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Friday, February 7, 2014

Dear Jeannie: Crazy Crushes and Lack of Trust

Dear Jeannie,

Perry is a good-hearted, smart, and perfectly capable heir to his family's holdings. He's well-trained and self-possessed. Except around Rachel. Every time she moves, or breathes, or speaks, she sends him into an absolute frenzy of idiocy. She makes him clumsy, physically, but more often with the things he says and always putting himself in the wrong. Rachel has no patience for fools, and works around him when she has to put up with him. His current coping strategy is to shut up and hold still if she's in the room. This is not helping him win her over. The 'why' of this is partly a mystery. There's an element of attraction, but Perry's inability to work through that remains a bit of a puzzle for me. More relevantly, what can he do to get over his perpetual gobsmackedness around her? He's tried befriending her loved ones, fighting her enemies, and providing aid in whatever form he can, but she ignores, misconstrues, or takes enormous offense at his efforts. Perry would like to be able to talk to her, but his brains dribble out his ears in her presence.

Foolish in Farmingham

Dear Foolish,

Wowzer. Sounds like he's got one a heck of a crush. Its not unheard of for brains to fry in the presence of someone we greatly want to impress or have admire us. But I'd think Perry should have a few other exceptions to his self-possessed capability besides Rachel. A suggestion for more believability would be to have him feel incompetent (and/or actually be that way) around his mother or another woman who is commanding or he feels he has to perform to win her over. As to why he does this? The question made me laugh, as you created him that way. LOL! Using the behavioral therapy intervention of exposure, the idea would be that the more exposure he has to her, and the more gradual their interaction level (which makes sense in a romance), the less his anxiety would be. You're describing an anxiety response, and it should decrease over time, just like butterflies usually don't flutter quite so grand after you've been dating a while. If this doesn't happen, he'll be like Stan Marsh on South Park, who always barfs in front of Wendy Testaburger, the girls he likes. After a while, your reader will get tired of his inability to loosen up. Best of luck to you!

Dear Jeannie 

Skylar, who had previously been an introspective, thoughtful child prone to moments of distraction, was given wings as part of a magical experiment at the age of nine by a mage. Several of these "experiments" existed, and they formed a sort of youth club structure that Skylar found himself leaning on for support a lot. A stranger attacks their group, killing everyone else and breaking one of Skylar's wings (and preventing him from flying). He blames this attack on his sister because of her previous threats to tell about his wings. Now, at 15, Skylar is a bitter, mistrustful character who won't allow anyone but his two closest friends to get anywhere near him. Is this is a feasible reaction to what's happened to him and are there any other likely psychological effects? And since he loved flying and had almost learned to accept what had been done to him because of that passion, how would he have reacted to being unable to fly? 

Broken in Baltimore

Dear Broken,

Whether his sister was actually behind the attack, you didn't make clear, but regardless he'd have very little reason to trust people if he thinks his own sister would sell him out. So no, I don't think it's unreasonable that he'd be bitter and mistrustful. Actually, I questioned his ability to make friends with even two people after an event like this. How did that happen? If all the other experiments were killed, and they were his "safe zone," (a place where he fit in) and he doesn't know of any others like him, then I wouldn't see him making friends all that easily. Not being able to fly would be devastating to him. He was changed because of that passion, and then to have the one truly special thing about him (yes, granted, it was an experiment) taken away or altered, even for a short period of time, would usher in a grief reaction. He might be depressed and withdrawn. Probably sullen. He could even act out more, b/c he wouldn't have that outlet of expressing himself for a time. He might have wished not to be experimented on for a time, but to lose it would almost be like buyer's remorse...unless he thought he had a chance of being normal. You didn't mention that this was a possibility, though, since the wing was just broken and this implies a healing factor and eventual ability to fly again. At any rate, your's was a longer scenario to work feel free to write back in if you have more questions. Thanks for writing in!


I might have some answers. Leave your comment below, anonymously, using monikers like Sleepless in Seattle. I'll post my responses in future Dear Jeannie columns.