I’ve got this friend of a friend who’s a psychologist or a psychotherapist – I can never remember which. (To be honest, I’m not sure I know the difference between the two professions, if there is one. Nor do I have the time or the energy to find out using Google. I’ve got a PhD to finish. You’re lucky I’ve even shown up.) Anyway, the exact nature of this friend of a friend’s job is beside the point. The reason I’m introducing her here is because, at dinner parties, she asks all the guests probing questions, from tests she uses to diagnose patients at work, and then offers us advice on our mental and emotional health.
I’m not entirely sure of the ethics of this practice, but it can be quite a laugh.
This one time, she got us to imagine and describe a horse. Mine was a teeny little white one that could gallop on the palm of my hand. I was able to hold it so close to my face that I could hear its baby horse breaths. Friend of a friend told me I was desperate for emotional intimacy.
And then failed to offer any avenues for advice or support in order for me to follow up this diagnosis.
So, you know, this woman is probably not the last word in psychiatric care. Still, there was this other time when she did a test that was really quite fascinating.
There we all were, sitting round my mate Amy’s dinner table; drinking warm rosé wine, talking about sexy bachelors and the occupy movement, when friend of a friend – àpropos of nothing – announced it was time for a round of testing. The next few minutes went something like this:
“You’re at a funeral. You look across the room and catch the eye of someone you really fancy. How did the person whose funeral you’re at die?”
Silence. Blank faces. Little sips of rosé.
“Well, what if I tell you that the dead person is the guy you fancy’s sister?”
“Oh!” I said immediately, propelled out of my chair by the obviousness of the answer, “she died because I killed her!”
Silence. Confused faces. Little sips of rosé.
“Yes! I killed her so I could see him at the funeral.”
It turns out, according to friend of a friend, that the test we’d been subject to was a well-known psychopath test.
I had passed, with flying colours. (Albeit in a totally un-clinical environment).
Mine was the textbook answer a psychopath would give.
Everyone looked at me with round, scared eyes. And then we drank some more wine and argued about politics and played that game where you guess the celebrity on a Rizla stuck to your forehead.
And the world was beautiful.
Since this incident, however, I have harboured secret fears that I might really be a psychopath – or a sociopath; which, as John Ronson’s excellent book The Psychopath Test points out, is pretty much the same thing.
My secret fears, and the subsequent researches I have undertaken in an attempt at self-diagnosis, have demonstrated that I’m not, actually, a sociopath. I’m far too neurotic and loud noises make me jump. (Sociopaths are notoriously fearless).
However, my researches have also alerted me to the ubiquity of sociopaths in the general public. And, more importantly, to their tendency towards the character traits of charisma and cruelty. A devilish combination, which – as I’m sure you’ll agree and as I have definitely pointed out before – is extremely attractive in potential romantic partners.
The thing you must remember though, is that sociopaths are just not that fun as romantic partners in the long-term. Yes, their promiscuity and massive levels of self-confidence make them excellent physical lovers (by which I mean: they’re good at sex), but they will also enjoy exerting control over you and – even if their cruelty doesn’t lead to violence – their emotional indifference will eventually wear you down. You’ll become a muted mouse version of your former self, and your mouth will sag and your dreams will shrivel – like grapes into raisins – and you’ll find you’ve sacrificed your happiness for charisma and blue eyes.
I don’t have to tell you that this is unwise.
You are better off finding a solid, stable prospect who is less witty and good in bed, but who demonstrates his kindness of heart by calling his Nan at weekends and by telling you you’re beautiful and meaning it. I realise it will take a while for you to adjust your libido so that it accommodates this kind of behaviour, but I’ve got lots of tips in my archives for ways to enjoy single life while you do so. This is the internet, so you can browse them for free.
Aren’t I just endlessly giving – and not in the least bit psychopathic at all?
This entry is for @Robot_Cooper. Who I know off twitter, and who saw the rival blog ‘Dating a Sociopath’ on the Cosmo Blog Awards shortlist and insisted I cover the topic on here to secure his vote. Look, Robot, I’ve done it.
Feel free to send over other suggestions for blog titles – via twitter, email or the comments box – and I’ll do my very best to write something just for you, dear reader.
*Image by imagerymajestic at freedigitalphotos.net