Somebody–almost certainly an ex-girlfriend–was really, really mad at me at least from 2005 through 2006, and as new details come to light I find myself thinking of this a lot.
- Right before my wife and I got married, someone sent a letter to her–it got delayed so she got it just after our honeymoon–alleging, in some detail, that I was a horrible person of various kinds. The letter was signed by a person claiming to be my cousin, and was postmarked from Atlanta. No return address, of course. It shook both my wife and me up. She talked to my sister and verified that I had no cousin by that name, and no relatives of any kind in Georgia. And no, she had never heard of the horrible allegations and didn’t believe them.
- Around this time (I can’t actually remember whether it was before or after the letter) I received a couple of emails from young men–one European and one American, IIRC–threatening to come to where I lived and cause me extreme bodily harm for the horrible things I had allegedly done to their good friend, my ex-girlfriend.
- While I was on internship in Indiana, I heard from a couple of people back in Ohio, where I had gone to grad school, that there were rumors circulating about me that I won’t even write here, on this theoretically-public blog. Vague rumors, but the source was certain they were circulating.
- In the spring of 2005, I have just learned, some of my future colleagues at the university to which I was applying for a job received one or more anonymous emails alleging bad things about my character (I’m not sure what things) and saying that I had been trash-talking the university and department I was applying to, and possibly the people I had met during the interview.
So whoever did this really tried to ruin my life. They seriously and viciously tried to destroy my marriage, my career, my personal reputation, and my nose.
With the combination of some luck, a level-headed wife, two principled academics, and the apparent laziness of hotheaded young men who couldn’t be bothered to come beat me up, my marriage, my career, and my physical safety were ultimately unaffected by these actions. But it kind of freaks me out (especially the marriage & career pieces) just how much malice was aimed at me. I don’t know who did it (or even if all these were done by the same person) and I probably never will, but these things bother me for all the reasons that have bothered the millions or billions of humans throughout history who have been attacked by people who previously claimed to love them. “So… that I love you stuff was conditional on me never breaking up with you?” “Wow, I was dating someone who was prone to this kind of behavior? Why didn’t I notice?” etc.
There are, in my mind, three suspects. Nobody else seems as likely. I won’t use their real names. To my knowledge neither they nor anyone who knows them ever reads this, so I hope this is safe.
1. Jane. We dated back in Columbus, then broke up (I thought amicably) and continued to see each other for the next year or so. She went to France for a while, then came back. She made it clear several times (because we discussed it) that she didn’t harbor any hard feelings about our relationship or its end. We kept in touch while she was in Europe, for a while. After I told her I was probably going to get married to someone else, she stopped writing. She once told me of a harmless mail prank she and her cousin played on a mutual friend. She and I then collaborated to play a similar prank on said cousin, who now lived in Georgia; I think the prank was in the form of a letter or email that started out sounding like something horrible was going on, then ended by saying “just kidding” or similar. After a yearlong relationship, then a year or two of apparently-amicable relations afterward, I was shocked to eventually get indications that she may have been, during much or all of our relationship, telling her family one thing and me another, about our relationship. I now wonder whether our relationship was partially underpinned by a long series of untruths. It’s a very disconcerting feeling to have become such a cliché.
Jane really is suspect number 1, but I’m not sure about anything. For all I really know she’s totally innocent. I have no hard evidence either way, so I have tried to imagine other suspects, and there are two that might, I suppose, make sense:
2. Mary. She and I dated while on internship in Indiana: after grad school, after dating Jane, and before dating and marrying my wife. Then I broke up with her. She was with me when I interviewed for my current academic job (it was awkward to explain why, when I showed up for work later, she was no longer around). I was serious about my relationship with her and for a while I thought we would get married. Then I got really ill for six weeks or so, and had one of those weird, lateral, insightful/spiritual realizations in the middle of it. It was a horrible surprise to her, and she said some very rude things (probably quite understandable, in the circumstances). So she was angry and had met the search committee personally. Honestly, those are the only facts pointing toward her. The timing, her knowledge, and her anger are consistent with the ugly events, but I guess I think the evidence is, overall, stronger for Jane. Unless I actually had the dubious honor of more than one woman being so angry with me that she wanted to destroy my life.
3. Linda. We dated quite a while earlier, in (IIRC) about 2000? Anyway, she was also quite upset when we broke up, and proceeded (though I did not realize it at the time) to do a bunch of socially aggressive things, like lying to a later girlfriend about me (I actually walked in on this and she stammered out a correction); holding–or so a friend told me–luncheons with people I dated or was thought to be interested in, to tell them bad things about me; and some other passive-aggressive stuff that’s not worth detailing. But it happened a really long time ago, and she was (AFAIK) happily married and a happy mother by the time the events at the beginning of this post happened. I was not aware of her doing anything weird involving me, or even mentioning me, between about 2002/2003 and 2005, so she’s really not a strong suspect at all. I only mention her because I later heard about the relational-aggression stuff, which seems vaguely similar.
I guess there are other potential suspects–a roommate whom I sued in small-claims court over unpaid rent and who spread fairly ho-hum rumors about me and a girlfriend, another ex or two from the Ohio years who was upset that things didn’t work out–but they don’t seem all that likely. So Jane is still suspect number 1, despite my uncertainty about that.
It’s sobering and hurtful to realize how angry and hurt whoever did this must have been, how long she carried that with her, and how much damage she tried–really tried–to do to me. Like many things in life, this won’t have a neat, resolved ending. Jane is happily married, with children. What’s more, a close family member of hers (so close that I think she might have been involved in all of this) died, tragically, leaving a grieving spouse and children. No good could come from dredging these events back up, even if I had enough evidence to do so with her. I once (around the time of the nasty letter) emailed her and asked her about it. She denied any knowledge.
I have no idea what became of Mary, though I think about her sometimes. While we were dating she was still recovering from a tragedy of the type I can’t quite imagine, myself. If she did horrible things, even I would understand, after what she had been through. And Linda… from the little I’ve seen on Facebook she’s a happy, excellent mother and spouse, and really probably had nothing to do with this, anyway. Comeuppance doesn’t make any human sense, here.
I wish I could stop thinking about this. If history is any indication, I will in a few months. I’m sure the perpetrator would feel happy to think I was now disturbed by the fear of losing my family, my livelihood, and my pretty face, and those things bother me a little. More fundamentally, though, I’m bothered by other questions: Who was this person I cared about, really? Why couldn’t she tell me how hurt she was, assuming I did something more egregious than simply marrying someone else? Did I know her–or anyone I dated–in any meaningful way? What did she mean when she said she loved me? For that matter, what did I mean? What is LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE ANYWAY… DOES ANYBODY LOVE ANYBODY ANYWAAYYYYY
Okay, I’m done for now. I’ll try to keep my disturbance over these revelations more to myself in the future. I’m not exactly sure why, but it felt good to write this post.