What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d utter: I just put a profile on one of those computer dating websites. Yep. It’s come to that.

And so it begins. For the first hour or so, it was kind of exciting. About 30 men read my profile. But then none of them contacted me, and I suddenly realized I had just been rejected 30 times. Ouch.

Then I became aware that I was doing the exact same thing at a dizzying pace. I was looking at tons of profiles, and skipping over most of them based on arbitrary things. Conservative. Uneducated. Thinks books are “Okay, I guess.” Looking for someone athletic. (Pity.) Smokes. (ABSOLUTELY NOT.) Scary, scary serial killer looking photograph. (I can’t help it. I have to trust my instincts.) Still has kids living at home. (Run!!!!)

Then came a deluge of men wanting to chat. Cool! But they were in other parts of the country. Why on earth would you want to talk to me? Ohhhhhhh. I get it. You want to “talk” to me. No thanks. I’m not going to take some hard-earned business away from a phone sex operator. Or here’s an idea. Go talk to your wife. I’m sure she’s right in the next room.

And I came across some crazy, crazy profiles that made me wonder what kind of men are walking the streets of this town. One said, “Any woman I’m interested in has to keep herself clean and smell nice.” It sort of reminded me of the serial killer in Silence of the Lambs. “It rubs the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again.”

Another listed a bunch of attributes and then said, “If you don’t have ALL these qualities, then you’re wasting my time. And I don’t take kindly to having my time wasted. But I really am a nice guy!” Oh yeah, I’m sure women are beating down his door!

But the most painful moments are when I read a profile of someone I think has potential, and I reach out to that person and he ignores me. I know if he’d just give me a chance, he’d see how great I am. But he can’t get past my body type or some random thing I say in my profile to see that. I feel like a poorly advertised product on some dusty shelf. “Buy me! I’m good! Really. You’d like me.”

I don’t know if I have the strength for this.

dating

Baby Farming

“Yeah, she farms her kids off on other people all the time.”

I’ve heard that expression on more than one occasion in my life, but I never really gave it much thought. I always knew it wasn’t a compliment. For some reason I decided to look into it the other day, and I was horrified by what I found.

According to Wikipedia, baby farming was common in Great Britain, and to a lesser extent Australia, New Zealand and America in the late 1800’s. It all started in England in 1834 when the parliament, in its infinite wisdom, passed the Poor Law Amendment Act. This act basically took away the obligation of fathers of illegitimate children to pay any type of support. This really put women in desperate situations, because there was such a stigma to having a baby out of wedlock that they often could not find jobs. They weren’t even allowed in the work houses.

There was also no real regulated system of adoption at the time, and I suspect that abortion was mostly known as a route to painful death, so what you would see were advertisements in the paper. Either the mother would be asking for a caring family to take in a child, or else a family would advertise that they sought to give a child a loving home. For a fee.

It’s possible that this system started off with the best of intentions, but as the decades passed it became rife with corruption. People who wanted easy money would take in these children, and if they were at all disruptive they would dose them with opiates, called “Mother’s Helpers”, to shut them up. Here’s one brand.

mothers helpers

[Image credit: suboxoneassistedtreatment.org]

The more these products were used, the more the children became listless and apathetic and disinterested in food. Many would die of starvation. If the baby farmers had received a flat fee, they now had that money with no additional expense. If they took a weekly payment, many of them would send letters to the mothers, implying that the children were still alive so that the money would keep rolling in. Those types of farmers would change their addresses frequently so that they’d be harder to find.

At the most horrible end of the spectrum you find Amelia Dyer. She is actually the most prolific female serial killer in history, having killed off about 400 babies. It amazes me that she is not well known, but her story seems to have been covered over by the sands of time for most people. She was a baby farmer for decades, and probably would have gotten away with it if not for the fact that she disposed of a few of her victims in the river, and they were discovered. She buried many others in the back yards of the various houses in which she lived after having strangled them within minutes of bringing them to their new and “loving” home. There’s a rather upsetting documentary about her on Youtube.

Amelia-dyer

Amelia Dyer. How desperate would you have to be to leave  your child with this stranger?

[Image credit: wikipedia.org]

Thanks to Ms. Dyer, a lot of laws have been drastically changed, and Baby Farming is a thing of the past. The next time I hear about someone farming off their children, I’ll realize that they most likely have no idea about the gruesome history of that comment. But it will still give me a chill.

An Iowa Story

On my way across country I passed through Iowa, and at one point I had to pull off the highway to get gas. This gas station was the only visible building. In all directions all you could see was a flat expanse of cropland, and mine was the only car in sight as well.

As I pumped my gas, I glanced in at the cashier and wondered how she got there and where she goes at quitting time. It must be an awfully lonely job, and for a bridgetender to say that about someone else’s job tells you quite a bit. But finding employment anywhere in that area must be quite a challenge, so good for her.

Then around the corner came a man in a brown three piece suit. Still no other cars anywhere. At first it kind of amused me. Men so rarely wear vests these days, and brown, in my personal opinion, is one of the tackiest of suit colors.

But the guy stood by the doorway and just stared at me with the most piercing blue eyes I’ve ever seen in my life. The fact that he didn’t blink, looked rather hostile, and had a receding hairline and a slicked back pony tail made him look like a hawk on the hunt. I thought, “Serial killer.” It gave me the shivers.

Unfortunately I had to walk past him to pay for the gas, because apparently pay at the pump technology hadn’t reached this particular venue yet. Maybe it will in another 50 years. So I nodded at the guy as I passed him. He just continued to frown and stare. He followed me into the convenience store.

The cashier was friendly and seemed to take no notice of the man whatsoever. It was almost as if she didn’t see him. I gave her the money and went on my way. I kind of felt guilty leaving her alone with that guy, but I was happy enough to get back on the highway. The man came back out and watched me as I exited the parking lot, too.

There’s a story there. I wish I knew it. And I’ll always wonder.

iowa

[Image credit: Trulia.com]

My Friend the Psychopath

Recently I saw an interview with a psychologist. I wish I could remember her name so I could give her due credit, but after hearing what she had to say it was like someone had poured a bucket of ice water over me, so I hope I can be forgiven if her name escapes me.

She was discussing psychopathy. When most people imagine a psychopath, “serial killer” is what springs to mind. That’s not necessarily incorrect. The vast majority of serial killers are indeed psychopaths. But the concept that this psychologist put forth, the one that hit me like a very large brick, is that you can be a psychopath without being a killer. You don’t even have to be violent. She stated that 1 percent of the general population is psychopathic, and many of them are quite functional within society. In fact, in some ways having this disorder can set you up for a certain level of success. When a psychopath says “It’s not personal, it’s business,” he’s not kidding. Not even a little bit.

Please realize that I’m not a mental health professional, but from what I’m reading, psychopathy consists of several traits. The main indicators of this disorder are antisocial behavior, a lack of remorse, and poor self-control. If you want more details, I suggest you take the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale.

Psychopaths can be very charming, cunning and manipulative, and are often pathological liars. They demonstrate a shortage of empathy and fail to accept responsibility for their own actions. They are easily bored and often impulsive. They also have a hard time maintaining relationships, and can be sexually promiscuous. There’s a good chance you know a psychopath. I actually think I may know a couple of them.

That’s what gave me the chills. When this mental health professional was discussing the various traits of a psychopath, I immediately thought of someone whom I had considered to be my best friend for over 20 years. I still have fond memories of her, frankly, but there were always these strange little red flags that I ignored for as long as I could, until one day I was overwhelmed by the enormity of, well, her brand of reality, I suppose. None of these things, individually, scream certifiable nutcase, mind you, but when you add them all up, the picture painted is not a pretty one.

  • One time we were talking on the phone and I hit my head on something and began bleeding profusely. I mentioned that fact and she didn’t even pause in her conversation. She didn’t ask if I was all right. It was as if it hadn’t happened. I even remember asking if she cared, and she laughed it off.
  • As long as I knew her, she never had pets, and absolutely hated mine.
  • She would do impulsive things like buy plane tickets on a day’s notice even though she couldn’t afford them.
  • None of her relationships ever lasted, and THEY were always the crazy ones, according to her. It sort of became a running joke between us. I used to tell her she needed to figure out why she was attracted to lunatics.
  • Long after she broke up with people she would insert herself into their lives again, often creating a great deal of havoc and confusion. It kind of reminded me of a cat batting a mouse around until it finally died.
  • She treated waitresses and shop clerks like they were garbage.
  • She used to see a therapist, but she delighted in lying to her. That seemed counterproductive to me at the time, but now it makes sense.
  • At one point she worked in Washington DC, and said she liked it there because all people cared about was the pursuit of power.
  • When we were in college together there was one class that I was struggling with. She had taken the class already, so she helped me study for the mid term. Thanks to her help, I got an A on it. She promised me she’d help me study for the final, and I was counting on it. We discussed it often. At the last minute she said she didn’t feel like coming over. I did so poorly on the final that I got a C for the semester. I had a 4.0 grade point average up until that point. What struck me about that situation was that she didn’t even feel the need to make up an excuse. She didn’t feel like it, and that was that. And she felt no remorse about it, even when I told her how much it hurt me.
  • She once told me about a time when she and one of her boyfriends played Russian roulette. They took turns holding the gun to each other’s head and pulling the trigger, because, she said, they “wanted to see what it would feel like.” Seriously, who does that?
  • One time she came to visit me and we had a full day planned. About half way through I told her I wasn’t feeling well. (It turned out to be heat exhaustion.) But she insisted that we keep going, and I did until I turned purple and started vomiting. Again, she acted as if nothing at all had happened. In fact, she took a picture of me all bloated and in tears. It was weird.
  • Toward the end of our friendship, she admitted to me that when she was younger she used to beat her little sister with a metal hanger. Just because she could. That horrified me.
  • She would sometimes get “interested” in things to an extreme degree. Like religion. But it always seemed forced, like she was trying on various masks to see which one would make her more acceptable to society.

The final straw, though, was when I was planning a trip to her side of the country, and told her I’d like to stay with her for a day or two while I was there. I thought she’d be as excited as I always was when she came to visit me. But she said I couldn’t stay with her because she wouldn’t trust me in her house. After 23 years. Suddenly I had a rare moment of clarity. When we would see each other, it was always her coming to me. I thought it was simply because she always earned much more money than I did. But all along it was a trust issue and I had never realized it. That, combined with all of the above, was the death knell of our friendship. I was done.

It took me a long time to get over the fact that I had been an utter fool for so many years. Why was I ever friends with her in the first place? Good question. I must say there were just as many good times as there were bad. She has that psychopathic charm, for sure. And when you couple that with my amazing ability to overlook things that I would rather not see, and my intense desire to think the best of people whether they deserve it or not, you get rather a toxic cocktail.

I had finally gotten past the point where I was licking my wounds on a daily basis when suddenly one day I received a letter from her. In it was a ticket to hear her be the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony at our alma mater. I was, frankly, stunned. But then I realized that that was her pattern: she was attempting to insert herself back into my life after causing me so much pain. But this was one mouse that that cat was not going to play with anymore. I didn’t go, and I sent her an e-mail after the fact explaining exactly why not, and telling her that if she had even the slightest regard for me she would never make contact again.

It’s been 5 years and so far she has respected my wishes. But every once in a while I think about her out there, uncaring, unfeeling, and completely devoid of compassion and the hair on the back of my neck stands straight up.

And what’s even scarier is that I can think of a few other people in my life who show symptoms of this disorder, albeit to a lesser degree. I have a relative who delights in discovering a person’s weakness, saving that information until such time as that person is in a moment of conflict with her, and then when you least expect it, she uses that weakness to eviscerate you verbally. Many’s the time when I’ve looked down to see my emotional entrails scattered about her feet, and looked back up to see a look of triumph in her eyes.

And then there’s the coworker who just walked in the door as I was typing this who…oh lord, I can’t think about it. My goose bumps might arouse his killer instinct.

Once you start looking at people through the lens of potential psychopathy, you begin to feel as if you sometimes have to whistle your way past a junkyard dog.

psycho

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“Those Towel Heads Can’t Be Trusted.”

Yup, that actually came out of a coworker’s mouth the other day while we were discussing the Boston bombings. And I must admit I went off. I couldn’t help it. I’m so sick of the ignorance and bigotry. This is what I said to him:

“Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.”

                                                                  -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Naturally his response was, “Huh?” To which I replied, “Do you seriously think the Muslims are the only group with a lunatic fringe, a mentally deranged and evil element? Seriously? Okay, then how do you explain the following?”

  • Adolph Hitler was a Catholic.
  • Pol Pot was a Buddhist.
  • Stalin, responsible for the execution of hundreds of thousands of people, went to a Greek Orthodox Seminary.
  • Pinochet was a Catholic.
  • Vlad the Impaler, torturer of thousands, was Christian.
  • Baruch Goldstein, an Orthodox Jew, perpetrated the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in the city of Hebron, killing 29 Palestinian Muslim worshipers and wounding another 125.
  • Eric Rudolph, the Olympic Park Bomber, was Christian.
  • Ted Bundy was a Methodist.
  • James Holmes, the shooter in Aurora, Colorado, was Lutheran.
  • David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, called himself a born again Christian.
  • Sampson Kanderayi was a Christian who killed more than 30 people to appease evil spirits.
  • Andrew Kehoe, a Roman Catholic, blew up 45 people, 38 of them children, in a school in Lansing, Michigan.
  • Wade Michael Page, the man who shot six people in a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin last year, was a devout Christian.
  • Robert Oppenheimer, who oversaw the Manhattan Project which produced the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, instantly killing  150,000 men, women, and children and many many more in the years that followed, was interested in Hinduism.
  • Jeffrey Dahmer was baptized into the Church of Christ, the religion of his childhood, after he went to prison.
  • The Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, was an atheist.
  • Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine shooters, was Lutheran.
  • Ivan the Terrible was Russian Orthodox.
  • Charles Carl Roberts IV, the man who shot all the Amish school girls, was a member of the Faith Church.
  • Torquemada, the poster child of the Spanish Inquisition, was, of course, Catholic.
  • Timothy McVeigh was a Roman Catholic.
  • Adolf Eichmann was raised Lutheran, and was an active member of the Evangelical Church until 1937.
  • Mao Tse-tung, who was responsible for 40-70 MILLION deaths, was an atheist.
  • Genghis Khan prayed to the Burhan Haldun Mountain, and consulted Buddhist Monks, Muslims, Christian missionaries, and Taoist monks.
  • Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, was Catholic.

And how do you explain the following?

  • The vast majority of the participants in World Wars I and II were not Muslims.
  • In Rwanda, where the rivers have run with blood, 56.9% of the population is Roman Catholic, 26% is Protestant, 11.1% is Seventh-day Adventist, 4.6% is Muslim, 1.7% claims no religious affiliation, and 0.1% practices traditional indigenous beliefs such as the Jabiyan ethno-religious belief system.
  • Angola, home to one of the most brutal civil wars in history, is a predominately Christian country.
  • 33 people died in the Salem Witch Trials, which were conducted by a Puritan government.
  • Very few Muslims resided in America during our Revolutionary or Civil wars.
  • The vast majority of the owners of slave ships that transported slaves to the Americas were Christians.
  • The Aztecs hadn’t even HEARD of Islam, yet still managed to perform their human sacrifices.
  • Apartheid in South Africa was perpetuated by the Afrikaner minority. This system was responsible for the death of thousands and the displacement of hundreds of thousands. Afrikaners are predominately Calvinists.
  • At least 110,000 Iraqis have died since we Americans declared war on them. Some say it’s more like 1,033,000. 4,486 US soldiers were also killed. Our main justification for that war? 9/11. The number of Iraqis who were involved in the attack on the World Trade Center? 0. Another justification for that war: weapons of mass destruction. The number of weapons of mass destruction found? 0.
  • The murder-suicides in Jonestown were conducted by the People’s Temple Cult.
  • It was Christians who gave blankets infected with smallpox to the American Indians.
  • It was the US Public Health Service that intentionally misled 399 black sharecroppers into thinking they were being treated for their syphilis when in fact they were not. (They wanted to see how the disease would progress. Nice, huh?)
  • The Crusades were started by Pope Urban II.
  • When the Chinese tried to stop opium from being brought to their shores by the British, the British started the Opium Wars.
  • Germans slaughtered 10,000 Nama in South West Africa.
  • 11 Australian men, 10 of European descent and one of African descent, slaughtered 30 unarmed Aboriginals, mostly women, children, and old men, like they were dogs. It was called the Myall Creek massacre.

Do you still think the followers of Islam have cornered the market on murder and violence? Give me a break. We’re equally bad. And equally good, but that’s a subject for another blog entry.

So the next time you’re tempted to spew your Islamophobia, at least now you’ll have some facts, which means you’ll have to admit, at least to yourself, that what you’re trying to convince yourself of is actually nothing but hatred and ignorance. No culture is composed entirely of saints or completely of sinners. Stay stupid if you want to, but at least have the backbone to own it.

“Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.”

                                                                             -Ralph Waldo Emerson

PEACE-IS-GOOD-MASTER-5

(Image credit: peaceisgood.net)