Listening to some of the stories of being human is like watching the double helix strand of DNA twirling before your eyes - breathtakingly beautiful and painfully confounding. I don't pretend to understand it all.
When you add the anonymity of communication in cyberspace, knowing how to respond can be quite a conundrum.
So, my friends, I'm asking for your help.
I got the following letter from a man with whom I've had several email exchanges over the years. He occasionally asks my advice about things, but this one seems more complicated to me.
Please don't waste too much energy getting caught up on the "I'm a heterosexual male" defensive thing. My experience tells me that this is a pretty normal posture for men of his age - including the un-acted upon impulse for violent response. Please try to stay focused on the problem he presents.
My experience of him is that he is a kind, generous, thoughtful, intelligent man - which may be part of the problem.
I have some initial responses, but before I write back to my friend, I would like to hear what you all have to say. Because I deeply value your opinion.
I have changed all the names. I would be so grateful for your advice.
Thanks in advance for all your help.
I can surely understand if you do not have time to take up something like this, or cannot see the situation well enough at your distance. If either of those, or some other cause, prevents you answering, I would like to know that.
But if this concern of mine brings any thoughts to your mind that you could share with me, I would appreciate it.
I am exclusively heterosexual, and I have a girlfriend. I am 62 and she is 56, so in a large sense, sexuality is a matter of cuddling, enjoying a movie on the DVD player, and remembering what it was like when we were in our 30s. Getting old has its compensations.
The problem is that I am being stalked by a developmentally challenged man about age 50 in our congregation who has some unresolved issues around attraction to men. Simply put, Brian is in love with me, and lacks the self-awareness and the social skills to manage his feelings.
At 62, male, hetero, and otherwise occupied, I find it disconcerting to be stalked. I get angry, and poor Brian has no clue as to how his behavior affects me. Despite my own physical limitations, I have been tempted to deck Brian on more than one occasion.
There are very few resources within reach for resolving this through the sort of parochial channels through which it might have been resolved in other times and places.
Brian's family is unaware that there is anything unusual about their son. His mother was in her mid 40s when Brian was born, and so is in her mid 90s now. She is a wonderfully resilient and persistent person, with whom I have had a couple of disconnects of the ordinary sort that happen in church.
When she was placed in charge of the kitchen one time, her first act was to throw out about $25 worth of food I had left in the refrigerator for later use by a morning bible study group of whose existence she was unaware.
When I protested, she informed the rector that I am an unsanitary person and one of questionable mental stability. The sort of thing that happens every day in the parish church.
Dorothy is finally starting to slow down. She is having skeletomuscular problems, and doesn't come to church very often any more. But Brian is there about every Sunday nowadays. My sense is that Dorothy will die soon, and I am not sure what will happen to Brian. I doubt that he is capable of living unsupervised, and his family may be planning to ship him back to a group home when she dies. But I don't know,and I have to deal with him Sunday.
So I have dealt with gay men all my life. In most cases, "gaydar" has worked in my favor, and the subject never came up. On the one or two occasions when one of them has asked me about my interests, a simple, "Actually, I'm straight." ...was all it took. And I have always gotten along with gay co-workers, co-religionists, and members of the community. It has been a minimal problem.
But Brian is different. He bothers everybody, but I think I am the only member of the community who has a sense of being stalked. Brian a high school graduate, and was inappropriately mainstreamed, so he lacks the kind of social training he should have received as a pre-teenager and later.
At one time his family were quite prominent in town. His father was plant manager, which was the largest employer in five counties.
But now they are just here, and, sort of like Emily in "A Rose for Emily," they rely on the past for their position. Brian walks up to anybody and starts talking. Most people can just listen for a couple of minutes and then say, "excuse me, the paint is peeling off the wall and I need to go hold it up," or equivalent, and Brian moves on to the next person.
Like many people at his level, (very high functioning autistic and educably retarded), Brian has never learned to begin a conversation at the beginning. He never walks up and says, "Good morning; how are you..." instead he walks up and says, "I was at a yard sale yesterday and I found an album of Spike Jones from 1952 and it has a picture of a frog on the front."
No lead-in, no pleasantries, and no sense at all that he is really aware of you or could care at all about you or what you are thinking. In other words, no basic conversation skills at all. Add to that the fact that if I try, in the ordinary coffee-hour manner, to avoid Brian, he follows me.
He will follow me down the hall to the music room, and if I go in and lock the door while I divest, he will be waiting by the door when I come out. He always has some simple thing he is desperate to tell me. "I found a software program that processes music!" or "My mother's back is bothering her again!" This stated, he gives a little giggle that causes his whole body to tremble, and he seems to have reached orgasm. Then he just follows me like a sad little puppy until I am able to escape the building.
I have had Brian follow me all over the parish hall, and I have had him chase me around Wal-Mart, the YMCA, Food Lion, and other places. It drives me crazy. None of my fellow parishioners is intuitive enough to intervene or try to distract Brian. The rector ignores the obvious, and is disinclined to help me with anything, anyway.
Given a lack of anyone around who might help me, of proper handling of Brian by his family, and of any confidence in my ability to negotiate with him directly, do I have any options in regard to managing him myself? Must I resign myself to dodging him the best I can? I am just at wits' end right now. I am afraid I may end up punching Brian out, and then I am sure I will be arrested for assault.
How does one talk to a person like that? What could I do to correct Brian? And furthermore, am I letting him get to me too badly? Do I not have the right for a repeated misbehavior such as this to be recognized as his problem rather than mine, and get some community support somewhere?
I don't know what to do. As I read back over this, I can see that it is too much to ask of you to think that you might be able to advise me. But I will be grateful if you have any thoughts.
Thanks, and many blessings...