The Obsession with Sociopaths Continues

I don’t talk about it nearly as much as I talk about yoga, my appearance or even breast cancer. But it’s an obsession that is always with me. I am intrigued by sociopaths, particularly sociopaths who appear to have everything going for them when they take their sociopathology just one tiny step too far, exploding their lives in the process. I’m not talking about the Sawyers from Lost – the down on their luck, surviving at any cost type of thing. I’m talking about the Alan Hevesi‘s (okay, I can’t say he is a sociopath, but his arrogant and public use of taxpayer money to chauffer his wife around is typical of sociopathic behavior), the Ken Lay‘s, the friend of mine who it turned out had had at least 22 affairs, mainly culled from glorified escort-service Lavalife.com, during less than two years of marriage, the acquaintance who stole at least a million dollars from investors, including the husband of a close friend of mine, the wife of said acquaintance who knew that none of this smelled right, even as her husband suddenly came into enough money to purchase a four million dollar condominium in a brand new building on the Upper East.

The latest sociopath to fascinate me is perhaps one of the saddest stories of all. “A” had just graduated from Harvard when he enrolled in NYU Law School. I was a third year law student at the time and heavily involved with the school’s annual musical comedy, “The Law Revue” (NOT, the school’s highly esteemed legal publication, the Law Review). I was a producer and a writer as well as a performer. My fellow producers and I interviewed a number of potential Directors, and despite the fact that A had no experience with our vision of the Law Revue, we hired him on the spot. He was musically gifted, he was an experienced community theater actor, singer and director and he had an arrogant wit that was infectious.

A took over and promptly steamrolled all of us. I hated his guts for casting a first year student in the part of “Spacey Jones”, the hippie, trippy lead female whose roll was as the heart center of the story, which involved the mysterious deaths/murders of students and professors of the school, which were ultimately solved by a set of “Keystone Kops”. Spacey’s part included a rendition of “On My Own” (different words, of course) from Les Miserables. It was the part I had written for myself. It was the chance I took in not taking over the director reigns, myself, but directing was not my thing. Singing and musical comedy was.

However, as a producer, I had the power to right the wrong in another way: I created a new role for myself and for two fellow-veteren Law Revue performers, Heidi and Laura. We became “The Heathers”, essentially a Greek Chorus that showed up throughout, commenting on the murderous action and performing two absolutely fabulous girl-group tunes. One was sung to the tune of “Beauty School Dropout” from Grease. The other was sung to the tune of the Sherelles “Remember: Walking in the Sand”, which you may not have heard of, but it’s on iTunes, if you’re interested, and it’s catchy in a moody, minor-key way.

“It’s been a rotten day,”

“ooooooooooooooo”

“Our boyfriends passed away…”

“waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah”

I was Heather Number One. So, if you’ve seen the movie, Heathers, you’ll know that I got to die on stage. It was a beautiful death, occuring right in the middle of the song. As I sang, and Heidi and Laura did their doo-wop backup, they sprayed me with “poisoned hairspray”, and as I sang my “Oh no. Oh no. Oh no no no no no“‘s, I sputtered, clutched my throat and crashed to the floor like Heather Chandler in the original movie (freakish factoid: the actress who played Heather Chandler, Kim Walker, who was known for her famous scathing putdown, “What, did you eat a brain tumor for breakfast?” died an untimely death of a brain tumor sometime in the 1990’s).

But I digress.

Our esteemed director, A, was cooperative with this vanity maneuver on my part, and I forgave him for his arrogance. Later that year, I graduated from NYU Law School and never saw A again. Nor did I ever hear of him again.

Until this past week, when my eye fell upon his name on a page of the New York Times Metro Section that had fallen open on the breakfast table. It was one of the Times’ paid death notices, and it was written by two other NYU Law graduates, who were extending their sincerest condolences to the wife and children of A.

Oh my God! What???

These friends of A wrote of A’s talent as a lawyer (he had become a partner at a major, major NYC law firm), as a singer, as a parent and as a spouse. They also wrote of A’s “previous joy of life”. Excuse me? Previous? I mean, I understand that he was no longer enjoying life, but he was also no longer enjoying being a lawyer, singer, parent or spouse. Why the use of “previous” in relation to “joy of life”? What did that mean?

I had my suspicions. I called up my friend, Kim, who is always the first one to call me when someone we know has died, and said, “I think that someone I knew from law school killed himself. But I’m not sure yet.”

Then this morning, I googled A. And sure enough, there was an article in a Westchester paper that told of how his body had been found in a local preserve, no evidence of foul play. Or at least no evidence of foul play coming from the outside. It turned out that A had attempted suicide a month before. A fairly girly attempt at that: a little wrist slitting.

But why? Why would a 39-year old father of three, partner in a prestigious law firm slit his wrists and then finish the job a month later?

My sleugling (sleuthing via google) brough further answers. And be ready. This is shocking and terrible. A had been involved in a scandal in Atlanta, Georgia at the end of this past summer. Apparently, after a night of partying and clubbing, this married father of three invited a twenty-something woman to his hotel room where only they know what happened, but which quickly led to A’s arrest on charges of rape and assualt.

When A killed himself, he was out of jail on a quarter of a million dollars in bail.

How do these things happen? What goes on in the minds of people like A? Like Daisy and Tom?

When I saw that Yogamum was writing a novel this month, I longed to do the same. I longed to get into the heads of some of these people I have known who have fallen so far from so high. But don’t know how to start. I don’t think I could stay focused for long enough to write more than a blog-entry on any of it. But I wish I could…

YC

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8 Responses to The Obsession with Sociopaths Continues

  1. Yogamum says:

    You know, I think you could do it if you really wanted to. I don’t have any special supernovelist powers! What I’m writing is pretty terrible at this point, but it might be salvagable.

    I have a sociopath-type guy in my story. I agree, they are fascinating. The Ted Haggard story is big here in Colorado — I just wonder what kind of psychological machinations have to be going on for someone like that to act as they do.

  2. Tim says:

    If you like sociopaths, you’ve gotta rent The Vanishing — the original Dutch version (1988), not the later Hollywood movie.

    Well, I guess “liking” sociopaths isn’t the right word; if you are interested in them . . . .

  3. boodiba says:

    What possesses people??? It IS fascinating. I think I remember – maybe this is from a Silence of the Lambs movie – that the sociopath has an off switch when it comes to empathy.

    I remember reading a Post article about a violent domestic crime that struck me as sadly riciculous. An overweight woman stabbed her grandmother to death because grannie refused to serve her any more rice.

  4. Yogamum says:

    I remember hearing on Oprah (gah! I know!) that one in 20 people is actually a sociopath and can feel no empathy for others. 1 in 20! That seems a lot…

  5. Asyn says:

    Being a sociopath myself, I have to comment to the fact of “Why?”… while this “A” person took their own life, it was only because “A” probably had a good idea they were going to prison. It wouldn’t be out of guilt. No real sociopath would do anything out of guilt.

    We as sociopaths, while not all serial killers like Manson and Bundy, have no guilt, remorse or otherwise care to what harm we cause others as long as it fills the need at the time. It is my opinion that sociopaths are the closest thing to true evil that humanity can create. Sure, we don’t all turn out evil, but to be evil it’s pretty much a prerequisite.

    I heard a line today said by another person that sums it up nicely. “I could lose my mother or a pencil and feel the same.” Its the horrible truth. I have children, but I know that if something was to happen to them, I would be over it in a few days. I hate it some days. Some days I feel like a monster, and then other days, I love it. Its like a free pass to get what you want. To bend people and manipulate to get what you want with no resistance.

    Wanna know the really scary part. Only one person knows I am like this. Everyone thinks I’m normal and I can summon pity for me at the drop of a hat. I’ve had many people tell me that more people should be like me. I could only imagine the horror of that reality.

  6. Yoga Chickie says:

    WOW.

  7. Eskie says:

    I also have a fascination for the sociopathic mind. I doubt however that ‘A’ was a sociopath. They do not feel guilt or shame. A true sociopath would have shoved the blame off on something other than their actions and immediately started in on plotting a way out of their jam or they would have cut ties to their current life and started over elsewhere.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hey there I’m Yogahammy! I am 44, taught lots of yoga, now not so much…lots in common!

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