Boy meets girl. Girl is married. Boy meets another girl. Married girl gets jealous, packs a few things, puts on a wig and a trench coat and a diaper so she won’t have to waste precious time on restroom stops, and drives 900 miles to confront the other girl. Married girl sprays other girl with pepper spray, gets arrested, and is charged with, among other things, attempted first-degree murder. In her car, police discover a BB gun, a steel mallet, a pocketknife, rubber tubing, the pepper spray, and some trash bags. The theory is that married girl planned to abduct, murder, dismember, and dispose of her romantic rival, a theory that would make sense if her romantic rival were a squirrel, given the tools she had to work with.
I have another theory. I think that love done made her crazy, and I think most of us understand her mindset a little better than we’d like to admit. Of course, 15 minutes after this story broke, there were dozens of people all over the talk shows expressing surprise, dismay, and alarm that an astronaut could come so unhinged. In this mixed up, crazy world we live in, it is oddly comforting that there are two things we can absolutely rely on when someone does something deeply disturbing to the point of being newsworthy. First, there will be someone close — but not TOO close, you will notice — to the perpetrator who will say, “I cannot believe she would do this. She seems so normal. She is one of the nicest people I know. Just last weekend, she mowed my grass.”
Second, for every person who performs an action, there are 50 people waiting, standing by to go on television and analyze it — to draw important sociological conclusions about what it means, to put in perspective, to place it in the appropriate historical context. The screening procedures at NASA must be too lax! Astronauts may be feeling the pressure of the imminent shutdown of the space shuttle program! Astronauts were always a little crazy, except for that nice fellow, John Glenn!
In most cases, we would rather develop a theory, no matter how convoluted or irrational it may be, than consider the possibility that the action may have been entirely random and completely inexplicable, with no particular cause or motive. We’re more comfortable with an explanation. But in this case, our discomfort comes from a slightly different place. Being driven insane by love — or lust, or infatuation, or whatever it was that caused this poor woman to forsake her family, her career, and her reputation over a guy who looks like a poor man’s Erik Estrada — is a condition with which most of us have some unsettling familiarity.
Who among us, friends, has not resorted to some embarrassing display, a desperate ploy, a cheap, undignified stunt in an attempt to steal another’s heart, to win at all cost, as if life cannot possibly go on unless we have what we want — namely, this other person, and by any means necessary. Oh, sure, YOU wouldn’t have worn a diaper to avoid any delay in your mission of love, would you? You’re better than that. You still have your dignity. Yeah, sure. You didn’t THINK of it, that’s all. You are no rocket scientist.
So what did you do instead? Surveillance? Sabotage? Good old-fashioned groveling? Extortion? Bribery? Did you ever say, in a small crowd of people, “Well, I personally have always LIKED Betty, but she just hasn’t been herself since she got that STD from those circus acrobats?” Did you ever tell Richard that you would sell his liver on eBay if he left you for that skank at work that you just know he’s had his eye on? Mister, did you ever sit outside her apartment all night chain-smoking and killing a six pack, waiting to see what time she came home and if she came home alone? Did you call her 73 times on her cell phone, each message less coherent than the last? Was that you trying to sing “our song” into her message machine, “Wild horses couldn’t drag me away,” even though you sound about as much like Mick Jagger as Larry the Cable Guy sounds like Mariah Carey.
I can’t prove it, but I declare here on Valentine’s Day that if you haven’t been unhinged by love, you haven’t really been in love. If you have a valentine in your life, thank Cupid and hold your honey tight, tell her you adore her, sing if you must. If you don’t have a sweetheart to call your own, hang on, hold on, keep it together the best you can until you find what you’re looking for, and it finds you back. And, most of all, when gray days are at their darkest, whatever you do, lay off the pepper spray.