Thursday, July 31, 2008


When I started this blog, I intended to record my thoughts about breast cancer and yoga—the two most powerful factors in my life these days. But I keep getting sidetracked. And today once again I am sidetracked—or should I say sidestalked?—this time by a review in the Times of a book by a stalking victim named Kate Brennan: (sorry, I haven't learned how to make hyperlinks, so you'll have to cut and paste).

I was stalked in the early '70s, before anybody had heard of stalking.

As one of about three dozen women students at a formerly all-men's college, I was lavished with more male attention than I was accustomed to. One boy whom I knew only slightly walked barefoot in the snow one night from his dorm to mine to declare his affection. Another picked me up every morning for my 8 o'clock astronomy class. I was invited to every party. I never ate alone. It was heady stuff for a girl who was not in the In crowd in high school, and I reveled in it—most of it.

I didn't revel in the attention of one young man—we'll call him W. In my sophomore year, I began finding odd totems outside my door: roses, a bird's nest, scraps of poetry. Mutual friends told me they were left by a guy who had conceived a massive crush on me. At first I was flattered, and I tried to figure out who he was. On a campus of 2,000 students, I was sure I must have seen him. Anytime a guy looked at me with interest, I wondered if he was W.

I didn't think about him much, though, since I had many distractions. But mutual friends kept telling me how infatuated he was. He told them I was his muse, his Beatrice, his Dulcinea. They told me that he was too shy to introduce himself but that he lurked outside my dorm and spied on me through my window. That creeped me out. Who wants someone watching them scratch and pick their nose and walk around in their underwear? They told me he was so besotted that he couldn't eat and that he survived on 20 cups of coffee a day. They seemed to think it was incredibly romantic, and they seemed to enjoy being messengers, reporting to me his reaction to things they'd told him about me. Someone told him I was seeing a dentist in town for a problem with my jaw, and he visited my dentist to try to get more information. He enlisted all his friends—and he seemed to know everyone I knew—to find out more about me.

Then a note written in blood was left nailed to my door. I can't remember what it said, but his choice of ink was disturbing. I started to worry. Then friends told me he was writing a novella about me (though not in blood). At some point someone showed me a copy. It was not a complimentary portrayal. My character was depicted as a cold, rejecting bitch. At a student-faculty party, an English professor asked me whether I was pleased to be W's muse and what did I think of the novella. I told him I didn't really like my role—in real life or in fiction. He called me "heartless."

Although part of me was intrigued by W's obsession, part of me was upset by it. For someone who professed to his friends to be passionately in love with me, he seemed to hate me. I never knew when he might be in the bushes outside my window, so I felt I had no privacy. My room was overheated, but I kept the windows closed and the curtains pulled at all times. And I still had no idea who he was, although he seemed to know everything about me.

Finally, in the spring of that year, a meeting was arranged. It turned out W was no one I'd ever laid eyes on, a nice-enough-looking guy with curly brown hair and doggy-brown eyes and a kind of breathless way of speaking. He looked like Warren Beatty. It turned out his brother lived in Jackson Hole, where I was going to be working that summer, so we agreed to get together then. In the meantime, he had been chosen to be valedictorian or class speaker—I can't remember which—and he dedicated his address to "the rattlesnake of the Rockies"—i.e., me. I didn't feel like a rattlesnake, but my fellow students seemed to think it was a huge compliment.

He did come to visit me in Wyoming, and took me to stay in his brother's trailer for a night (nothing happened). We didn't have much to say to each other. But I was young, and in the early '70s I often found myself in uncomfortable situations with people I didn't know well, so I didn't think much of it. Later, I heard, he told people that I had been cruel, that I had tried to seduce him and had humiliated him because he hadn't been able to "get it up." That wasn't true. I felt wronged by his spreading lies about me. He didn't know me, yet he felt free to invade my privacy and represent me in ugly ways.

After that summer, he seemed to lose his infatuation with me. I'll never know what drove him to create a fantasy life with me at its center. Eventually he married a religious Catholic girl and had a couple of kids. He practices law somewhere in the South. Maybe he's normal now. But looking back, I wonder.

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