Erotomania Or…?


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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  1. Paul · · Reply

    Erotomania, what an odd condition. It is interesting though, as you say, that it is an exaggerated form of a relationship situation that most of us have encoutered at one time or another. Thanks for the post GG – it’s gven me food for thought, as your posts are wont to do!

    1. Isn’t it? It’s far more involved and specific than I got into. And there is a definite distinction between the erotomaniac and the garden variety lovelorn.

  2. lrconsiderer · · Reply

    I think there should be a new manner of thing carved out somewhere in the annals of meaning; The Unrequited Crush – an experience in which has nothing to do with potential ending in True Love (the holder knowing inherently that such a conclusion would be as impossible as it was inappropriate), yet which holds within it a measure of the ‘tenterhooked’ness and symbolism (perhaps even extending to subtweets and pathos) of the Actual Crush. And this, even whilst the holder of said Unrequited Crush looks back into their heart, shaking their head at the faint tinge of the ridiculous which colours the entire thing.

    That said, it may just be a case of ‘lost in translation’, for the enthusiasm of ‘mericans for liberally sprinkling their interactions with “love”, which means merely “enthusiasm”, and their propensity (when they actually mean it) to stay away from the ‘L-word’, can be confusing to the foreigner (particularly when they start trying to learn the lingo).

    Look at that. Undirected mail. It’s been brewing for a while. I thought I was going to write a post about it, but perhaps not. I think I’d be called out on my subtext pretty rapidly, and then I’d have to explain, which could get awkward (excruciating, in fact, to attempt to untie certain mental knots in public, or try to back out as graciously as possible…no – this, now writ, can remain).

    As always, GG, a delight.

    (Even if this time it was tinged with the slightly heelish emotion of reading, greedily, over someone else’s shoulder)

    1. Lizzi, I only half understand this, and the half I don’t understand sounds as profound as the half I do. So you absolutely must elaborate!

      “Faint tinge of the ridiculous…” You’ve nailed it, and how I love a frank friend. I think the problem with the over-usage of the word “love” is that that there is no middle word in between “like” and “love.” “Like” is so bland compared to feelings I experience. So yes, “love” does take on a meaning other than pure, utter, love. But that’s a fantastic observation, and so true, about staying away from the word when we actually do mean it. I think you have inspired yet another post…

      Undirected mail? Is that the same thing as subtext? Yes, you are called out. Explain.

      And you’re welcome to read “over my shoulder” any time. I love it! Wink.

      1. lrconsiderer · ·

        Undirected mail – slightly different than subtext, given that in subtext, both parties would be assumed to understand the veiled context. Undirected mail I see more as something semi-pertinent or otherwise inspired by the reading just consumed, which has nothing necessarily to do with said reading (or its writer, I hasten to add) but which rather blurts out as a sideways kind of response, into a musing which has been mulled for a while, and isn’t directed to anyone particular, but which (nonetheless) holds within it a contextualised state of affairs.


        Short version:

        Add the WriterHeart to a sometimes tendency to shut down the ‘outside’ and have Big Things going on on the ‘inside’, and you have what could be termed the aforementioned Unrequited. (bearing in mind the tinge of the ridiculous because Real Life and its trappings rarely sit evenly with the landscape of the mind in these matters). Was that short? I can obsess quickly, and equally quickly find new shiny toys.

        But if the …no obsession is too strong. Take it notches back (not sure how many) and add in the confusion over that word (which I hope you’ll write about, because goodness knows I could use the clarity) and the innocence of foreigners when dealing with such things, and you have a heady mix for confusion and eventual let-down.

        I think.

        Unless not.

        Sometimes I think you tangle me up on purpose *pouts*.

      2. Okay, that’s still oblique, just so you know. I will ask you for specific examples in private.

      3. lrconsiderer · ·

        As for the reading over the shoulder – I assumed that’s why you wrote your subtext in such a brazen ‘Oh come and LOOK and I’ll pretend I’m not watching you read, and LOVING IT’ way…

        But thanks. Your permissiveness does you credit.

      4. Haha, pretty much exactly like your quote!

      5. lrconsiderer · ·

        Hmmm. Tinyminishort version? Sometimes I’m less good at boundaries in my head than I am in Real Life. And I confuse easily with words which translate differently across the Atlantic.

  3. So far in this year’s challenge, you are the absolute star. This was very poignant and I was struck several times by what you wrote. Eg Give me unrequited love over requited apathy, subtexts, delusions etc…great stuff. I think your articles are too long though. I reckon they would have more impact if they were shorter. Just my opinion. I devour it all anyway. You have set the bar high. Keep up the good work.

    1. I completely agree with you as far as the length, certainly for this daily challenge. And I really appreciate the feedback.

  4. maurnas · · Reply

    I have definitely dated some men that suffered from erotomania. And nothing is more frustrating to me. I don’t send secret messages. And I don’t believe other people are sending them to me. I am more of a blunt force kind of person. If I like someone, I come right out and say it. If I don’t, I’ll usually say that too. And I expect others to do the same. But then, I am terrible at picking up on clues. There’s no mystery with me.

    1. I think it’s better to be terrible at picking up clues than imagining clues.

  5. This is so beautiful and bittersweet.
    I can’t comment properly, as it’s early and I’ve not had sufficient caffeine. It’s daunting to comment under Lizzi,whose comments flow more beautifully than most of my posts!

    I loved this and can’t wait to delve more deeply into your blog, and your world. And there I am – using that ‘merican word, LOVE.

    1. Well, thank you so much. I suppose it is bittersweet… I felt pretty good writing it. I felt like I was relinquishing something. That can be liberating.

      1. Just out of curiousity – what authors/books do you read?

      2. Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, Joan Didion, Nabakov, Tolstoy, E. M. Forster, Hermann Hesse, Joyce Carol Oates and dozens more.


    2. lrconsiderer · · Reply

      Who whatevs SW :p I have something rather nice coming up for letter L, which I think you’ll enjoy.

    3. lrconsiderer · · Reply

      You know what’s annoying? Catching a typo the split second after having pressed ‘post comment’, and not being in time to catch the ‘cancel reply’ button and just KNOWING that at the other end of the comment moderation, when you beg for your awful typo to just be deleted, that you throw yourself on the mercy of a blogger endowed with such a sense of humour it might get in the way of her sense of honour, allowing her to (metaphorically speaking) ‘look the other way’ and throw you under the bus for the hell of it, publishing both the typo and the subsequent empassioned plea for comment deletion/alteration before it appears in the public eye.

      1. lrconsiderer · ·

        Not to mention the post-subsequent follow-on when you realise you also fucked up your tags and over-emphasised.

        Over to you GG – I’ll see you on the flipside, or from under a bus *sigh*

      2. I’m only throwing you “under the bus” because your subsequent comments are funny. Otherwise, I would’ve gladly fixed your typo (as I do everyone’s when I notice).

        Of course, if I really wanted to do the bus thing, I could fix the typo and leave the comments…

        But I like you.

      3. lrconsiderer · ·

        You’re too sweet to me. But you wanted to tangle, so I unleashed the Considerer anyway 🙂

  6. This is truly fascinating and there you go holding that damn mirror up again! The amount of times I have convinced myself of the love/admiration of another and read into small things, particularly on social media I should probably go and have some form of psychoanalysis done! The signs are always there in retrospect; the guy was never as in to me as I was into them or at least they were to start but when their affections waned I made every excuse to not believe it & read what I wanted into situations.

    This part stood out for me the most:
    “And truly, in spite of all the out of context links or songs or passages they might have sent you, and all the hidden messages you thought you saw in them, if you look hard enough, you might find the person showed you a long time ago that they don’t love you. And if you’re like me, incapable of loving someone who doesn’t love you, that would be all the proof you need to cure yourself of them.”

    Trouble is I try and convince myself that I can’t really love them if I rely on their reciprocity, but this is of course nonsense. I need to feel their love in order to wholly give mine. Love is reciprocal and it’s as simple as that. Great post. I love your honesty and openness in sharing stuff like this. I look forward very much to reading part 2.

    1. And I appreciate your honesty so much. The paragraph you quoted, it’s of course, so much easier said than done.

  7. In another lifetime I would track you down and make you fall in love with me…what an incredible mind you have, such breadth and depth, truly a life lived as poetry..

    1. I like the idea of another lifetime and all the things one can have there.

  8. cedrixclarke · · Reply

    As I was reading this, Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain roared through my mind, and it made me smile. As for subtweeting, it’s an art lost on me, though I do envy those that can play the game. In real life, the game is easier, casual glances being more meaningful (obvious) than vague written references. The finesse that is necessary for a meaning within a meaning eludes me. I’m sure that whoever Carly was singing about knew the song really was about him. Great insights as always.

    1. I happen to be a big fan of that song… If Faster Pussycat hadn’t beat me to the punch, I would’ve liked to do a hardcore cover of it.

  9. […] ever seen, there’s not enough information to answer your question.  If you’ve read Erotomania Or…? and are worried about seeing signs that aren’t there, I imagine a good remedy might be to […]


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