The adventures of a New Jersey college professor with very strange friends, colleagues, and family members.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Stalking Your Best Friend

A few of you have requested another story about the Count, so here’s a real whopper. I hope you enjoy it!

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the Count, click over on the May Archives section in the column to the right of my blog. Scroll down to the entry for May 2, 2006, and read. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Seriously.

**real time lag**

OK, all caught up? Let’s press on!

I thought the assignment was simple enough. Write an in-class essay entitled “My Best Friend,” in which the student describes the special, emotional, and deep feelings they have for their best friend. Then, we would go around the class and share them.

It yielded some interesting results. First of all, four people picked Jesus. Two girls picked their mothers. Two guys picked their brothers, and one guy picked his godfather.

The Count picked Robert Downey, Jr.

I knew we were in trouble when it became his turn to read aloud. After clearing his throat dramatically, he began with: “My best friend is a famous stage and screen actor…” (this caused several students to look up, alarmed) “…named Robert Downey, Jr.”

The other students, who hadn’t really been paying attention, suddenly look very confused and intrigued. The Count’s essay went on to describe how he and Mr. Downey had grown up together in California, and how they partied all the time. I just stood at the front of the classroom, tapping my foot.

“OK, Count?” I asked, once he paused to take a breath, “how old are you?”

“Twenty,” said the Count.

“Robert Downey, Jr. is forty-one years old,” I said. “There’s no possible way you could have grown up together. Technically, he’s old enough to be your father.”

The Count remained undaunted. “Well, we didn’t really grow up together,” he allowed. “But we were teenagers together.”

I loved this leap in logic, but not as much as a poor guy named Ryan, who sat directly behind the Count (the Count, of course, sat front row center). Ryan began pretending his finger was a gun and kept “shooting” the Count in the back of the head.

“No,” I argued, “that’s not possible. When Downey was a teenager, you weren’t born yet.”

Even this logic didn’t penetrate the Count’s skull. He continued to read his essay, talking about all the good times he and “Rob” had had as teenagers, mostly “cruising around in Rob’s car and picking up chicks.” This was too much for poor Ryan, who suddenly blurted out: “For the love of God, Professor BeowulfGirl, make him stop lying!)

Out of curiosity, I asked the Count; “What did you do when your so-called best friend went to jail for drugs?”

“He never went to jail for drugs,” said the Count, in a low, intimate whisper. “He was…set up.”

“By whom?” I demanded.

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you that,” said the Count, ominously. “It could lead to very bad things. But I can tell you this; he wasn't in prison. He was making a movie at an undisclosed location.”

"Oh, well, yes, that makes perfect sense," I said, rolling my eyes sarcastically like Hugh Laurie.

And that’s pretty much how the class went. The Count kept insisting he was best friends with Robert Downey, Jr. Ryan kept calling the Count delusional. I kept trying to corner him with logic. Nothing worked.

Several days later, I had a brainstorm. Since no one at Very Serious University had a clue as to how to deal with the Count, I decided to go right to the horse’s mouth; I would ask my psychiatrist.

My psychiatrist was utterly fascinated with the Count and we spent nearly the entire session talking about him; I want my money back. He explained to me that the Count actually had two problems. The first was pathological lying, the clinical name for which is pseudologica fantastica. With this condition, the patient honestly doesn’t know he’s lying, and lives in a constant state of surprise and confusion when people keep proving him wrong. Although annoying, these people are rarely dangerous.

The Count’s other problem, according to the good doctor, was something called parasocial relationships. This is a condition in which the patient believes that fictional characters on television and movies are not only real, but they are talking directly to him. (Apparently, this most often happens with soap operas). These are people who think they're dating, say, Dan Rather, because Dan shows up in their living room every night. In extreme cases (like the Count), the patient actually believes they are best friends, lovers, or confidents of very famous people. These are the sort of people who, when the object of their parasocial relationship gets married, are very upset that they were not invited to the wedding. (A good example of this is that woman who was stalking David Letterman some years ago).

There are many other great stories of delusional lies that the Count told me and the class as the semester unfolded, so I will do my best to report them here. Believe me, there is a plethora of them.

Next time: BeowulfGirl’s Excellent Off-Broadway Adventure!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Bleeding Hearts and Other Body Parts

And now we conclude our trilogy of Unstable Men Who Asked Out BeowulfGirl with…


I was a Creative Writing minor, which meant I had to take five classes in Creative Writing in order to complete my degree (in fact, it was in one of these classes that I met my aforementioned best friend, Andrew). Second semester senior year, I took my final class and met Dan.

Dan weighed about two hundred pounds, had a scraggly moustache, and always wore the same shirt—a football jersey sporting the logo of the New York Giants. He had interesting body odor, and was completely obnoxious in class. Even the professor hated him. And lucky me got to sit right next to him.

Dan was a Theatre Arts major, which meant that he had access to professional make-up kits. Dan’s favorite thing to do was to create fake and incredibly gory-looking wounds on himself using liquid latex and red paint. No one was sure why he did this, but I just assumed it was another way of getting attention.

One night, with a fake eyeball hanging out of its socket, Dan came looming up to me after class and asked; “Would you like to have dinner?”

“I’m having dinner with a friend,” I replied, and took off. This wasn’t a lie—I was having dinner with my friend Kim. We did it every week after I got out of class. She was waiting for me across the courtyard in the History building.

Two weeks later, Dan tried again (this time he had an axe blade through his head). After class he asked; “What are you doing Saturday night? Would you like to go out?”

“I have a family wedding in Philadelphia,” I said, and this was also the truth.

Another week went by, and at the end of class I collected my things and took off like a shot before Dan could confront me again (this week, he had a pencil driven through his hand). I stormed across the courtyard at top speed, all the while hearing Dan lurching behind me and breathing heavily. I spotted Kim, and she began to make her way towards me. Suddenly, I felt Dan’s big, meaty hand drop on my shoulder. Damn.

I turned around, and he stood there, panting. Then he wheezed: “Look, you’ve turned me down twice now, so I’ll just ask…would you like to go to a movie sometime?”

Jesus Christ, I thought, what the hell does it take to get this guy to take a hint? I opened my mouth to try to say something intelligent, when suddenly Kim, who had heard everything, came out with:

“She already has a boyfriend.”

I just stared at her. This was an idea that I simply had not thought of before.

“Oh,” said Dan, mournfully, “she does?”

“Yes. His name is Steve Duhamel. He goes to college in…um…Rhode Island. He’s majoring in…um…”

“Architecture,” I put in, trying to help.

“Yes,” Kim went on, “and he rows crew and is involved in student government. They’ve been going out for two years now, and are probably going to get married after graduation.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty serious,” I said, nodding enthusiastically.

“Oh,” said Dan. “Bummer.” He paused. "So a date is out of the question, then?"

"Yes!" I screamed. "For God's sake, I'm practically engaged!" I was taking this fantasy to a whole new level.

And he slowly walked away.

“That was awesome!” I said to Kim.

To this day, Kim and I resurrect “Steve Duhamel” whenever we get invited somewhere by a creepy guy. Steve has since graduated from college and now lives in Pennsylvania, where he’s a partner in a large architectural firm.

And, of course, he’s completely devoted to us.

Next time: Another story about the Count!