Saturday, February 18, 2006

Desensitization

I have a dear friend who lives in Dallas -- we'll call her KJ. We met at a camp in Colorado the summer before my sophomore year in HS -- 1985??? yikes -- and have been friends ever since. We were roommates in college for two years. We are Forever Friends.

We don't see each other as often now as we used to, maybe once or twice a year, but we speak frequently and always know what's going on in the other's life. Right now, KJ is not having a good time. I spoke to her a couple of weeks ago and she sounded happier than I've ever known her to be. She was in love. She had met The One. He was everything she'd ever hoped for -- he loved her, got along with her dogs and her roommate, was earnestly working on an MBA (i.e. had ambition and would get a good job), was eager to meet her family, etc etc -- it sounded too good to be true. You can probably tell where this is going.

Then a week ago, she called me again, not so happy; it seems Mr. Wonderful had left the state abruptly. In a rental car she had rented for him (on her credit card) and after trying to withdraw the money in her savings account (she had trustingly loaned him her ATM card). Thankfully her bank called her when he tried to access her savings, and she put a hold on the account. The next few days were a nightmarish blur, where it slowly sank in that this guy was a professional con artist -- with a police record to prove it -- and that this whole relationship had been a ruse to take advantage of her. She called him, left him messages, text messages, emails, and of course, he never responded. He was gone. Not only had he taken her rental car, he had taken her dignity.

The legal ramifications of this mess are still being sorted out, with the help of her lawyer. But worse than the financial betrayal is the bigger, unforgivable betrayal. She is having a very hard time reconciling what has happened and who she now knows him to be with who he was just a week or so ago. I ache for her. I feel helpless. I can only imagine how she feels, the humiliation of having to tell her story over and over again to police detectives, lawyers, her parents, her friends -- adding insult to injury. She is beating herself up -- she should have known, should have seen that it was too perfect, should have caught on that he was studying her and learning how to be the person she most wanted him to be. She should have known better than go give him her bank card. But the fact is, she is heartbroken. This person who pretended to love her, take care of her, who listened to all her secrets and fears and desires for months, this person cons women for a living. He never cared for her at all. This is the hardest part. She will be ok, but it will take a while.

I have just been on the sidelines, observing, listening, supporting. There is nothing I can do, really. She's already done what I would suggest -- hired a lawyer and taken steps to protect herself. The odd thing about this whole situation is the eerie feeling of deja vu that I keep getting. This is straight out of a Law & Order episode, or a Lifetime movie. It seems unreal. To outsiders, it seems obvious that he was too good to be true -- but that's not helping KJ now as she struggles to heal. While I hurt for her, I can't help but think of it like it's a tv show. I hear myself saying things, like "the detectives can track him with your credit card", "if he tries to sell the car, the VIN number will come up as stolen" -- and I'm thinking, where is this coming from?? It's coming from NBC, people. And it makes me feel icky.

This reminds me of another time, when me and my then-boyfriend were driving at night and almost hit a man who almost stepped in front of our car; then we watched in the rear view mirror as he did step in front of the next car, got hit, flew up in the air, and fell like a rag doll. We pulled over and joined the growing crowd around the scene. I was shaking and felt like I was outside of my body. The man looked homeless. He was lying in a pool of blood, motionless. One of the people who stopped was a paramedic, and was helping until the ambulance got there. We hung around in case they needed statements from witnesses. Throughout all of this, I felt completely numb. I stared over at the college-aged guy who had hit him with his jeep. What I will never forget is that boy's face -- he looked as numb as I felt, with a tinge of disbelief and grief. I remember thinking, this boy will never be the same. Please don't let the man die. I don't know what happened though, because although we scoured the news and papers for days, nothing was ever said about the accident. I still think about that, and my comment to my bf as we drove away -- "I felt like I was watching television."

So how are all the crime/medical dramas on tv really affecting us? It's scary to me that as I watched a man get hit by a car, I wanted to rewind it. I felt so disconnected emotionally. And now it's happening again with my friend.

I can totally understand why people worry about violence on tv affecting kids. It worries me too. But right now, I need to focus on being there for my friend and not turning her into a character on a police drama. Then I can think more about this phenomena of numbness that seems to pervade our society. I can't be the only one, right??

4 comments:

sarah said...

I don't know what to say. That is too strange. I really feel for your friend. We spend so much time thinking that we can protect ourselves when we are much more vulnerable than we realize. You're a great friend and I'm glad she has you to lean on.

Crazy MomCat said...

I'm pretty sure I know the friend you are speaking of, and that makes me feel bad for her on a whole other level and understand why this could have happened to her. You know?

The fact is, you DO become desensitized from TV. One of the big reasons I left that industry out of college and didn't stay in a field that I'd studied to be in was that very fact. I did not want to become like those I'd worked with--photographers with video reels of their goriest crashes or crime scenes that they showed to one another like they were showing off a prized collection of baseball cards or stamps.

I'll pray for your friend. I feel a connection since I've met her and you've told me a lot about her in the past.

Dipu said...

Man. I didn't realize things like that still happened that often. Like you said, it sounds more like a plot for a TV show than real life.

I saw a report the other night on yet another way the Law & Orders and CSIs of TV may be affecting the real world: It may be getting harder to convict people because juries are expecting fancy, indisputable, high-tech evidence like they see on TV. They speculated Robert Blake's acquittal was a result of the CSI-ization of juries. Don't know if I agree with that theory, but there you go...

Babs said...

OMG. Poor thing. I can only imagine how awful she must feel... and I can imagine the things she's saying to herself. I have a bad habit of beating myself up about the smallest mistakes.

I'm glad she has you to talk to... And even if you feel like you're repeating lines from a TV show, I'm sure they're great words for her to hear.