To some people, there’s a certain amount of cachet to the idea of having a stalker. Perhaps you yourself may have pondered what it would be like to have someone hopelessly smitten with you to the extent that they would send you little ‘anonymous’ notes and phone messages. Someone whose every waking thought was of you and who went to sleep secure in the knowledge that their dreams would be filled with images of you.
Allow me to dispel this cozy notion.
I had a Stalker for a few years. It’s no party, believe me. And this person was a someone I knew. I met the person’s mother before I even became friends and co-worker with the stalker-to-be for seven years at a large government agency.
It started out harmless enough. Whenever I went to the department where this person worked (in a different yet nearby city), they would always find out and come over to say Hi… and maybe we could go out to lunch today, ok? At first, I thought nothing of it. I even went to lunch once or twice. Then it became clear fairly soon afterwards that the stalker-to-be was taking things up a level.
Next lunch with stalker-to-be, I brought along another co-worker friend as a kind of wingman and also as an unbiased fresh pair of eyes. Maybe I was imagining things. She confirmed my suspicions. Her recommendation was that I cut off all association with the person except whatever incidental contact was absolutely necessary in the course of employment. She recommended the “cruel to be kind” approach with the emphasis on cruel. “This idiot isn’t going to take any hints, you know. You are going to have to be blunt!”
I just couldn’t do it. It would be like kicking a puppy. I thought that maybe if I played it right, stalker-to-be would eventually get the drift and move on to someone else.
It was shortly after this that stalker-to-be was promoted to full Stalker. I would get phone calls at my desk. There would be messages on my voice mail and emails in my Inbox. Luckily for me, our respective departments weren’t in the same cities but I would have to come to stalker’s department about every four or six weeks. My visits to the out-of-town department became more tense as I tried to avoid the Stalker. The co-workers in stalker’s department were very aware of the developments and would sometimes tip me off as to stalker’s whereabouts. I tried as much as possible to keep my visits quick in-and-out affairs. If Stalker suggested lunch, I would say that I was just popping in and had to get back to my office.
The phone message and email campaign intensified throughout the months. Thank goodness, Mark Zuckerberg hadn’t created Facebook yet! Stalker stopped hinting a few months before and would come out and say that we should date and become a couple and that Stalker would be ‘good for me’ and things to that effect. Eventually, I attempted to make my trips to Stalker’s office building as clandestine as I could. No matter how I tried to keep things secret, Stalker was able to ferret me out. The department where I usually went to was on the seventh floor of Stalker’s building; Stalker’s office was on the twenty-second floor. One day, within fifteen minutes of my arrival, there was Stalker standing at the cubicle I was using. I sat there, smile frozen to my face for about ten minutes, nodding, not even hearing what Stalker was saying. I was about to come up with some lame excuse as to why I had to leave the very place that was the reason for me coming to town when one of the managers came up and said to me, “Excuse me for interrupting but when you’re done can I please see you in my office. We need to discuss something.” Stalker smiled and left and I followed the manager to her office. I closed her door, fell on my knees, thanking her for saving me. “I just couldn’t take it anymore!” she said, sitting on the edge of her desk. “It was awful watching you just sit there, eyes wide like some frightened deer!”
“How do you do it?” I asked her. “You’re a gorgeous woman! How do you put up with this kind of stuff? I’ve never had it happen to me!”
She repeated the advice my co-worker and former wingman gave. “Be cruel. Be brutal. Stomp on that heart!” The manager explained that Stalker was banking on my misplaced sense of kindness and decency to continue stalking me. My failure to be hard not only did nothing to stop the activity but also gave Stalker a kind of permission. Silence is acquiescence. That kind of thing. Stalker could say, “If it was really all that bad… I would have been told to stop long ago and I wasn’t!”
Within about six months of the manager’s intervention, the Board restructured me out of a job and I returned to practicing law. Eventually, Stalker stopped calling my home phone number and leaving messages on my voicemail. I haven’t heard from Stalker since.
That was about seven years ago.
It wasn’t until I wrote this piece that I realized how close to the surface all those feelings still are. That sense of feeling trapped by my own misplaced sense of politeness and decency. Trapped on one side by feeling like a coward for not standing up for myself and trapped on the other side by the knowledge that I would feel guilty if I hurt someone’s feelings.
I still have lunch every other month or so with my old wingman. In seven years, Stalker’s name hasn’t come up. I think she and I both prefer it that way.