Letter E is for erotomania, or is it?
A to Z entries: My post for each letter of the alphabet will be anecdotes or musings based on an element from the previous letter’s post. Names always changed, events always real.
~ Letter D was for Drunks and so now, a different kind of impairment…erotomania. ~
At first I thought it was made up. In the novel I was reading, erotomania was referred to by its other name, de Clérambault’s syndrome. It was so specific and strange, it had to be a fictional syndrome. The story (Enduring Love by Ian McEwan) was about a man who becomes fixated with another man after a passing glance. But in his fixation, he’s convinced that the second man, who lives with his girlfriend, reciprocates his love and communicates it through secrets signs.
It turns out that erotomania is a real-life delusion under which the sufferer believes an admirer communicates love through signals and secret codes.
An erotomaniac might interpret daily gestures of no significance as meaningful: He put a vase of flowers on his cubicle desk knowing I pass by on my way to the copy machine, so those flowers are meant for me.
He or she might go as far as devise a code in which the varying degrees of raised or lowered window blinds hold special meaning. Often, sufferers are already diagnosed with schizophrenia.
But what about those of us who supposedly don’t suffer from delusional disorders? In this age of subtweeting and everyone transmitting secret messages through social media, how do you distinguish between your non-psychotic personal delusions and someone actually making secret declarations about you?
The answer is, you usually don’t.
Or you can subtext back in public with just the right balance of ambiguity and specificity to make it interesting to those who have no stake in the matter and return the dangling carrot to the one who is the object of your attention. You can pingpong that carrot for a long time without either of you knowing for sure if it’s happening.
I was big on declarations that were in plain view but only unmistakable to the person in question. Like this old Facebook post:
I lived on the streets of Florence for three weeks when I was seventeen. All these years later, I have a permanent sense of kinship, even claim, to Florence, like Neil Armstrong must to the moon.
The words were all true, but only one person in the world understood the subtext was about him because of a single identifying feature.
If you’re familiar with Gunmetal Geisha, you know my attitude to relationships is a seven-headed Hydra. My heart is steadfast even as it wanders, and I devote a lot of brain time and prose poems to it:
Give me unrequited love over requited apathy. All that pining is a cosmos of suns and shooting stars, and the moment just before the first kiss is the eternal instant before galactic combustion. I would spend a lifetime prolonging that moment before a first kiss if love didn’t run the show.
This is a symptom of an unattached individual who has eschewed marriage and family, for better or worse. I get to indulge like a teen with fantasy, play and infatuation, blurring for myself that in my heart, I can hold love steadier than the still-standing pillars of mythos. Maybe love without focus diffuses in all directions; maybe focused love is the hero’s boon at journey’s end.
When it comes to those I’ve loved from afar or up close, I’ve been certain of one thing: I’m not capable of loving someone who doesn’t love me. Can you see how this could be a huge problem, not unlike the problem of the erotomaniac? It means as long as I love someone, I’m convinced that they love me back, no matter all torment, obstacles and evidence to the contrary.
It’s returned admiration that feeds admiration. But how often do we imagine returned admiration?
I happen to be as painfully cerebral as I am emotional, but it doesn’t stop me from putting stock into my gut feelings. Gut feelings are problematic. Sometimes we choose to rely on them instead of conscious reasoning because we don’t like the answer reason provides.
Reasoning: He never returns my calls. He must not be into me.
Gut Feeling: He never returns my calls. But he’s into me, so he must be afraid of something.
Maybe experience has shown you that the second scenario is not atypical. But it’s a mistake to apply it to every unreturned call, since the more likely scenario is the first one.
And truly, in spite of the uncertain social media subtext or out-of-context internet links and songs they might sent you, and all the hidden words you think you see in their eyes, if you look hard enough, you might find the person demonstrated a long time ago that they don’t love you. If like me you’re incapable of loving someone who doesn’t love you, that should be all the proof you need to cure yourself of them.
Here’s a personal example. While I was on a canyon hike with a guy, out of the brush above us, a wild black pig came charging across our path. Arbitrary, sudden and startling, it was like something out of the first season of Lost, testing our fight or flight instincts. I took longer to process the whirl of black than the guy did, so I stopped short and gasped. But with a whoa and oh shit the guy had instantly turned around and ran a few feet in the opposite direction and away from me. The pig trotted straight down, unconcerned with us and the hiking trail. At that point, the guy came back and we continued our hike. We marveled about the pig the rest of the way.
That would’ve been a good time for me to realize, yeah, this guy doesn’t love me. He had no natural instinct to protect me. In an instant of perceived danger, he’d thought only of himself.
It’s easy to read favorable secret messages into someone’s oblique words. But it ought to be just as easy to see the truth in their behavior, a distinction perhaps, that separates the erotomaniac from the lovelorn.
Of course, sometimes you’re not wrong and find yourself making bold statements about the streets of Florence.
I’m sure by now it may have occurred to you that this whole entry might be one long subtext. Or two.
(Part 1 of 2. Concluded in the Letter F post)
~ Part of the A to Z Challenge ~
A post a day except Sunday for the month of April to cover topics beginning with each letter of the alphabet.
Cathartic Monkeyism returns in May.
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