My German friend Sandra recently met a man who she’s seen twice in three months. After their first date, she was certain he was the one. When the guy didn’t follow up after the second date with an invitation for a third, she texted him incessantly. She showed up at the school where he works. She drove from Hamburg to Berlin, a four-hour journey, allegedly to visit her sister. After the man said he wasn’t in town when she phoned to tell him she was there, she rode her sister’s bike around his neighborhood for an hour hoping to run into him. The guy finally gave her the boot when his roommate claimed to have seen Sandra peeking through their curtains, an accusation she firmly denies.
When she called me in the States to ask my opinion of the situation, I said, “Sandra, dollface. You do realize you’re stalking him, right?”
My friend was shocked. Sandra is prettier than Heidi Klum on a good day. She went to the Sorbonne. She teaches at the best university in Germany. She is a leader in her field and brings home serious bank. Sandra is not the stalker type. Surely, good-looking, smart, successful folk can be off their rockers just as dumpy, dopey slackers can be. But Sandra has always been the epitome of emotional calm and psychological might.
Until five years ago, when the guy she considered the cat’s meow dumped her right around the time she thought she’d be getting an engagement ring. The year following was tough, but eventually Sandra enjoyed singlehood, as did all the German fellas who’d been hot for her form.
But soon days passed, weeks passed, months and then years without Sandra finding herself in a romantic situation that stuck. More often than not, she spent weekends alone, went to restaurants by herself and slept in a giant, cold bed. Eventually, she started suffering separation anxiety, clinging to friends at the end of parties and nights on the town because she didn’t want to go home to an empty apartment. She fell for men who were fantastically undeserving of her attention and had her heart shattered when they were too dip-shitted to return her affections. The willfulness which gave her the gumption to achieve so much in life had become contorted into a neurotic and inappropriately forceful desperation.
Sandra became, what many men would call, a psycho. A clingy mess. Danger. Ultimately, love interests quickly withdrew, assuming her biological clock was ticking like a metronome out of whack.
But Sandra isn’t a psycho. Far from it.
Years ago, I saw a documentary about a man who was making a solo trip around the world on a sailboat. The filmmakers wanted to study his reaction to this extended period of solitude. On the first leg of his tour, the man was fresh-faced, self-possessed, a sailor courageously staring down the vast sea. A bit later, he wore a disheveled beard and hummed to himself off-key. Even later, he’d developed weird tics and was maniacally talking to himself. Finally, he was slobbering into his soiled shirt, beating himself in the head, pulling his hair out and screaming incoherently at what must have been hallucinatory phantoms sliding across the surface of the ocean. I feared another month and the poor bastard would be painting the side of the boat with his own blood.
Thus, the documentary successfully demonstrated how loneliness can make a person flippin’ nuts.
When you’re on the other side of a person’s moment of madness, it’s challenging to be tolerant. After someone has shown up unannounced at your pad or brought you a bouquet of roses on your second date, giving them another chance may not be such a tantalizing option. Of course, some people really are stalkers. And when they are, damn straight you best run.
However, lots of people on the planet have been alone so long they go into places as scary for them as it is for their love objects. It’s easy to call someone crazy, but it’s a lot nicer to remember how loneliness can make a person do things they wouldn’t normally do.
I hope Sandra moves past this desperation so the next man to come along sees what a spectacular catch she is. And I hope he has lots of patience.
Or thicker curtains.