My Own Breakfast At Tiffany’s
Most of the really effective compulsive lying folks are not patients. Such people, if ever seen as patients, do not stay as patients very long.
I remember a young woman, the daughter of a woman scientist who befriended me in France. She was beautiful, I could tell from her photographs, in a way I knew I would never be beautiful. Sometimes a poet, sometimes a singer, more often, this young woman in her late twenties, was manipulating (sleeping, I think) her way into bit parts on the Paris stage. We were interested, her mom and me, in the manifestations of the powers of the brain, ranging from raw intelligence, which we both knew we had, to the sort of metaphysical magic her daughter, who was calling herself LaFleur at the time, definitely had. I remember we knew someone who allegedly read photos. He was a “serious” person, an effective hospital administrator in one of the larger Parisian hospitals. Among his occult practices, he read photos. We asked LaFleur to submit him one, with no information other than her age (28 at the time) and name. She gave us a photo. It was one of the strangest photos I had ever seen. The lens distorted her myopic gaze in the vague direction of the camera. She wore some kind of soft cloth that descended low enough to reveal a single nipple and not the other. Of course, the “reader” declined the photo. He said a simple photo that would be used for a passport or drivers’ license would be helpful. LaFleur never submitted one.
When I visited my scientist friend in Paris, I slept in LaFleur’s room. This was not hard to do since she was never home. I do not think I was able to sleep at all that night, and told my hostess I ought not to stay over in LaFleur’s room again. There was a life size stuffed cat on the bed which I moved to a side table in order to sleep in the bed. The bed was of the four-poster sort, the kind little girls fantasize about. I knew LaFleur was 28, but this was the bedroom of a 12 year old. Her mother had never noticed this, but she instantly agreed with me. I met LaFleur only briefly. She was somehow poorly connected to the social graces which her parents, both quite important scientists lived by. LaFleur escaped from my presence as quickly as she could, and later told her mother that I made her incredibly uncomfortable. Mother gave me enough data later that I could put things together.
I was not a psychiatrist, not even a doctor, but I knew there was something funny. Now, I could call it a personality disorder, maybe borderline, maybe antisocial, but this young woman did not live where the rest of us do. She made it up as she went along. Her youthful nature, appearing younger than stated age, was seductive enough I am sure she could have any man she wanted. Later, years later when I returned to the states, I would think of her when I saw the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” She was a French Holly Golightly. Men have always been seduced by women like this, in a way they would never be seduced by fact-based intellectually based women like me. This affliction, like so many others, can be boiled down to the omnipresent government fact sheet. With everything gained, there is something lost. In older, less well defined classifications, there is perhaps a flavor of the romance involved. If there had been “borderline” when I had met LaFleur, I certainly never knew anything of it. I did know the word “mythomaniac,”or “mythomane” in French. I remember gently bringing up the word to the brilliant scientist mother, who stared off into space as she recognized my description as fitting her daughter and said “O merde.” (This means “Oh shit” and sounds a lot better in French.)
So why am I thinking of all this now? A girlfriend has had me get to know her boyfriend. A veteran, wounded, “chaptered out” of the military. Looks younger than stated age. Distant, doesn’t speak much. Maybe because I never met LaFleur more than once or twice, her stories, however romantic, held up. Or maybe, because IQ is often hereditary, she had enough to remember her own lies. A male borderline is more likely to be classified these days as “antisocial.”
A good and kind woman had taken this man into her life. An intelligent woman, who found the holes in his stories. Somehow he never quite got started on that job he said he had lined up by “veterans’ preference.” He never quite got any job. He had a lot of misdemeanors, mostly DUIs, and a felony for fraud and some kind of embezzlement and I do not know what else, only that when she confronted him with all of this he said, quite simply, it was an error and could not have been him. She thought he was handsome; he loved her physically and seemed to be able to give her glamorous gifts. Here again, something of the romance, the tragic romance of the situation, is lost with modern classification. When I was training in psychiatry, a preceptor who shared my love of “classical” literature suggested I get the only worn copy of Cleckley’s book out of the library. I read it like you read a novel.
I think for millenia, kind and loving and beautiful women, like my dear women friend, have fallen for antisocial personality disorders. I know of at least one clinical study one elder-statesman type psychiatrist did in Iowa, where nobody seems to move and you can follow people for generations. He always said that depressed women and antisocial males bred families full of depressed women and antisocial males. I think they figured it was at least five generations.
Criminal males. I saw my share working in the California state penal system. I saw the antisocials. Not just their lack of remorse and their ability to lie. I saw their charming seduction of women I had considered not only intelligent but socially skilled. I talked to the Jewish chaplain, once. Not much work for him as few inmates requested a Jewish chaplain, but he had the job of dissuading couples from marrying, where one member of the couple was a (male) inmate. He told me he had never been successful at that dissuading, not even once.
So here I was with a best girlfriend who had introduced me to someone younger than stated age and physically “fit” and I could only tell her that he was secretive, probably did not have much money, and did not seem to have a clear career path charted.
She did not tell me other people had warned her about his lying tendencies. She was in denial. She was in love. She had those dilated pupils and that dreamy, somewhat myopic glare and she was in love. If I could have advised her, and I could only give her the vaguest of signposts, she would not have listened. That is how I can comfort myself.
A preceptor, noticing my ability to get gullible with patients, wanting to believe them, wanting to give them the benefit of the doubt, told me once, that psychotherapy would not be much help with these folks. He said, consequences of their actions (jail) and 50% get better and 50% don’t, and nobody could tell what 50% so a nice intelligent academic lady like me should not sweat it. My psychopharmacology preceptor, (who thought most psychotherapy was a joke) thought the fact this sort of thing tends to run in families means there is something biochemical going on. That means we could maybe fix this with a pill. But for someone to take a pill, that person would have to admit there was something wrong with them. These folks do not. What good is a pill nobody takes?
I cannot fix my girlfriend’s problems. We did establish she had some seductive lying males in her family. These men like the one she had fallen for (and others before him) may have borne some resemblance to folks in her family.
Her father is infirm now, her childhood memories vague, but maybe, just maybe, when she told me the things in the paragraph above, she was on the way to resolving her Oedipus complex. A complex notion of psychoanalysis, poorly defined anywhere on the web, but I had her thinking. At least she decided she had to get rid of this guy. She could not deal with him lying, draining her finances.
I could only offer support and friendship. I could not have offered more if she were a patient.
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