Lately, I've been listening to a lot of young women (this is called sponsoring in Alanon) as they go on and on about one heartbreak or another. I've been in 12 step programs since I'm 18, so I have a good understanding and a lot of patience and time, particularly now, given our present worldly circumstances.
These young women are primarily struggling to be heard. None of them want actual advice or practical guidance. But I don't mind. There was a time I did exactly the same thing.
Like me, most come from broken homes, dysfunctional family dynamics, etc, and the prevalent condition they share, or something they all have in common, is fear of abandonment. I know all about that because I was abandoned, emotionally, then physically then altogether. A special breed of orphan that has living parents but neither one seemed to think they had to take care of their children. As a child, I had no real expectations of either my mom or dad mainly because they told me, "don't ever get your hopes up about anything," so I didn't, but that didn't stop me from being envious of kids that had parents who had cottages at the lake, bought their kids bright red Mary Jane shoes, or took them to the Dairy Queen for chocolate swirly cones.
I did experience a sense of family to a small degree during my toddler years, but once my young mother had her sixth child, all pretense of family life flew out the window.
But one learns coping skills, and as a kid, wandering into stranger's houses was quite high on my list. At age five, I started venturing down our tree-lined suburban block, hugging my stuffed bear, a security blanket trailing behind. I'd look at all the houses and was so curious about who lived there, were they like us, a family of eight with a strict father who kept a false sense of control with his incessant schedules, chores, charts, and colored graphs. Every day was the same. We were rotation children, all lined up by height wearing our Catholic uniforms marching off to school, then home for some vacuuming, sweeping, scrubbing, folding laundry, and saying endless Hail Mary's. My mother, God bless her, wanted nothing of this lifestyle and was mostly lodged in the basement oil painting, writing purple poetry, smoking Virginia Slims, and listening to rock music my father forbade.
In any case, back to my criminal behavior, I'd simply walk in the front door. Front doors were always open back then. One home, in particular, I quite liked, a two-story brick affair that belonged to a young, shiny couple that had salon hair and wore colorful outfits I'd only seen in magazines. So glamorous. They were never home, no doubt visiting people like the Kennedy's and their house smelled clean and lemony. I'd plop down on a fluffy chair and pretend for a while I was an only child, home alone, while my parents worked interesting jobs that required fine minds somewhere off in the big city. They didn't believe in traditional education and allowed me to eat whatever I wanted. Which I did. I ate their Oreos, would often make a ham sandwich.
This would continue until my parents divorced and my mother, having zero interest in our neighborhood, dragged us off on her journey, one filled with music, laughter, hippies, and Patchouli incense sticks. So would begin our five-year odyssey of adults-only apartment hopping until my mother decided to move to California (where she was from) and as much as she loved her kids, it was just not feasible to take them along.
By the time she decided to drive across the country and make a true break from Michigan, I was now 14 and there was no way in hell I wasn't going to California so I told her I'd drive half the way, make sure we ate properly and I'd be an asset in Marin County because I could work. But I digress.
During the apartment hopping, breaking into people's homes became a regular thing. And much easier since I could just walk down the hallway. But now it was out of necessity. Since my mother was never home (work, school, dating, protest marches, sit-ins) I had to feed her younger kids. These apartment folks were never home, so I'd jimmy the door, get inside, and help myself to their food, mainly bagged rice, canned soup, peanut butter. Basic survival stuff.
We had no money so instead, I'd leave thank you notes in their refrigerators. Looking back, I'm certain these folks knew it was me because sometimes they would save me the trouble and leave prepared meals outside our door.
A few years later, when my mother managed to score an actual house, my sisters were by now heavy into their drug exploration and hanging out with various hoodlum types, the heroin addicts, the hungry musicians, the street fighters. These guys broke into places for a living. Like it was their actual job. They would "pull a B&E" then fence whatever they found.
I only accompanied them once because a member from the J Giles band was going and I thought he was cute. He never noticed me, no one did actually. My sisters were older, taller, prettier, and tougher. They could shoot heroin, chug a six-pack, and shave their legs all before leaving for school.
The targeted home was a few blocks away. In fact, I knew the house because I sometimes babysat the kids who lived there. By now I was twelve and earning money on my own. Between babysitting and doing various student's homework, I always made sure my little sisters ate dinner.
In any case, the B&E gang knew the family was on vacation so while they were loading up stereo equipment, jewelry, and televisions, I was throwing Hamburger Helper and loaves of bread into my bag.
Okay, so you get the idea.
I stopped all this business when I was in high school because I was making plenty of money in Marin County, as I said I would, working two jobs while going to school. Between pumping gas and selling area rugs I was making some great bank.
My mother was having her own adventure, redoing the adolescence she never had. Somehow she became a high-end interior decorator and was dating all kinds of fancy men; architects, lawyers, psychiatrists. Her shenanigans were really bothering me though, drinking Pouilly-Fuisse all day at the yacht club then dancing to Fiddler on the Roof on 40-foot sailboats into the night.
She was just embarrassing as hell, so I got my own place a few miles away. I just loved having my own apartment. When you come from a home with no rules or supervision, you give yourself extra restrictions. I worked hard, made good grades, and was in college by 17.
Jumping WAY ahead, I didn't break into another house until I was in my early 20's. And here is where the Alanon girls come in. They tell me how they cyber stalk their exes and obsess over what their exes "like" see who they "follow" and where they "comment." They read into emojis like they are tea leaves looking for any kind of explanation as to why they were dumped.
I totally get it. When my ex dumped me I simply could not believe it. I'd never been dumped before, mainly because he was my first boyfriend.
Well, I was not having it. I was furious. I needed clues. Why the hell did he dump me? I was the perfect girlfriend. Independent, yet attentive, sexually conservative yet nonplussed over his porno addition. And so on.
First I just started following him in my car. Where in damnation was he going anyway? What could possibly be more important than spending time with me? I was way above his pay grade, to begin with, completely out of his league. I only agreed to date him so he would stop pestering me and okay because he was rather handsome. When it came to men, I knew nothing. I worked with many of them, we got along fine, if they took an interest in me, I rebuffed them gently. I had no interest in a relationship and figured after I had accomplished all the heady things I wanted to do, maybe then I would play house with a man, give that a test run.
But this guy had abruptly entered my life and because he seemed genuinely sincere about his affections toward me, I opened up to him, basically handed over my deepest secrets, and he shared his hidden bits with me. I'd never done that before. He knew my past and did not judge me. And I knew his. I did not lie to him. So in that sense, it was quite his duty to never leave me. He had seen my inside world.
But alas, I guess it wasn't as interesting as I thought.
After a few stakeouts, watching him walk in and out of various restaurants and theaters, I grew bored. I didn't know what he was actually up to. So when he went out of town, I cracked open his bedroom window pretending to the neighbors I had lost my key. Once inside, I went to work. I read every one of his 500 journals, went through every drawer, collected various tubes of lipstick, (a brand one of his girlfriends had developed, a hideous red that caused severe chapping of the lips). I read all of his mail and listened to his voicemails. It took a good five hours but it was not satisfying because I didn't learn much.
Out of all those journals, the only new information I gleaned was about some girl he was dating and had decided to not sleep with her because he sensed she might have a bear trap in her "cunt." Given what I knew about his fear of commitment this made total sense.
I was NOT that girl, the fool. I gave him so much space he probably thought I didn't care about him. Oh, you're going to Two Bunch Palms alone? Have fun...fuckhead.
Then I would sit home and visualize him having mud orgies.
This went on for two years. That is how long my stalking continued. I'd call my best friend and we'd exchange stalking stories. Annie was more into the "hide behind his palm tree and peak in the window" type of stalking. We'd exchange stories at night and dissect our adventures.
I remember the exact moment I was done. I decided to do an "I was in the neighborhood and thought I'd drop by and I happened to get us yogurts." Then I would provide specifics about what I was doing in that part of town, a part of town I hated actually and would never be in. But, as it turns out, my new boyfriend JACK, lived just around the corner, in the newly refurbished Craftsman, you know, the one with the Harley parked in front of the koi pond.
Well, after I did all the exhausting explaining he sheepishly told me he had "company." For fuck sake, the lipstick lady was cooking chicken in his kitchen. He smiled and gently closed the door in my face. I stood there holding two yogurt cups. As I was leaving I took his yogurt cup and pitched it with great strength against his window. I watched it splat and dribble down the cheap glass. The lipstick lady was staring at me, startled, maybe panicked. There was no way to explain my behavior so I just left.
I was mildly horrified driving home. He must think I'm psychotic. No wonder he dumped me... and somewhere between Highland Avenue and the 405 as I was mentally beating the shit out of myself I just stopped. My mind went calm. The months and years I spent stalking him I realized had nothing to do with him. It was just an easy way to quell my anxiety, the 24/7 stalking merely shifted mental focus. If I had put half that effort into something productive I'd have won the Pulitzer, in a category that had never existed. I was that special! I swung from facedown in the fishtank scum self-esteem to you're such a genius we can't even figure out this level of superiority! Over the years I'd find my middle ground.
That was the last time I broke into someone's home and the first and last time I obsessed over another human.
So when relaying some of my stories to these young women who cyberstalk, I tell them what amateurs they are. If they really want to stalk someone, get off the computer, go to their home, break a fucking window, and do a thorough investigation. Go to their parent's house if need be. Buy some top of the line surveillance equipment. Soon you'll discover this person has no exciting secrets and is just a regular person with typical if not pedestrian imperfections.
But you! Look how resourceful you are! All these dormant skills! Look at all this time on your hands that could be exploring parts of yourself that actually are exciting. Then I tell them to put their sleuthing abilities to better use. Dig up your inner self. Start journaling. Soon you'll have 5000 entries, dozens of unique stories, an entire book, a masterpiece.
I've recently offered my services to one of these young girls for a modest fee. "Do you want me to find out why he dumped you? Do you want me to discover who he is sleeping with? Who he really loves? Because I'm better than any detective you'll hire. Just be prepared for what I might find because it's a mathematical certainty that 99 % of what I discover has nothing to do with you. That's the good news and the bad news."
I hear a heavy sigh.
And my darlings set forth on their journaling adventure.
Rhonda Talbot weighing in on adventurous childhoods, survival, breaking and entering, growing up, boyfriends, heartache, stalking, mental anguish, becoming whole.