that the stories of cracked ribs and cancer were both lies. I realized that her story of how she had felt so sorry for that old lady had just been posturing. I realized that all her protestations of affection were completely hollow. I realized that she was gay herself, despite her story of having “jumped a foot in the air” when that woman made a pass at her; it couldn’t have been coincidence that so many of her women friends were gay, and that Ann herself seemed to just light up whenever there was a teenage girl around. I realized that her kittens had not escaped, that she had probably just flushed them down the toilet or put them in a plastic bag and thrown them in the garbage.

At age twenty-five, with a BA in psychology from a prestigious university, having known people from different social milieus, I had actually thought myself worldly. I was keenly attuned to others’ egotism, insecurities, and hypocrisies (being egotistical, insecure, and at times hypocritical myself). Yet I was obviously not attuned to such thoroughgoing and blatant dishonesty, especially if the liar had nothing to gain but admiration. I could not conceive of basking in the admiration of those whom I had misled about my accomplishments, nor could I conceive of anyone else doing so. I must have been under the impression that having a high IQ meant I wouldn’t be outsmarted by others. Looking back, I cringe.

Ever since, I have been a connoissieur, so to speak, of sociopaths.

We’ve all read about serial killers and other vicious criminals, but it’s hard to make the leap from reading about Ted Bundy to realizing that an acquaintance who looks, acts, and sounds normal may in fact be a sociopath.

Unfortunately, most people brought up in a home with loving parents and normal friends are easy prey for a sociopath. They just naturally interpret others’ behavior in the context of their own, so they can’t conceive of anybody that evil and shameless.

Perhaps I should be thankful that I escaped with only a bruised ego, since that is an inevitable part of life anyway. Many people lose their money, careers, and even lives to sociopaths.

The gay Adonis continued to be friendly despite Anne having told him the only reason I kept in touch with him was to hear about her. (I must admit I was curious to hear about her, but I also liked him and would have kept in touch anyway.) The only thing I heard about Anne after I left California was from a newspaper article that he sent me. A female friend of Anne’s with whom she had made an early morning bicycle date had been killed by a hit-and-run driver while waiting for Anne. Anne had evidently made a huge show of wanting to catch the murderer, both with the local police and with the slain girl’s parents. The focus of the article was on Anne. I could only wonder, would they have suspected Anne if they’d known what she was really like? Was she the murderer? I have no idea; but I do know that she was capable of it, and that if she had been the killer, she would have made just such a huge show of outrage and grief over the girl’s death. I also know that she would have enjoyed playing the role of aggrieved friend, and that she would have played it to the hilt.

I said Anne was a textbook sociopath. Because I knew her over an extended period of time (a very long six months), I got to see her exhibit every major trait of sociopath. She was certainly dishonest; every one of her self-professed “accomplishments” was a lie.

Anne was impulsive. Many times when she didn’t show up for a date it was because she had simply found something (or someone) better to do at the last minute.

Anne was not capable of feeling affection. She loudly claimed to feel love, but she didn’t. Her mother, brought up in an orphanage, had never received -- and thus never learned to -- love; this inability was passed along to Anne. 

Anne was completely shameless. A person who felt shame would certainly not have laid claim to all those bogus accomplishments, and would not have told me another girl at the pool had acne on her rear end. 

Anne was manipulative. She certainly succeeded in making me feel admiration and then sympathy for her.

Anne was destructive. I’m sure she killed those kittens. (If she had given them to someone else, she would have simply said so.)

Anne had a glowing self-image unfettered by pedestrian reality. Sociopaths are always their own biggest fans.

Anne was a natural liar and actress. She was without inhibitions, and her blind self-confidence allowed her to always put up a strong front. Sociopaths can be superhuman as well as subhuman.

Anne was certainly the worst back-stabber I had ever met (up to that point). She did her best to poison my relations with our mutual acquaintances.

All these traits can help sociopaths succeed. Sociopaths thrive wherever there is an absence of knowledge about sociopathy.

If you've been hoodwinked by a sociopath already, knowing that others -- like me -- have been similarly suckered should make you a little less embarrassed by your naivete.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Filial respect, Part IV

Just wandered into my son's room, and said, "Johnny, there's something I've been meaning to tell you recently, and I hope you don't take it too hard. I'm going to have a sex change operation."

He didn't miss a beat: "Oh? You gonna become a man?"