Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Why is Everybody Crazy but Me?

By Ms. Anne Thrope

Can someone please tell me if I have a sign on my back that says I Brake for Psychological Case Studies?

I am a magnet for high-maintenance, opportunistic, and often financially challenged persons. I, apparently, am the Statue of Enabling. Give me your narcissists, emotional vampires, your sex addicts and the issue-laden. Give me your whiners, your tweakers, and heavens, don’t forget to give me those who are considered a danger to themselves and to others. Please, make sure I get those.

Failing to sever ties, I’ve considered moving in the middle of the night to an unspecified location under an assumed identity. No forwarding address, no good-bye note, no sign of a struggle. But then I’d have to pack, which means I’d have to clean, and that will look suspicious. I have even tried pretending that I didn’t know some of my friends, uncreating them in the hermetic safety of my mind. No acknowledgement, no eye contact or head-nodding. I left them to their conversation as I would strangers.

That was the longest drive to Lincoln City ever.

An assertive person would have torched these bridges long ago, the very moment scarlet flags could be seen whipping in the tempest. A less than assertive, yet lucid person would have run at the first sight of flashing Danger! signs. A co-dependent follower—the one trying to keep up with the minions—with only trace amounts of common sense, would have finally heeded the sirens. Not metaphorical sirens. Real sirens; the kind that precede Miranda rights. Or the sirens which reassure that someone will be along shortly to apply direct pressure. I can’t say I haven’t been warned. Over and over. And over.

So I’m not assertive. I hate confrontation and I’d have to answer the inevitable question about the sign on my back. And, if my friends knew how I really felt about them, they’d be pissed. My problem is that I care too much about what they think; for that, I blame my parents. Undoing years of socialization—decades of learning to play nice and to share my toys—is easier said than done. Believe me, I’m trying. My bathroom mirror is covered with self-asserting mantras: I’m number one. Just say ‘No.’ This is my personal space. No solicitors. And still, there’s that sign on my back.

Some of my friends aren’t wholly rotten; they’re just really, really irritating. Like Darla, for instance, whose superhero name is the Human Valium. I met Darla at work some years ago. A gentle spirit—as smart as she is sweet—Darla is a selfless people-pleaser, with a pathological need for structure, and desperate for a continuous amphetamine drip.

She had been in a cult before finding salvation in Amway. Then she joined another cult, before coming to her senses in the soul-vacuum that is corporate America. I don’t fault her for any of that. Haven’t we all been in a cult at one time or another? It’s one of those boundary-testing things people do. Two-year-olds put everything in their mouths. Teenagers smoke pot. Disillusioned twenty-somethings learn to play the tambourine. But Darla misses The Collective, and has attempted starting her own cult at work, basing her various groups around self-help books, email affirmations, and the weekly lotto.

Her time spent in the Kool-Aid Corps was not without its benefits. Darla learned to meditate, and the discipline keeps her grounded and focused. The down side is that she moves at a speed of about negative five miles per hour. She approaches every activity with a methodical, plodding anti-action. Walking, typing, talking—all movement—OK movement is perhaps too strong a word—this coagulation is carried out with the leisure of molasses.

I watched her fold letters and place them in envelopes once. She aligned the edges, and realigned them. Then she creased the folds with such grave focus you’d think she were about to invent origami. Darla is thoughtful. Darla is kind. But she and deadlines don’t see eye to eye. If you stand close enough to her, time actually seems to move backwards. She is the only known foe to the law of inertia, but she has a soul, unlike my friend Ted.

Psychiatrists say that everyone knows at least one sociopath. It wasn’t hard to pick the psycho out of my group. He’s neither homicidal, nor a loner, but he is a master manipulator with a predatory bent. And because there isn’t a caring, sensitive bone in his tin can body, his mean streak has room to spread out. Nice guy until you’ve found out he’s set you up—having fed you information which led you to take certain actions that backfired, leaving you sooty and tattered with humiliation. Did he have a score to settle? Nope. Was he in a bad mood? Nah. He did it solely to amuse himself; don’t take it personally. He’s great for drinks and conversation, but he just can’t help himself. He is a sociopath.

Funny, out of all my friends, it’s Ted’s company I enjoy the most. He never burdens me with his problems because he’s too busy figuring out how to set me up for failure. He doesn’t litter conversation with his feelings, because he doesn’t have any. I love that about him. And I’m thankful that he doesn’t have rage issues, like my roommate, Johnny.

Heeere’s Johnny, the control freak. Delusional, psychotic, paranoid, obsessive. These are the mantras on his bathroom mirror. I could write a whole book about him, but Stephen King beat me to it – perhaps you’ve read The Shining?

We’re all against Johnny. We made his hair fall out, and turned his girlfriend against him using witchcraft. We scrutinize his every foible and flaw, celebrating one defeat after another. I’ve tried to tell him we haven’t done any of that. Ted probably did, but the rest of us have our own problems. Yet he insists; bellowing accusations, vowing to kill us in our sleep, he invokes Jesus’ name, because the crucified tend to stick together, and because all work and no eggshells make Jack a perpetual victim.

I try to keep my own annoying tendencies in check, and in doing so, have unwittingly endeared myself to the primary group I chum around with. It’s no wonder these people want to be around me. I’m an oasis of sanity in their desert of neuroses. I’m the voice of reason breaking through the din of cackling demons. Chum. That’s what I am. The rotting kind, in a frenzied throng of social piranhas. That is, until I can get that damn sign off my back.

As of this writing, these characters and others are still in my phone book, on my birthday calendar, and marginally, in my good graces. Because I am the only one in this heap of damaged goods capable of introspection, I’m not worried that anyone in my social circle will recognize him or herself, but I have changed the names and disguised identities as a matter of literary etiquette.

To my critics, be warned. This is an example of how I treat people I actually care about. And for those who have escaped my poison pen, I can always make this longer.


Blogger annush said...

you wouldn't have to worry about the sign on your back, if like me you just hated everyone and told them to buzz off :)

12:02 PM  
Blogger KlevaBich said...

Oh great, in addition to being able to read my thoughts and use them as fodder for your own musings, now you're using my pen name as well? When will this ever end?

The Original Miss Anne Thrope

PS Obviously you're not an only child. I'm way too cranky and antisocial to put up with your group of, mmm, characters. ;-)

12:36 PM  
Blogger Cindy St. Onge said...

Annush, if I only had your ovaries, I wouldn't have to resort to chicken shit bridge-burning manifestoes.

Nancy--are you my evil twin or am I yours? That's pretty wild. I started writing some of my meaner stuff under Miss Anne Thrope a couple of years ago, then changed it to Ms. this last year.

Well, you know what they say about great minds...

2:24 PM  

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