So I went a little overboard in my courting -- I'm not a crazy stalker!

I got shot down by the queen of the hipsters and now I want revenge.

Published March 7, 2007 12:20PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

A few years ago, I had an extreme crush on someone. I took a chance, it ended badly. You don't need to know too much about what happened; just know that it destroyed another relationship of mine, and it involved notes being delivered to her workplace and her eventually determining that I was a creepy stalker even though I never followed her or spied on her.

I was devastated. Not only did I not succeed in getting to know her, but I was branded by the coolest of the coolest hipsters as a creepy stalker guy. This is a mid-size Midwestern town; everywhere I go she knows people and they know her. Everyone knows that I either made a fool of myself or was a borderline psychopath, even though it really wasn't like that. We are both musicians -- she is the local gem and I am just another guy in a band.

The last time we spoke was on the phone. She had called to mock me and threaten to have her brother beat me up, so the conversation ended abruptly without calm resolution. In order to not be the creepy stalker guy, I stopped acknowledging her presence. When she was working at the store, I didn't look at her except by accident. I avoided places she might be. I always assumed that if we were to start talking again, she would have to initiate it.

Time has passed. I find myself still ostracized on account of this. A public event I recently put on at a venue usually frequented by the coolest of the cool was not just sparsely attended, but not attended. Looks on the faces of others, especially as they have changed, make clear that the word is out on me, and it is "Stay away." This was my toe in the water, and it confirmed my fears.

There is no way to bring a confrontation without being the creepy stalker guy or in a myriad of ways seem like I'm trying to compete with her or use her prestige for myself in some attention-getting scheme. Confronting her at her workplace or by e-mail correspondence is far beneath me.

I feel like I have to leave town, but recently I've been playing in bands I like and I have a decent job (finally).

Another option I am actually considering at this point is marshaling my forces and going to war against her and all of her tattooed hipster minions, starting a civil war of the bands, calling into question her special place in the hearts of the masses, turning myself into a local über-villain in the style of Colbert.

I am not going to be passive about this anymore. I have tried being veiled aggressive or passive/aggressive. It's a fight-or-flight situation; negotiation is not an option.

I have to make a decision about who I am in how I deal with this, but I don't like any of the options here. I'd like to ignore it, but that has clearly made the problem worse.

Thought you might be able to help, I know I could use it.

About to Go to the Mattresses (musically speaking)

Dear Musician on the Mattresses,

Here's how I would prefer to approach this. You have asked for my help. You have not asked for a diagnosis or a verdict and I am not inclined or qualified to provide one. I would just like to help you out of your predicament.

But the fact is that your behavior does have certain similarities to the behavior of a stalker. You seem to be fighting this. You are drawn to certain ideas that you feel will bring you what you desire, and yet you restrain yourself from carrying out some of these ideas because you recognize that they are a little over the line. You fantasize about getting back at these people who you feel have humiliated you, yet you retain a sense of proportion. My concern is that these are powerful wishes and ideas that have a grip on you, and that if you do not commit to some behavioral change, you could eventually become that thing you most fear becoming -- the detested criminal stalker. So I do not take this lightly. I can see that you are intelligent and you have a conscience and a notion of right and wrong, but you could lose that if you allow this thing to grow and feed off of you. I can feel how powerfully it tugs at you.

So I think you have to change your behavior if you want to have the things you want -- a respected place in your musical subculture, stable relationships with your musical peers, a life free of obsessive fixations on others. And you probably cannot change this behavior simply on your own, or by taking a few suggestions from me. This is because the inability to change the behavior is part of the behavior you are trying to change. It's a Catch-22, if you get my drift. It's like the behavior wants to persist, all on its own, even if it is making you unhappy. This behavior is taking you places you don't really want to go. It feels like you, yet it's not you, is it? It's sort of a monkey on your back. And I fear you could slip over the edge if you do not take some courageous steps now to engage professional help.

So it is in your hands. You can do nothing and risk succumbing to a dangerous pathology. Or you can take a heroic path of self-discovery and self-regulation, by asking for help and committing to some hard but necessary work.

I do think, as I have said before in another context, that being a hero sometimes means undertaking to protect the innocent from our own worst impulses -- "the hero's quest to protect those he loves from the effects of his own tragic weaknesses." That is the path that lies before you.

But you must trust someone to guide you down that path. You must first trust me enough to follow my suggestions (I have been in your shoes and have felt what you are feeling), and then you must build a relationship with an insightful, committed therapist who can stand beside you and help you see some things you cannot yet see. It is as though you both board a vessel and you stand together on the bow, looking out. There are vague cloud formations on the horizon. You look together at the formations. And then the professional at your elbow says, What does that look like to you? And you answer. And the professional says, It looks like something else to me. And then the professional tells you a story that is difficult for you to hear, or to follow, but that has some fragile ring of truth, some air of attractiveness, about it. And that is how you begin.

And together you cross the ocean.

I think you are at a turning point. Your behavior has brought you much pain and humiliation. You do not have to continue in this way. But you need some help uncovering just how, precisely, you are going to change.

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