On the Opie and Anthony radio show, Anthony played the phone messages of a woman who has been “stalking” him for the past year. (a replay of this will be on today at 5p on XM202.)
Apparently they met by chance, and gone out on a weekend trip. Somehow she felt it was more significant a weekend than he did, and since then, she’s called him incessantly. At first he tried to explain, then he told her to stop calling; then yelled at her; at some point the police got involved; and now, a year later, she simply leaves long rambling messages on his iphone.
The messages are characteristic and car-crash interesting. Obviously, she wants desperately to be in a relationship with him. She feels deeply hurt that he hasn’t reciprocated, or even called. I think most people have heard, or heard about, such calls.
But in none of the messages does she mention what she likes about him that would lead her to want him so much. In fact, I defy you to listen to those messages and identify one single thing about Anthony that she likes at all. We can make right or wrong speculations about what she likes, but in hours of recordings, she never mentions anything. (Though not in these messages, sometimes a vague, “no one’s ever made me feel this way” is expressed, but that’s not something, and it’s not something about him.) Neither do the criticisms have much to do with Anthony specifically. They detail the perceived sleights but they’re hardly worthy of mention– she magnifies them to justify the power of her emotions. “You lied to me.” Even if true– so what, a year later?
She also explains how his treatment of her is just like her past boyfriends; she names them all and details what each did to her. How this man wrecked her family; how the the other man did this or that to her. “Why does she keep bringing up stuff with old boyfriends that has nothing to do with me, that happened way before me?” he asks.
The standard answer is that she’s not really angry at him, not entirely, she’s angry at so many things and he just happens to be the man in front right now, so all her anger gets dumped on him.
But the more important question is whether or not she actually likes him. Because if she doesn’t really like him, then all of this is an obsessive waste. She thinks she does, but what happens if they get together? What happens if she gets him?
Just as she’s angry at him as a proxy for everything that came before, so does her liking him have very little to do with him. She doesn’t like him, she likes what he represents, and if Anthony was foolish enough to fall for her the result would be catastrophe. Here’s how I know. When he did something that was explicitly outside her– that asserted his emotional existence as independent of her, e.g. went for a spontaneous drink with some guys from work; or even innocuously wrote something funny to a girl on facebook, it would be a taken as a sign he’s bored/angry/disrespectful of her. And since he is seen as the direct culmination of all her previous (failed) relationships, the underlying contempt she has for him would frequently slip out in second long increments (“look at this room– you are such a slob!” “slow down, there are kids in this neighborhood, don’t you know how to drive?”) And the constant passive suppression of his individuality through ways that can’t be readily observed to be controlling: domination of the weekend plans; letting him watch whatever he wants on TV except when it conflicts with what she wants to watch; not consulting him on certain purchases, etc.)
Someone asked how this kind of stalking stops, and the answer was, “they find another victim.” The problem is, that only works if there’s no communication from his end. Anthony will say he hasn’t returned one call or text in months, but the problem is he played the tapes on the air– and that is a communication. If you follow that she’s not really angry at him specifically, and doesn’t really like him specifically, then anything he does in response to her nuttiness is, in fact, a response to her. If he sees her call on the iphone, and pushes “Ignore” sending it immediately to voicemail– and so she understands that on the other end of her call he noticed her and reacted to her– then it is no different than if he answered the phone to yell at her, or answered it to tell her that he was falling for her.
Anyone who has answered such calls or who’s listened to such a voicemails will agree that despite an hour of words there is almost no actionable information, no actual point. It is the steady droning of emotion wrapped in prepackaged sentence fragments which mask the lack of content. “I need to find someone who treats me well”, “the relationship I deserve”, “I’m not going to allow myself to get hurt like this again”, “you’ve lied to me repeatedly”. The phrases aren’t explaining anything, they’re just giving substance to the emotion that existed way before he allegedly hurt her.
Anthony shouldn’t communicate with her anymore, at all. Hopefully she’ll go away, and if she escalates she was probably going to eventually anyway. Neither, however, should he or any person mistake intensity of passion with passion for them. It may seem preposterous that that much affect/love/desire/jealousy/hate/hurt can not have anything to do with him since he’s the one standing there, but it just so happens that he’s the one standing there.
But what should she do? It’s not enough to say she’s “broken” or has a “pattern of intense unstable relationships.” What should she do? (And, similarly, what should the obsessive man who won’t let the girl move on with her life do?) There’s been 10 decades of ideas and therapies, take your pick, but I’ll suggest one that may work for some. At some point in her life, she’ll have to stop asking why these things happen to her and say, nevertheless, I probably shouldn’t be forcing myself into their consciousness every moment, against their will. It isn’t right.
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