My friend works as a screener at a mental health facility. It’s her job to meet with incoming patients — typically folks coming off week-long meth benders — and provide their initial diagnoses. It’s an interesting job to say the least. But the thing about having a keen eye for psycho-pathological conditions is that you can’t just turn it off.
I’ve spent countless hours watching her analyze complete strangers in restaurants and bars. At parties, I like to tap her on the shoulder and point at someone across the room. She rolls her eyes at first, but always dispenses with the goods.
It was in such a setting, recently, that I asked her to size up a mutual acquaintance of ours. She concluded, without much deliberation, that he’s a bit of a megalomaniac. I recalled the lyrics to an Incubus song on the subject and concurred. She added: “He’s kind of a sociopath, too.”
“Like Patrick Bateman?” I asked.
“From American Psycho.”
She nodded, either to indicate she understood or to stop me from giving her a full plot synopsis. Either way, I shut up. And for a moment we just stood there, listening to my Holiday Jamz 2011 mix as it played from a nearby docking station.
After a while I said: “I wish I was a sociopath.”
She raised her eyebrow. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” I said, adding that I think empathy is ruining my chances for success in life.
She asked for an example. I told her about a situation earlier that week where I was late for work because I couldn’t turn down a demo at the gas station for some new kind of turtle wax. The guy who gave it just looked so depressed — I feared that if I told him no it could’ve been the last straw.
Then there was the time in college where it took me three weeks to break up with my girlfriend. She kept asking me, point blank, if I wanted to end our relationship. I kept saying “I don’t want to,” hoping she’d infer that it was something I needed to do. She didn’t. So we just kept dating.
There are overarching themes as well — like money. It’s an uncomfortable topic, so I’ve just avoided bringing it up. Period. I’ve never once asked for a raise, much less demanded one. (And what’s worse is you could take this entire paragraph, make it about sex, and it would remain 100% accurate.)
Sociopaths don’t have these problems.
They don’t feel bad about saying no to free turtle wax demonstrations that end up forever making one spot on their car really shiny… they don’t feel bad about ending relationships that they know won’t work out… and they certainly don’t see anything wrong with asking for a well-deserved raise (or booty).
My discourse finished, I was feeling a bit worked-up. I excused myself to pluck a fresh beer out of the refrigerator and check-in with my wife, who I hadn’t seen since the party started. On my way back, I noticed some of the guests looked bored so I made an executive decision to switch from my Holiday Jamz 2011 mix to an album by Girl Talk.
“No one seemed into my Holiday Jamz,” I said upon returning to my friend. “See, if I were a sociopath, I wouldn’t care.”
“If you were a sociopath, you probably wouldn’t be having this party,” she said.
“Another good point.”
“But if it makes you feel any better, you’re clearly a narcissist.”
“Like Patrick Bateman?”